Reading to Your Kids is Even More Worthwhile Than You Think

If I said that there are great benefits to reading with your children, I would be simply be stating the obvious. Most parents are well aware that such a time-honored activity is a natural encouragement for conversations and relationships. No doubt most of us are also glad that our kids are also sharpening their verbal and imaginative skills with every page that turns. 

But those aren’t the only reasons why reading with your kids is such a valuable activity, which is why I was happy to chime in with Emily Powell and Rachel Johnson this past Sunday in the latest Crossing Kids Legacy Series seminar: Readers Are Made in the Laps of Parents. And while there’s more to be said on this topic than can easily fit into a blog post or seminar, I would like to make two brief points on the subject.

1. Enjoying art, and specifically stories, is something we were made to do.

The first stems from the very nature of human beings. The opening chapter of the Bible is notable for a great many things, but certainly one of them is the fact that God is an artist par excellence. Anyone willing to take a moment to get past a certain familiarity with this account may rightly find the scope, variety, and excellence of his creativity simply stunning. No wonder that David can proclaim, even in reference to a fallen creation, that “the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). Not only this, but the repeated declaration that he saw his work as good indicates that God is not only an unmatched artist, but he also enjoys what he’s made.

That this is true of God and his nature is vitally important for understanding you and me. After all, Genesis 1 also emphasizes that we’ve been made specifically in our Creator’s image. And while that entails many, many things, one of them is that you and I are also hardwired not only to exercise creativity, but also to delight in it. This means that the art of story is, in the first place, a good gift from a gracious God, one in which we reflect something of who he is through our enjoyment of it.

2. Reading stories trains us to be “people of the book.”

How does God primarily communicate to us? The answer, of course, is through his word, the Bible. There, we find out who God is and what he’s done in history, culminating in the ministry of his Son, Jesus. We find out how we’re to respond to him and how we can rest in all he’s done for us.   

In fact, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle John goes so far as to identify Jesus as the Word (John 1:1). Of course this isn’t meant to equate God the son with the Bible. But among other things, it does communicate that Jesus is not only the fullest revelation of God, but he’s the animating truth and power that runs through the Scriptures (see also John 14:6).

All this is why Christians are rightly described as “people of the book.” Our faith is inescapably tied to God’s revealed word. So it’s indeed important for Christians to acquire basic verbal and reading skills. If our ability to understand the tools of written communication—words, sentences, paragraphs, etc.—and how they work is underdeveloped, our ability to engage with God and the gospel will likewise be underdeveloped.

But even further: the Bible isn’t simply a set of propositions. Ultimately, each verse, passage, and book ultimately weaves together with the rest to express the grand story of God’s creative and redemptive work. It is, in fact, the greatest story. When we develop an appreciation of the art of literature, we increase our ability to appreciate God’s story as it comes to us in the Scriptures with all its vibrancy, mystery, and variety. By the grace of God, finding joy in the small stories, may serve our children well in finding joy in the Big Story.

As a parent who’s literally almost fallen asleep while reading aloud to my own kids, I know that it’s sometimes no small challenge to muster up the time and energy to do so. With the above in mind, however, I hope we’ll remember that it’s more than worth it.

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