The Relevance of American Literacy
- Anna Masrud TOS Magazine Contributor
- 2013 5 May
The desire for literacy and moral truth has lingered within us all since God created the earth. Adam passed on the Word of the Lord from generation to generation, in order that they might know what the Lord had done for them and worship Him in love and awe. Since creation, humanity has longed to both read and write, to pass on knowledge from father to son, mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild. Because of this, we are taught how to read and write as young children so that we might absorb, comprehend, and apply the wisdom of our ancestors to our ever-changing lives. By learning what others have done before us, we are able to use critical thinking to guide our families in truth.
Many God-fearing men that strove to make America a place of great freedom understood the importance of literacy and moral truth. They understood the need well. Several of the Founding Fathers spent their lives poring over literature, and the wisdom gained from their reading helped inspire a yearning for change. Abraham Lincoln was one of those men; during his youth, he read all the books he could get his hands on. When he finished reading the books he possessed, he worked for his neighbors in order that he might borrow theirs. This provided a solid foundation for his education, and later on the books he’d read during his lifetime became some of the few advisors he trusted during his political career.
James Madison was another one of the Founding Fathers who busied himself with good literature and often consulted the written wisdom of his elders. When the Declaration of Independence was drafted, Thomas Jefferson pored over the works of John Locke and George Mason, using their insights to create a document that ensured the freedom of all future Americans. These men all understood this fact: literature is a very important tool, preserved through time as a way of conveying fact, truth, and wisdom. It was the first place anyone during that time went to get an education, and schools taught lessons which were based heavily upon structured texts that helped prepare students for life.
Fewer children nowadays are introduced to reading in a positive and encouraging way. Rather, at a young age, children are taught to use computer games and videos to aid their learning. References to books are becoming more rare, and some schools want to put even less focus on textbooks and more focus on video media. This prospect is disturbing.
The wisdom to be found in books is vast, and the less children are exposed to reading, the less they will ever desire to read at all. This lack of an appreciation of literature in schools manifests itself in the groans of students who complain when given reading assignments. These students fail to recognize the greatness hidden within the classics. They find these reading assignments boring or too hard to understand, and consequently they put little effort into comprehending their assignments.
This lack of interest is further encouraged within media. Television shows and other forms of entertainment teach youth that reading is “boring,” a “punishment” given by adults and teachers. I have seen children who fight against the idea of reading something. I have heard others claim it is a waste of their time. All these examples are marks of poor teaching from different sources, but the root of the problem lies in the home. The home is where teaching truly begins and then flourishes. Because of this, an appreciation of literature must start there.
The best way to fix this decline of interest in literature is to teach to the young, with prayer, an appreciation for reading. If a child is encouraged to love something at a young age, he is more apt to carry that same love with him as he grows older. This is especially true if such things are explained thoroughly and taught in a loving and uplifting environment.
Of course, fixes made in life are never easy. This decline in literary interests should be addressed proactively, but the problem won’t right itself overnight. However, we, as homeschooling families, have the power to make a difference that starts within the home and works its way outward. The people to begin with are our children, siblings, and parents. I, for example, was homeschooled during most of my grade school and high school years, and my mother instilled within me a hunger for literature. She encouraged my interest in the library and bought me the books I most enjoyed.
While my parents never let trashy fiction enter the house, they encouraged me with other options such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. These choices helped me, personally, grow up under the influence of good literature without having to sacrifice a desire for intrigue and adventure.
Certain books have the best of both worlds for children: exciting characters they can relate to and moral truths that keep them centered in the teachings of the home and the Lord. These types of books can interest them in reading without risking the encouragement of any moral or educational compromises.
Furthermore, I suggest that parents encourage their children by sitting everyone down on certain evenings for family reading. By regularly reading a few chapters out of a preselected book, as a family, a welcoming and cozy atmosphere that exposes children to the magical feeling books often inspire is created. This “magic” can be created by the story itself, the voices and actions the reader might use to invoke delight, or even the room with its dimmed lights and hushed feeling.
Parents, encourage your children to read. Aggressively teach them about the importance of literacy and the acquisition of knowledge. Take the family to the library, and find books that cater to each child’s interests while remaining supportive of the Truth. After all, the more youth are encouraged to read while they are still at home, the more likely they will carry that appreciation into adulthood and pass it on to their children. A yearning for literacy, knowledge, and wisdom comes from the early years of reading, just as we can see by the examples of men who helped form our country.
Then, make sure to read yourself, and make time for it. Reading opens up a valuable world of input and advice from people who lived before us. It is a learning experience for everyone.
As homeschooling families, we have the ability to make a difference. We have the ability to teach our children, be role models to our siblings, and glean wisdom from our parents. Learning to appreciate reading and applying to our lives the knowledge found in good literature is a process that requires encouragement and loving guidance. Where better to start doing this than in the home—one lesson, one book, at a time.
Anna Masrud is a college sophomore living in the state of Minnesota. She currently resides with her family of eight in a small house in the suburbs. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and reading, talking with friends, eating chocolate, getting into debates, and being spiritually and mentally challenged.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: May 10, 2013