Reading Words

I have heard it said that when you have a good book, you are never alone.  I believe it. There is a certain simple pleasure found in being caught up in a good story. Never-the-less, reading is work. 

Reading is more work than watching a video or cartoon.  It is more work to actively get the word off the page and get the meaning into the mind.  It takes effort.   For many young students, it can feel like pure drudgery. Is the work worth it? Is it worth the constant practice of putting letters together to make sounds and putting sounds together to make words? Is it worth it, parent, for you to sit there listening to your child struggle through Pan and the Mad Man and the other booklets that come home in kindergarten and first grade?  Is it worth it, parents of teenagers, to get them off the computer or phone and insist they read?

 I would suspect you all would respond in the positive. Of course, the work of reading is an investment in the mind that pays dividends in the future.  I know you agree if you have children or grandchildren at Bradford.  How do I know that? Well, you have chosen to put your child in a Christian and Classical school which embraces two traditions.  These traditions both put a strong priority on the written word. 

On one hand, Classical education emphasizes the reading of “Great Books” because those old books embody the best ideas of our forefathers. The so-called “canon of great books” reveals the mind of those that have shaped our own culture and traditions.  Therefore, to think well, to live well, and to understand ourselves, students need to read well.  

On the other hand, Christian education puts an emphasis on words because words are the medium through which the Lord most clearly reveals Himself to this generation.  He has given us the special revelation of Himself in the Word, the Bible.  Words are so important that the Second person of the Trinity, God’s Son, is called the LOGOS, ancient Greek for “the word.”  Jesus himself is the LOGOS or the “Word’ that became flesh (John 1:1 & 14). 

Words are worth the effort! If your child is struggling with getting over that hump and getting into reading, PERSEVERE! It is worth it. As a closing note, if your struggling reader happens to be a boy, don’t let him give up, don’t let him make excuses or take short cuts. AND, make sure he sees you, Dad, reading for pleasure. It will be a discipline for which he will always be thankful. It will be good for his mind and his heart. If he reads the words well, and he comes to read the Word of God well, it will be good for his soul. 

Peace and grace.   J.S. Johnston

As a postscript, I leave you with G.K. Chesterton’s thought on words from his quirky novel The Ball and the Cross…

“Now, let us put the matter very plainly, and without any romantic nonsense about honor or anything of that sort. Is not bloodshed a great sin?”

“No,” said MacIan, speaking for the first time.

“Well, really, really!” said the peacemaker.

“Murder is a sin,” said the immovable Highlander. “There is no sin of bloodshed.”

“Well, we won’t quarrel about a word,” said the other, pleasantly.

“Why on earth not?” said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. “Why shouldn’t we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren’t important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn’t any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn’t there be a quarrel about a word? If you’re not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only things worth fighting about. I say that murder is a sin, and bloodshed is not, and that there is as much difference between those words as there is between the word ‘yes’ and the word ‘no’; or rather more difference, for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, at least, belong to the same category. Murder is a spiritual incident. Bloodshed is a physical incident. A surgeon commits bloodshed.”