It is common knowledge that healthy foods contribute to a healthy body. I continually strive to provide a wide variety of foods for my four growing children, ages 8-13. I make sure they eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats while limiting their sugar consumption. The results of a healthy diet are visible. My children are rarely sick, they are growing normally and they have an abundance of energy.
But what can parents do to contribute to the health of their children's souls?
The soul consists of the mind, will and emotions. Can parents deliberately nourish the budding minds of their youngsters? What is soul food and how can we whet their appetite for it?
Jesus used storytelling as a tool to engage the minds of His listeners. He used parables as a means of sharing spiritual truths with carnal people. Once He had their attention He had access to their hearts.
We live in a technological society. Most homes have a television, audio equipment and a computer. While these tools are valuable for education, good literature or a superb story is still one of the most valuable tools for learning. Great literature is the best food for your child's mind. Reading aloud an engaging, interesting book about real life and real experiences is like serving your child a juicy slice of life. I guarantee they will develop an appetite for more of the same.
Most of us are familiar with the tasteless snippets and pieces of information served in traditional textbooks. These bits of disconnected information offer dry, stale facts and details that are soon forgotten. But a complete, complex, well-told story will be locked into the memory forever. When they read stories about real people, the time periods, places and dates included in the storyline will have a deeper meaning and come alive. It will provide a whole picture to which the child is able to relate future information.
When our family studied the Civil War we read biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Fredrick Douglas. By being introduced to the people of that era they naturally learned about the details associated with the war and that period in history. But they learned it as it really happened through the viewpoints of real people as they lived, suffered and died.
Why should you read aloud to a child who can read on his own?
There have been countless studies done over the past several decades that confirm the undeniable impact of reading aloud to a child. It seems God designed the minds of children to grow and blossom when fed from good books. The educational value of reading aloud regularly to your children cannot be overstated.
A young toddler is able to understand spoken language above his ability to express. Though talking in broken sentences and what we might call "baby talk" he is able to understand almost everything his parents say to him. In much the same way, an older child is able to understand literature read to him that is well above his grade level. So by our reading to a child The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham he is hearing language that is sophisticated and artistic. As he listens to such stories his mind is engaged. He is painting colorful scenes and pictures in his mind's eye as creative thoughts and ideas are born.
As children are immersed in pools of knowledge through venues such as history, biography, science, nature, legends, essays and of course the Bible, their minds will grow and it will be evident in many ways. Their vocabulary will expand. You will find your child using advanced words and expressions. The way a child expresses himself verbally naturally carries over into his writing, making his writing more affluent.
The natural foods we purpose to feed our children will build their physical health and strength. Likewise the food we choose to feed their minds by way of good literature will aid in the development of their souls.