Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Every Bibliophile Should Leave a Legacy

Think about your circle of acquaintances for a moment. Family. Friends. Church. School. In all that circle of acquaintances, can you name someone younger than you?

Fantastic. You'll need them for this post. This might be the most important post I've written here.

Throughout the summer I've been studying True Woman 201, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian. The study is packed with one subject after another pertaining to woman: work, reverence, kindness, submission (oh dear) and self-control.

This week I'm studying about legacy--how important it is to pass on what you know about God from one generation to the next. It's a command of God. And it's the sole most effective way for teaching others about Jesus--by reaching out to those in your direct sphere of influence.

As I finished it today, I considered how legacy connects with reading. And I got to thinking, how many people am I teaching how to read?

Someone taught me how to read. They patiently worked with me to sound out the letters and words in simple books. But I'm not merely talking about sounding out letters. I'm talking about how to read discerningly. It's an art. It requires study and thought. Many people don't know how to begin.

We can read discerningly. That's great. But if we only read discerningly ourselves, all that knowledge lives and dies with us. Writing discerning reviews is a good way to pass a legacy. You're thinking for someone else, raising issues that they might never consider on their own.

But it's not enough.

We shouldn't just hand people these reviews and tell them to think exactly how we think. We should train them to pick out these themes and issues for themselves, whether or not they have a review to refer to.

It's like the story of Joash and Jehoiada in Scripture. While Jehoiada was alive, Joash followed the ways of the Lord. he did everything Jehoiada directed. He had someone to point out the way for him. Then Jehoiada died. Joash didn't have a godly counsellor to do his thinking for him anymore. So he got an unwise counsellor and did what he said instead.

We can give people good book reviews. But if that's where it stops, we're not really doing our job, are we? We're teaching them to depend on our wisdom. They're not making it their own.

How many people am I teaching how to read?

That's a question I'd like to ask you today as well.

How many people are you teaching how to read? How many people are you helping choose books, and helping think through them? Some books I would never have figured out how to think discerningly about if people hadn't taken the time to think through them with me. And I can guarantee there is someone in your life who loves to read, but who mindlessly fills their time with stories, unsure of how to get to a deeper evaluation level.

Cue panic mode. "I'm not sure that I know how either!" "I'm not good at teaching people!" "I don't write blog posts!"

Don't worry. You don't have to write blog posts. And you don't have to be good at teaching people. You get good at it with practice. Practice starts somewhere.

Start by thinking of someone you'd like to mentor. Preferably start with someone who actually enjoys reading. That's going to make your job a lot easier starting out. You can save the reluctant readers for a little bit later.

Got that name? Good. Here's how you can mentor them:

How to Mentor Thinking Readers 

Train them to read their Bibles. 
This might seem like a simple step. It's not. Unless you read your Bible, you won't have a standard of truth to evaluate by yourself or help someone else evaluate with. The more we read the Bible, the more effectively we can discern wisely. Get that person you're mentoring into the Word of God first so the Holy Spirit can start moving.

Train them by what you pick out and why. 
 My mom taught me about so many stories during family reading time. That, whether she planned it or not, was legacy time. Most of her legacy was simply what she chose. I get my love of L.M. Montgomery from her. I like Bob Cornuke's biblical archaeology books because my mom read them out loud to us. I know it's important to read a non-fiction now and then because my mom never modeled a straight fiction habit. I read Steal Like An Artist because she checked it out from the library. Most times she picked out the book and read it to us without much commentary or explanation. Most of her teaching was in the kinds of books she chose. If she had brought us up on Twilight and Betty Neels that's probably what I would be reading. But she taught us to choose worthwhile books to fill our time.

Mentor people by making good choices. Sometimes you can tell them why: "We need to read a nonfiction" "I like the way this story teaches about family relationships". Simple reasons. You don't have to submit a 3 page paper to your protegee explaining why. Just pick it and read it. They'll pick up a lot subconsciously.

Train them to look at endorsements when they pick books for themselves. 
This is not a sure-fire guarantee. But it's a start. When I'm picking out fiction and nonfiction, I look at endorsers. I look at endorsers on the cover and on author websites. I look at if my friends have read it on Goodreads, or what other Christian bloggers think. This isn't for a crowd-following mindset. I don't go into a book thinking it will be awesome because So and So liked it. I simply think that based on the enjoyment of people I respect, it's worth taking a peek and seeing if my opinion lines up with theirs. I look at the lives the endorsers have. If my life lines up a lot with theirs, I think we'll see eye-to-eye on a lot of theology. If I see an endorser I don't respect, that warns me to take caution.

Train them to think about what the author's trying to say. 
Every author has something they want to teach. That's my mantra around here. The simplest and most effective way to teach someone how to read discerningly is to teach them that truth. What is the author teaching through the character actions? Through the ending? Through the overall tone of the story? Don't worry. It takes time to get good at it. A lot of my early judgements were hasty and harsh; that's just a sign of growing maturity. But the more practice, the more effective those judgments will be. After your protegee evaluates what the author's trying to say, ask them "Do you agree or disagree? Why?"

Train them to talk about what they're reading. 
Here's where legacy gets most important, but too often bungled. Talking should be about 1/3 lecture and 2/3 listening. The lecture time tells your friend what you think about the book, and gently and winsomely guides them to wise conclusions. The listening time tells you where they're at. Just listen. Engage kindly. Evaluate in your mind where they need to be, but don't try to force-feed conclusions instantly. Instead, take the gaps and look for more books to teach them in those gap areas. Why? Because if you always tell them the way they should think, they'll only think what you tell them to. Instead, you should give them resources to guide them to self-discovery of the truth you want them to learn. That doesn't mean you should never teach. It just means you should mostly listen, and tailor your choices according to what you hear. They'll love you for listening.

Mentoring has two benefits. First of all, it keeps us accountable. It's easy by yourself to slip into lazy or faulty mindsets. When you're helping someone else think, it will expose gaps in your own thinking. But it doesn't only help you. It equips another person, who will hopefully equip another person, who will hopefully equip another person.

If you love to read, you need to use that skill to help others read well. You don't need a fancy degree or classes or training. All you need is a love for reading, a love for Jesus, and a willingness to ask questions.

That's all. I promise. I'd love to see email/Twitter/blogging/Facebook/in-person reading groups start up all over the place. I know that I want to be a lot more intentional with legacy in this area, and I hope it inspires you as well. Don't forget to drop me a line and tell me how you're trying to pass on your love for reading to someone else. I'd love to hear from you. :)

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children— 
~Deuteronomy 4:9

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful point, Schuyler. I was just talking yesterday with a friend about how grateful we are to our parents for teaching us how to study and how to think through things, so that we can continue learning our whole lives long. It's so much better than just being told what to do, where to go, and how to think. It reminds me of the old adage about teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him a fish!
    And I'm glad you had "Train them to read their Bibles" as #1. That is one of the greatest kinds of legacy you can leave someone you love.