By Lauren Fink
After her harsh winter and wobbly spring, Michigan outdoes herself in summer. Our trees, fields and flower beds burst with activity, and the hum of community crescendos. Berry picking, swimming, baseball games, ice cream parlors, grilling out, festivals, gardening—each summer day feels adventurous (when it’s not calling for a luxurious, sunroom nap). And of all its pleasures, none is greater than children in summer.
My screen door slaps constantly throughout the day; they run out—then in—then out again at whim, the 1-year-old trying to keep up when he cares, each smelling of bug spray, sweat, and mud pies, a little breakfast still smeared on their mouths. Their laughter and loud, raucous games of make- believe waft through the open windows.
They gaze and touch the lilies, hydrangeas, tomatoes and black raspberries popping up around the yard. Toys are suddenly mundane, trumped by wading the creek, rearranging rocks, eating ants (“But cousin Dinah’s dad said it’s OK!”), catching fireflies, and digging warm dirt. Summer is simple. No more matching sweaters and scarves or diving in sock bins. And for dinner, a grilled piece of meat and salad makes everyone happy.
Summer is also a time for books—reading lists, paperbacks stuffed in beach bags, late-night-can’t-stop page turning on long summer nights. And books for children are no exception. We read aloud daily—a favorite activity for everyone. Caps for Sale, Bread and Jam for Frances, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie—it doesn’t really matter, from age 1 to 5 everyone listens, everyone peers at each picture.
It’s fun but also strategic. I desire to spark in my kids a love for books. Not eBooks, or books on tape. Not books on an iPad app or video storybooks. Not even always illustrated books. Just plain, old- fashioned books with black lettering on white pages that crinkle and dog-ear and can be underlined and sometimes tear.
I desire to spark in my kids a love for books.
There are plenty of children who don’t care for a plain, real book. Perhaps he doesn’t have the patience to sit in quiet, or she doesn’t believe there’s magic and adventure hidden inside something so colorless. Adults give up on books, too. Skimming online news, listening to podcasts, watching videos, TV, iPods, iPads—a day’s time is finite and technology is captivating. So we carve out time, with purpose, and our children watch us read, read next to us, listen to us read aloud, and read to each other.
This strategy travels further. I want my children to love reading the Bible. Again, not a picture Bible, or a video of Bible stories, but eventually a plain Bible. One facet in our ability to daily study God’s word with eagerness is our comfort and love of words and books, the belief that if we turn off that iPhone, we will discover something great between these quiet pages.
I want my children to love reading the Bible.
No flashing ads. No Instagram pop-ups. If books seem boring, a Bible can seem boring. I don’t want my children needing the crutch of screens, pictures, or sounds to keep them spiritually engaged. The Bible is extremely engaging for the patient, meditative, interested reader.
Technology does bring elements of our faith alive—praise God! I love my Concordia Pray Now iPhone app. But none has replaced for me the years of intimate, quiet moments alone with my Bible, underlining, praying over, thinking upon, and reveling in the unadorned words that are life for my spirit and truth in my heart.
The time for closely training our children is now. But it will pass, just as this beautiful season is flying by. Bolstering their faith and love for God’s Word is the greatest gift we can give them. When they leave our nest, their Bibles will be their anchors in a dicey, backwards world. It will be truth when falsehoods swirl around them.
When they leave our nest, their Bibles will be their anchors in a dicey, backwards world.
May they know it and run to it like an old friend, not as an awkward, boring, clunky stranger. May they long to return to it. Summer nights are calling—let’s turn off the TV, hibernate our smartphones, call a child to our lap, and open a book.
Check out more from our Summer Discipleship blog series.