"At least she's reading something." I hear a lot of mums say, with a roll of their eyes when they talk about the books their kids are reading.
Then follows an awkward silence. I don't quite know what to say. I'm not familiar with the books they're talking about, but it gets me thinking. Does it matter what my kids read, as long as they're reading something? Are there books that I shouldn't let them read - even if it's the only thing they want to read?
The world of the mind is just as real and powerful as the world of the body. I have visited friends in hospital who were having serious hallucinations. Among the many lessons I learned from this, one that stood out was that the imaginary world has a lasting impact on us.
What do sick people have to do with what my eight-year-old is reading?
Just that the world of the mind that children (and adults) enter when they read is part of who they are. Scientists have recently discovered what God told us thousands of years ago in Proverbs 23:7 "as he thinks in his heart, so is he". (NKJV*) This is why early Christians were instructed in Phillipians 4:8, "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right ... think about such things". (NIV) Elsewhere, the Bible says in Ephesians 6:3 that certain things should "not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints".
Reading isn't valuable of and by itself but is a great tool for learning and growth. Like any tool, though, it can be mishandled, leading to destruction. If you gave a child a hammer and he used it to construct a nuclear weapon, you probably wouldn't say "at least he's building something."
Our children's minds are a defining aspect of who they are - more so than their bodies. A loving parent wouldn't let a child eat only junk food, so is it wise to let them constantly read "junk" books? No loving parent would knowingly let their child eat poison, so should we let our children poison their minds with something that makes (for example) hurting others (in any way - including lying, stealing, cheating, teasing...) seem OK?
I believe it's more important for me to keep track of what my kids are reading than it is to make sure they brush their hair and clean their teeth. Better to prevent a rotten mind than to try to cure it.
*All Bible references are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise noted.