.::A Rant on Reading

I came across this article from Canada about teens and their desire to read:

“Fewer kids say they like to read. A new report from People for Education — using data from the provincial Education Quality and Accountability Office — says the percentage of Grade 3 students who report they “like to read” has declined from 76% in 1998/99, to 50% in 2010/11.

In Grade 6, the percentage of students who say they “like to read” has declined from 65% in 1998/99 to 50% in 2010/11.”

Granted you may want to file this under the “Duh” column and blame TV, the Internet and Online Gaming as the cause to kids not wanting to read. But let us look at the glass as half full.  There are teens who LIKE to read!  These statistics show that HALF of our kids still LIKE TO READ!  So I want to ask the question, “Does the way we do ministry encourage or discourage reading?”

Think about this:

  • How often or how much does our teaching with teens depend on people to be IN the text as opposed to talking ABOUT the text?
  • Do our ministries have a cultural expectation for teens to bring their Bibles, to be in the Word, to look at a text, etc. in our youth ministries?  I have heard kids say, “I don’t bring my Bible because we don’t use them.”
  • Is your teaching more topical and less textual?  In other words, when was the last time you taught through a book of the Bible?  I have found that most topical teaching uses the text as a launching pad for the day’s topic.  A textual study requires you to stay in the text and deep in the word.
  • Does the reading up on PowerPoint contribute to your students NOT bringing their Bibles?  After all, why should I poen my Bible when it’s going to be up on the screen?
  • I have heard language like, “Today we are going to look at a story from Acts, you don’t have to open your Bibles” which was then followed by a poor retelling.  Does this send a message to teens that says “the text is not that important?”
  • Do we use more references and clips from movies than the Bible?
  • What does the rise of digital texts (Kindle, iPhone Bibles, tablets) mean for people’s reading of the text?  Are we reading the Bible more or less?  There is some room for great research here.

I confess that I was one of the first to use PowerPoint but have begun to regret that usage.  I know it is helpful for visitors and guests, but how might we enable/encourage/expect people to use their text?

My rant here is how might we ENABLE our students to be more readers?  How do we engage them with the text?  How to help help them DIVE into the word instead of away from the word?

Think of all the contemplative, visual learners and those who learn best by reading.  How might we teach to them and give them the opportunity to savor the text and taste it like “honey on their lips?”

Here are a few things we might consider:

  • Bible Text 101:  Lets go back to Elementary school and educate ALL our students on those things we all take for granted:  the difference between OT and NT, what the different numbers mean, the difference between red and black words,  and the Books of the Bible.  Let us get ALL our students familiar with the text so their love for the text is an easier road to travel.  (Better yet, let students who know this teach others!)  Maybe kids don’t read the Bible because they can’t find their way around it.  We can’t assume anymore that just because a kids comes to church they know their way around the Bible.
  • Simply saying, “Let’s open our Bibles to  . . . “ to encourage a culture of reading the text.
  • Read the text out loud as a group.  After all, much of this was written to be read out loud.  CAVEAT:  Let prepare to read it BEFOREHAND so we do not do mediocre readings of scripture and we bring the text alive as we read it.  Nothing kills the life of the text faster than a poor public reading of it.
  • Let students participate in a Lectio Divina during class where you give them extended time to spend time in just one passage of the text and THEN teach and talk about it.
  • Silent Readings:  Have students read the text silently in their bibles.  I know, silence is painful for some, but think of the students who LOVE silence. . . give them the gift of a few minutes to read in silence and absorb the word.
  • Program in Quiet Time:  Everytime I had retreat, camp, mission trip, etc. we would write daily time guides for quiet reading and reflection on scripture where we gave students guides they were welcome to follow for a daily devotion.  Whenever we did evaluations, this always ranked the HIGHEST!  Kids like to read and like quiet time!  How great!

I am not advocating Biblioidolatry where the Bible takes precedence over gospel.  I do want to see us foster a faith that is informed by the actual text and not what we think the text is saying through our poor recollections and cloudy remembrances of passages.

Remember:  There are teens who LOVE to read!  These statistics show that HALF of our kids LIKE TO READ!  This is still Good News!  Let us foster that love.

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