Summer reading clubs and programs offer a great, natural way to engage your son or daughter in conversations that can promote an understanding of a biblical worldview and develop critical thinking about ideas and beliefs. Most kids, young and old, have a summer reading list that has been assigned by their school. Additionally, many kids get excited to participate in summer book clubs offered by local libraries, and publishers.
Kids are being bombarded by beliefs and ideas as they read the assigned books. Some of the ideas align with what the Bible says. Others may not. Rather than avoid books that contain ideas that do not line up with the Truth of the Bible, as long as the book theme is developmentally appropriate, take time to foster your child’s critical thinking skills with conversation.
Today I am sharing key points to creating biblical conversations about summer reading. Whether your child’s reading list is secular or faith-based, the guide shared here will help you have confidence in your conversations and know the questions to ask to begin biblical conversations.
Teach Them Diligently…
Consider this passage from Deuteronomy “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. ” Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Envision the picture. A Hebrew parent with a son or daughter is walking down a dusty road in Jerusalem on their way to the market. The parent takes the time to recall aloud a kind act of a friend. Using questions and explanations, the parent guides the son or daughter in how to think about that life event to determine if it showed how to love the Lord God.
The commandment given in Deuteronomy 6:5, later referred to by Jesus as the greatest commandment, was to be in the hearts of the Hebrews. Then the commandment was to be taught to their children. Notice the words used to describe how children were to be taught this greatest commandment.
Diligently is the first descriptive word. The original translation of this word implies that the instruction was intentional, repeated often, with the purpose of sharpening the learner. Diligent instruction had to be purposeful and ongoing.
The next description reveals how this diligent instruction was to occur. Lecture and recitation were not prescribed as the method of teaching. Rather, conversation was recommended. The audience of this Bible passage was told to talk of the commandment throughout the events of the day. Parents were to discuss how to love the LORD while sitting in the house, while traveling to and fro, at night and in the morning. In other words, they were to weave conversation about God and how to love him and others while participating in daily life activities.
The Power of Biblical Conversations with Your Children
Often it seems as though conversation is undervalued when teaching our children. In our urgency to help our children understand biblical truth, we may focus only on Scripture memorization, and drawing attention to what behaviors are not honoring for a Christ follower. However, conversation among family members about faith-based ideas has shown to have significant positive impact on spiritual formation and worldview development.
So how, as a parent, can you have conversations that will prompt biblical thinking about books for summer reading? The first suggestion is to keep the conversation short. Secondly, ask a couple of questions that you have thought about in advance regarding the story message, or plot. That is part of the intentionality of the conversation.
It’s a good idea to read the books your kids are reading. That way you are fully aware of the content. Reading the same book also provides time for you to consider the ideas of the book and reflect on how those ideas might align or differ from biblical concepts.
Biblical Conversation Starters: The Questions to Ask
Your conversation with your child can simply start with a common academic skill, such as retelling or summarizing.
“Tell me about what you are reading”, is a good conversation starter.
This opener provides a window into your child’s reading comprehension. Listen to see if the story is retold sequentially from beginning to end. A child who consistently retells a story as a random collection of events might benefit from some practice in sequencing the events of the story. Next, shift to more guided questions such as: What happened first? Then what happened? How did this section end?
Some children will be insistent to describe every single event in great detail. See if they can just give you the highlights or summary of the story. In this case, a prompt might be, “Can you tell me just the most important things that happened?” Again, listen carefully. See if the child can prioritize the most important ideas in their summary.
Summarizing or retelling serves to activate the reader’s memory and create a sort of mental map to which they can make additional idea connections. Once the memory is activated, it’s time to continue the conversation about worldview ideas.
As you listen to the summary or retelling, pay attention to any information that might strike you as a strong connection to biblical ideas because the information either provides a good biblical example or goes against a biblical idea.
If this is the case, you might follow up with:
- How does that line up with what the Bible says?
- Does that match or not match what we saw someone in the Bible do?
- Can you think of any place that idea is talked about in the Bible? How does the book example compare with what we read in the Bible?
If as you listen to your child’s synopsis or restating of the story and nothing jumps out for you to connect with the Bible, then ask different collections of questions.
- What was the problem that needed to be solved in the story? How was that problem solved? Was the problem solved in a way that would match what God’s word talks about? How so?
- How did the characters treat each other in the story? Do you think the characters in the story treated each other in a way that follows Jesus’ actions? How so?
