The Relevance of American Literacy
By Anna Masrud
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
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
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