An article in the Wall Street Journal, “How to Raise Boys Who Read,” is a warning about the kind of books that are being read by young people. The author of the article said, “When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.”
The problem is not merely generational continuity. Based on my own experience, I conclude that most parents do not require their children to read any books related to any academic discipline. The 18th century Puritan, Issac Watts, said the author of a book should “render it more useful to that part of mankind for whom you chiefly design it.” The 19th century Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, wrote an article published in 1849 entitled “On Dangerous Reading.” He summarized this interesting article in the final paragraph.
There is one more reason against fictitious reading, simple, brief and absolutely conclusive. All men who read novels will confess that usually they read them as an indulgence, and not as a means of improvement. Now, it is an indulgence which is not recreation, for it excites, wearies, and emasculates the mind even more than excessive mental labor. But every man is responsible to God for the improvement of every hour which is not devoted to wholesome recreation. Novel-reading is the murder of time, and on this simple ground every mind which professes to be guided by religious principles is sternly challenged by God’s authority to forego it. “Redeem the Time.” “The night cometh.”
Every person will have to contend with the “time” principle. Reading consumes time just like looking at television consumes time. It takes as much time to read a novel as it does to read a commentary on the Bible.
Writers and publishers are, to some degree, responsible for the uneducated readers in this country. However, an author or publisher may ask, “why write or publish Christian books when the market share for Christian books is so small.” Then the celebrity icons consume most of the Christian market. It is estimated the around five percent of the books published each year are religious books.
The church is in need of a reading revival that might influence the culture. Reading the Bible should come first because, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy…” (Revelation 1:3). Reading should also include good books that explain the Bible and encourage spiritual growth.