Defying Reading Statistics!

Yesterday’s Breakpoint Commentary entitled “Be a Bookworm, Not a Goldfish: The Lost Art of Reading a Book” cited new findings from a Pew Research Center study that over 25% of Americans, and a whopping 1 in 3 American men, did not read a book in the past year. The article’s title is a reference to the now-common shockstistic (a word I just made up) that the human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. There’s debate about how true it is that we can no longer sustain thought for 8 seconds at a time, but the bigger point is that reading good books* can help us fight against the effects of our 21st century instant culture on our brains, and more importantly our minds and souls.

Author Eric Metaxas references professor Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind:

The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency—the belief that the here and now is all there is.

In terms of actual reading of text, Americans have never read more than they do today, with innumerable text messages, emails, tweets, posts, news feeds, and other updates. As Christians, how much more important is it for us to learn how to engage our minds and enter into dialogue with an author about sustained arguments, ideas, or imagined worlds and characters so that we can become more reasonable, thoughtful, attentive students of the Word, and equipped to fight against all that is in the world that that tells us “that the here and now is all there is”!

While Metaxas brings up ideas and arguments that are familiar to us, especially if you’ve been in one of the “Effects of Living in the Internet Age” or “Technology and the Brain” type of workshops we have had, I appreciated reading this commentary and recommitting myself to defying the norm, and fighting for my mind and for my soul!

And as the Gracepoint “book lady,” I’m so happy that we at Gracepoint Berkeley church, as well as our other church plants, are doing what we can to defy these statistics together! It warms my heart when I receive emails from people who say they’ve read more in the last year than they did in all of undergrad. Sadly, just STARTING the Winter Reading Challenge will put you ahead of a good chunk of Americans. Not only are we refusing to be goldfish by being bookworms, I think many of us are on the way to being book dragons. 🙂

How many books did you read in 2016? Remember, more important than the number of books, is growing as a reader! Did you read more than you did in 2015?


* You can check out Breakpoint’s Recommended Reading List. It has lots of books that we carry at the store. 🙂

Becoming a Reader Through Reading

Another question commonly asked of me by parents at Gracepoint Berkeley church is, “How do you become a reader?” And like many questions, the answer seems a bit too pat. Can you guess what it is? I most often say, “You become a reader…through reading.” (For those of you who figured it out from the title of the post —  good test-taking skills!)

Of course there’s so much to the answer, but like other identities we grow into, it’s all in the doing. Today, I want to focus on the social aspect of reading. We often conceive of reading as a solitary activity, and while it most definitely is, from the earliest age we see that reading is very much social as well. Perhaps it is actually reading together, being read to, reading to someone else, or just talking about books. There’s a reason crazy fandoms develop around books!

While I could write on and on about this, I received this photo from our young readers at Gracepoint Minneapolis church, and yes, I do think it’s worth about a thousand words. 🙂

Sammy reading to Stephen and Teddy!

Sammy, who is an early reader, exemplifies the social nature of reading. He memorized the great board book classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. So he happily and confidently read the book to his younger friends. Not only is he introducing the younger ones to books, but he is building into his growing identity as a reader. A win-win!

2016 Reading Resolutions & Reading Challenge!

You probably saw this one coming. I know we’re almost to the end of January, but 2016 still feels new, and the beginning of the year often means resolutions and goal-setting. “Read more” is often on people’s list of resolutions. In fact it was in the top 10 resolutions of 2015, according to the Nielsen Report.

Whether you’ve set some concrete reading goals (I’m trying to read 365 books this year — I’m on book 28, but then again, I read a lot of children’s books!), or you’re part of the generally “read more” group, I invite you to participate in the official unofficial 2016 Bibliopolis Reading Challenge.

  1. Read a Christian biography or autobiography. As you know, Nikki from Gracepoint San Diego recommends the Watchman Nee biography.
  2. Read, or reread, one of the C.S. Lewis FiveMere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, The Screwtape Letters.
  3. Read a Christian “series,” or basically 3 (or more) books by the same author. Whether it is Lee Strobel’s The Case for… books, Helen Rosevere’s Living… books. You can create your own series. 🙂
  4. Read a book that has been on your TBR (To Be Read) list for a long time. For me, that’s The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I’m completely serious when I say that it has been on my TBR since 1995. I think 20 years is long enough.
  5. Read a work of non-fiction that isn’t a memoir or (auto)biography.
  6. Read a book about a historical event or era.
  7. Read a book about or set in a different part of the world. Expand your horizons!
  8. Read one of the books that you were supposed to read in high school, but you fake read. Or if you were a dutiful student who read all of the books you were assigned, you can choose one of the “classic books” that other people seem to have read but your teachers never assigned. For me, that’s Homer’s The Odyssey. (I think it was because Homer was still writing it when I was in high school.)
  9. Read a children’s book you never read. It could be a recent one, or one from long ago. For me, that’s Where the Red Fern Grows. I know you’re thinking, “No, that’s actually impossible, because everyone’s read it.” But I’m not kidding.
  10. Read a book of poetry. Anthologies are good, if you don’t know where to start.

That’s 12 books, so you could break it down to an average of a book a month. If that’s too easy, then just double each of the categories. 🙂

Let the reading challenge begin, and let’s all celebrate having “read more” come December 31, 2016! Reading challenges are always fun to do together, so maybe you and your peers, life group, or housemates can participate together. Are you in? 🙂