image source Pierre-Olivier Bourgeois
I loved summers as a kid. Who doesn't? It was a time to sleep in, watch cartoons all morning, talk shows after lunch, swimming at the local pool, and then watching more cartoons in the afternoon. In Junior High that began to change when my mom started going on women's retreats. They were held at a Christian retreat center that had a bookstore that sold books on all sorts of subjects, but from a Christian point of view. That book store would change my life.
When mom would come back from those retreats, I was always the first one to greet her. I was excited because she would bring me back a book to read. I was in heaven. It was because for the first time I had found books that were in English that I could relate to (I didn't go to a non-Spanish Christian bookstore till I was in my late teens). In many ways, this is where my love for theology books started. It is something I will always be grateful for. And it's something that has shaped my life.
I know the list of things that can occupy a teen is much longer these days. In addition to tv shows, today's teens have a buffet of distractions calling them, including: the web, netflix, XBox One, redbox, and an ipad full of apps. But there is also a greater access to books. My hope is that this summer can also be a time for you to encourage your teen, or tween, to take time to learn something about themselves, their world, and their God. Today, I want to share a few things to keep in mind when helping them pick out books.
1. What are they interested in?
Some of you might be getting mad at me now, but come one, you should know a thing or two about what your kid is interested in. And you should encourage them to learn more about the things they like. If it's sports, how about the autobiography of someone they could look up to? If it's video games, how about the history of the video game industry? Maybe they want to be a website developer? There's a lot of books aimed at teaching teens to do just that. The point is, make sure your kids have books on things that they'll want to read. They might even learn that some things aren't worth their time.
2. Where stage are they in life?
Different life stages call for different books. I mentioned that I was in my teens when my mom would bring me books on teen issues. She was wise enough to know that I would need a little advice, and she was right. A lot of those books played a role in keeping me out of trouble. So where is your kid? Are they a tween ready to hit puberty? Are they ready to start high school? Or college? There's a book for that! It might just keep them out of trouble.
3. What challenges are they facing at school?
No kid is perfect. When it comes to school, grades are proof of this. So what classes gave your kid the most trouble this year? It's usually math, but maybe it was science, or English lit. Take time to talk to your kid about where they need help for the next semester and perhaps, you can pick out a few books on those subjects to better prepare. I also suggest that you visit Khan Academy. It's a free, online school with a very unique way of teaching common high school subjects.
4. What challenges are they facing in life?
I'm not a parent, yet, but I have young nieces and nephews that I worry about. The problems just a few years ago were simple: smoking and underage drinking. Today's problems are much more complicated. Easy access to porn, states legalizing weed, and even bad friends, will make things harder for parents. But preparing your kids for the future isn't optional. Find out what questions they have and start looking for answers.
5. How is your teen's faith?
Your child's first spiritual mentor has to be YOU. Youth groups are great, but the statistics are grim. Kids who go to youth group, and church, are leaving the faith once they hit college at alarming rates. The best solution to this is for parents to take responsibility for the discipleship of their children. I'm talking to you. The teen years are the perfect time for them to make the faith their own. Tomorrow I'll be sharing a list of about twenty or so books that will help them (and you) in this area.
Feel free to leave comments, questions, and complaints down below.