- Was there anything in the story that talked about religious or spiritual beliefs? What were those beliefs? Do those ideas match what the Bible says?
- Is there anything in the story that talks about what it means to be a person or what a person is able to do? Do those ideas about people match what the Bible says?
This very short selection of questions is by no means a complete list. However, it might help to initiate a conversation with your child about a summer reading book.
7 Common Lies in Our Culture
My friend, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, founder of Foundation Worldview identifies 7 common lies that exist in culture. She points out that these lies are rarely spoken out loud by children. Instead, the lies are often quietly held as truths because they are rarely pointed out or talked about. These lies are often subtly presented in books or movies.
The lies explained by Ms. Urbanowicz include the following:
- If I feel it, it’s true. This lie indicates that truth is subjective, based on one’s personal opinion and feelings. The biblical perspective teaches that truth is objective and not related to how we feel or what we agree with.
- Follow your heart. Translation: Your feelings are the best guide for what is right and wrong. Christianity is a reasoned faith, meaning that there is historical evidence providing a reasonable conclusion that the Bible is true.
- Love is affirming everything I feel. This lie relates to how what we do makes others feel. The lie goes like this. “If we are loving we will never make anyone feel uncomfortable.” This lie does not fit with the biblical definition of love between friends and family that sometimes includes correction (Proverbs 27:6).
- Faith is the opposite of knowledge. This lie denies the biblical idea that Christian faith is based on evidence and objective truth claims. Biblical faith is not wishful or hopeful thinking. Rather biblical faith is trust based on evidence. (Hebrews 11:1)
- Humans are the product of blind, unguided, evolution. This lie denies that God intentionally created each individual in his image with a life purpose. (Genesis 1:26-28)
- A good God wouldn’t judge Translation: it is wrong to judge others. The biblical worldview promotes the application of justice and fairness to determine right from wrong. We are told in scripture to inspect the fruit of other’s lives (Mat 7:15-20), and that people should be held accountable for wrongdoing (Mat 18:15-17, Col 3:16)
- You are the one you’ve been waiting for. This lie implies that you are enough. You can rescue yourself because you have all you need. From the biblical perspective, we are all sinners who need to be rescued from our sins by the sacrifice of Jesus. (Rom 3:23; Eph 2:3)
During your book conversations, see if any of these lies have been presented in the storyline. Ask questions to get your child thinking about the ideas presented. The conversation will transpire differently depending on the child’s age. For older kids, simply ask what the book is about. Did your child notice any ideas that caused them to stop and think more about those things? Was there anything in the book that talked about faith? What were the ideas about faith that were offered? You can also ask the same questions listed above.
Courage is Key for Biblical Conversations
With the confusing culture we live in now, it is important for parents and grandparents to engage in conversation with children. In some cases it takes courage, since we might not know how to answer the questions kids ask. Here’s the good news. Having the conversation and not knowing the answers is more important than not having the conversation at all.
In 2018, the book Gen Z, which is a joint study conducted by Barna and Impact 360, reported on the identity, worldview, motivations, and views on faith and church of the group of individuals born between 1999 and 2015. The study is fascinating to read. Particularly interesting is the finding that there was a small group of teens who seem to have resiliency with their faith as followers of Jesus Christ. Noteworthy data regarding this unique group related to the topic of conversation.
- 79% percent of teens classified as engaged Christians reported that they had regular conversations with their parents on current events and biblical perspectives on sexuality and marriage. These types of conversations took place far more frequently with the engaged-Christian teens than with any other category of teens.
- Gen Z demonstrates a high desire to discuss issues that were considered taboo in the past. That willingness to openly discuss tough topics provides some golden opportunities for parents to have intentional conversations about faith.
What if you don’t feel prepared for those conversations? What if you don’t know much about the Bible yourself?
Take heart. It is never too late to begin. You have the Holy Spirit with you to intervene and guide. You have God’s living and active Word to reveal the truth. When your child or grandchild asks a question you can’t answer, it is fine to admit that and then begin the search for the answer together.
Answers for the Tough Questions
The following authors are well worth visiting to find biblical answers to tough questions. Not only have they written books, but have websites, podcasts, and YouTube videos with answers to questions about religion, culture, and life.
Remember…conversation is critical for cultivating knowledge of Jesus and life as His follower.
You don’t have to be an expert, but you will provide a positive influence for Christ through conversation as you teach diligently.