How one family confronts a text-crazed culture.
Raising Readers and Text-Free Teens
by Rebecca Deel
I admit it. I’m addicted—to books. My fascination with words started early. Mom read books to me until I learned to read. Each Christmas I asked for books. No money? No problem. Mom drove me to the library. I left with an arm load of books and returned the next week for more.
Books saw me through the rough waters of high school and the pulse-pounding rapids of Bible college. Mom and Dad slipped me spending money each month. Know what I bought? Books.
When a handsome, brown-eyed man from Virginia asked me to marry him, his reading skill concerned him. My amazing husband learned to read in the fourth grade. Reading deficiency dogged him through school. Elementary school teachers said his graduation from high school would be a miracle.
But Recardo believed the Lord called him to another path than the coal mines and proved his teachers wrong. He graduated from Free Will Baptist Bible College in 1989, determined that his children would not face the same reading challenges. My husband asked me to help him improve. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks I overdid the reading thing. Here’s why.
Reading at Home
People of the Word must be people of words. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes that we must study to show ourselves approved unto God. Our first year of marriage, Recardo read me two pages from a devotional for couples every night. He spelled words he didn’t recognize or sounded them out.
Within six months, reading came easier. After another six months, he began reading his Bible at lunch. Today, he leads the Master’s Men group at our church, encouraging them to read the Bible.
When our sons were born, their bookshelves overflowed. Austin sat in our laps for hours, begging us to read until our voices gave out. Andrew, on the other hand, climbed down after 10 minutes unless we included sound effects.
Be a Reader. In order to raise readers, we had to be readers. Not a problem for me. I always have a book handy. My husband, however, thought he hated reading fiction. Turns out he needed books that interested him. I married a real-life MacGyver who loves reading about gadgets and adventure.
Our home has 11 bookcases filled with fiction books, research materials, and Bible study resources. Though we enjoy an occasional burger, our favorite place is Border’s bookstore. Typical birthday and Christmas gifts are book cards. The boys mow yards to earn extra cash. Guess what they buy with most of the money? Books.
Be an Author Fan. We visit author websites and read author interviews. Our calendars show family birthdays, doctor appointments, and upcoming book release dates. We haunt used bookstores for copies of older books. We attend book signings when favorite authors come to town. While others mourn the loss of actors or musicians, we grieve over the loss of our favorite authors.
We count down the days to new book releases. My husband rolled his eyes when I handed him yet another book request, but he bravely stood in line to buy a hardback copy of a new book on the day it was released. Lest you think I am totally heartless, he drove two blocks to Border’s on his lunch hour.
Be an Open Reader. Encourage reading in several genres. I read a lot of mystery/suspense, but I have discovered new worlds in action and adventure.
Reading at Work
As an instructor at Free Will Baptist Bible College, I assign required reading. Occasionally, I stop a lecture and ask students what books they’ve read recently. In Business Communication, I require students to bring their favorite books to class for a readability index assignment. My co-workers and I read in our own disciplines as well as fiction. We share ideas and books around the lunch table.
My husband recommends books to customers at the bank where he works. My sons carry fiction books to school. They read at lunch and during the commute. The boys and their friends discuss and swap books.
Reading at Church
As leaders in the men’s and women’s programs at church, Recardo and I share the names of study books we use with our groups. We mention titles during Sunday School theological discussions. Our church promotes reading by providing a library. Although most books in the church library are Christian fiction and Bible resource material, some Louis L’Amour Western novels also grace those shelves.
While it’s obvious my family and I are word people, we are not text people. We made a choice to be text-free. Why? Cell service is expensive and adding texting options would bankrupt our budget. We use pre-paid phones. Only family members have the phone numbers, and they know we don’t text.
Another reason we choose to be text-free is we don’t want our teen driver to answer a text while driving. We don’t allow our son to talk on the phone while he’s behind the steering wheel.
My college students estimate they send or receive more than 300 text messages each day. Some messages are important. Most aren’t. Teachers and administrators at FWBBC have learned if they want a student to respond, send a text. Students feel compelled to answer.
My sons carry cell phones to school. However, by school policy, those phones can’t be on or visible during school hours. FWBBC personnel have the same approach. A familiar edict in our classrooms: “If I see your phone, it’s mine.” Phones are a distraction whether you text or talk.
While texting might not seem as rude as talking on a phone during a church service, it’s close. A distracted worshipper can’t hear God’s words. Texting distracts the pastor and the people around us. Texting during a service teaches children that our business is more important than God’s business.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul exhorts us not to quench the Spirit. Texting qualifies just as much as daydreaming or pulling on our coats during prayer. Here at FWBBC, the daily chapel services are a text-free and phone-free zone.
God doesn’t send text messages. He sent us His Word and calls pastors to guide His flock with words from the Bible. If we text during the service, we miss God’s message.
Are You Game?
Ready to swim against the culture stream? Will you buck the trend? I dare you! Turn off the phone and open a book. It all starts with one person—you.
Free Will Baptist Bible College was called into existence in 1942 and handed a mandate to educate Christian workers to serve Christ and His Church. The college embraced that mandate, but we can’t do it alone. Raising readers and text-free teens begins at home. We need your help to graduate tech-savvy young people who aren’t controlled by technology.
About the Writer: Rebecca Deel teaches in the Business Department at Free Will Baptist Bible College. She is a member of LaVergne Free Will Baptist Church (TN) where she serves as pianist and leads a Bible study for the local Women Active for Christ.