You fight the battle every day of motivating your reluctant reader to finish his school work. The struggle is wearing you down. Homeschooling shouldn't alienate you from your children, yet you feel battle lines have been drawn.

You can't give up, but you're tempted to give in.

So you make compromises that you know are not working. Comic books can count as reading, can't they? No. Twaddle doesn't count. One of the values of reading is engaging the mind in a way not possible otherwise. I visited a classroom where each student had their book choice on the corner of the desk. The teacher noticed my raised eyebrows at some of the titles. She said, "Well, at least they are reading."

What? What does that mean? At least they are reading? That's like feeding a child cookies all day and saying at least they are eating.

What your child reads matters. If it doesn't give him something to think about, present a new idea, provide new information, or help him relate in a new way to people, cultures, or ideas, it is a waste of time. Reading for reading's sake is not virtuous. You might as well go watch television.

Mortimer Adler said, "In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many of them can get through to you."

Good literature is everywhere. Thought-provoking books are not difficult to find. Why do some children balk at reading them?

Because not all children like to think, and settling for books that don't encourage thinking is like settling for stilettos instead of tennis shoes to run the race.

Thinking takes time. It requires energy and effort and some children would rather be told the answer than come to a conclusion themselves.

You see how dangerous that is, don't you? Unthinking children become unthinking teens, and if they live long enough, they become unthinking adults. You know some. They're the ones who make a huge blunder and we see on the evening news. As we watch we say to our spouse, "What were they thinking!"

What is the solution to develop thinking children?

Here are a few options:

  • Read aloud magazine articles or newspaper columns with a controversial slant and have discussions with your child.
  • When your child voices an opinion, require him to explain why the opinion has merit.
  • Read aloud nonfiction books of interest to your child (perhaps on airplanes or ice cream) and have him illustrate what he heard.
  • Read poetry together and have the child share how the poem made her feel.
  • Read quotes and discuss their merit.
  • Ask "why" as often as occasions allow.

And as always, pray.

Gracious Father, you are all-wise, all-knowing, all-good. We trust in your wisdom and claim your promise that you will give us wisdom if we ask and believe. We want to raise thinking children so they can better withstand our enemy's lies. Help us teach them well. We come to you because of Jesus.