Ladies, Let's be Well Read: Megan Dickerson
My reading stack hasn't always looked the way it does today. I added the picture books when I had kids because you're supposed to read to your kids. It helps their vocabulary and their imagination! But I read non-fiction almost exclusively. They were good books, they made me think, and most of them contributed greatly to my walk with the Lord. In the past couple of years I've become convinced that reading great books, including wonderfully written fiction and beautiful poetry, are just as important.
If you've been in Christian circles in the past few years, you've probably heard many talking about the problem of Bible illiteracy. Christians don't read or know our Bibles like we should. Part of that problem is that we, Americans in general, don't read much of anything. According to Pew Research, 24% of Americans did not read a single book in the past year. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/) We don't understand the Bible when we do read it because we're out of the practice of reading anything at all. The Bible contains history, narrative, poetry, and letters. We should read in all of these genres as well.
How often have you heard that the Bible is hard to understand? This is in large part because we are out of the practice of reading. If we want to be women who love the Word, we have to learn how to read again. If my attention span is only as long as an Instagram post, I cannot fully grasp the richness of God's word. I have to stretch myself with reading hard things outside the Bible so that I am not overwhelmed with reading hard things inside the Bible.
When we read great books, we are exercising our muscles for attention and comprehension in ways that are out of the norm in our modern world. If you feel out of practice, I'd recommend you pick up Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book. Most of us weren't taught to read well and Adler has great advice for building your reading muscles and asking the right questions while you read.
Reading widely doesn't just help us to read our Bibles well, it also helps us to communicate its message. As a mom, I've been encouraged to read aloud to my kids. It's not just fun, it's good for them! It grows us closer together, it grows their vocabulary, and sparks their imagination. Research shows that if we want our children to be excellent speakers and writers, that we should read to them. (https://iew.com/help-support/resources/mp3-resources/nurturing-competent-communicators) If that's true for our children, it will be true for us as well.
This may be controversial to some, but I do not believe that all books are created equally. Some fiction is better than others. As Christians, we know that this is true because a lot of popular fiction today is in opposition to our moral values. But some books are better written than others. We should spend most of our time soaking in the rich language and glorious story lines of the best works we can find. This includes the classic works of fiction written by Austen, Dickens, and others, but there are a handful of writers today of the same quality. If we want to speak and write with excellence, we should spend our time with those who already have instead of those who are mediocre.
We should seek to speak truth with love and graciousness that is compelling to those outside of Christ. The language and imagination of great fiction and poetry gives us the language patterns to be winsome communicators as we speak of the Lord. If I am not putting beautiful language into my heart, then winsome speech will not come out. We cannot pour out what we do not put into our own hearts and minds.
So, ladies, let's read! Read great books! Read widely from various genres. Read so that you can read your Bible better. Read so that you can share the gospel better!
Do you need a place to start? Try Andrew Peterson's The Wingfeather Saga or GK Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India in the 1800's, has a volume of poetry called Mountain Breezes, that is lovely. If middle school English class ruined poetry for you, find a spoken word artist, like Jackie Hill Perry, that you can enjoy. It's worth it!
Don't have time? Try setting a goal of reading 5 minutes a day, or most days. You'll be amazed at how the minutes add up! It may seem so small, but the hardest part of any habit is the beginning so make it as easy as possible to get started.
Think you don't like reading? Try again! Ask your friends for recommendations, look at good lists online, or pick up a childhood favorite. There's something out there for you.