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Read Often; Think Deep

I'm currently working my way through updating one of my books. The process is long, and I remember why I prefer editing on the computer as opposed to in a book form. I love writing as much as I love reading. Writing takes more time and effort because I'm creating the words, but reading is both educational and entertaining.

Because I writer murder mysteries, historical novels and fantasy, I tend to read those same genres. When I can mix up my genres (fantasy mystery or a historical fantasy) it's even better. Over the past three weeks, I've heard some interesting comments, and it makes me wonder: does Christian media inhibit the ability to appreciate art as well as think deeply?

Bear with me here - it's an honest question, and I'm not certain, in fact, I know I don't have the answer to it.

Lack of Reading

The first portion of this question goes back to interview I heard on my local radio about the lack of reading among children and teens. Now, the big point they made was parents should be more involved with reading both showing their children how to read, reading to their children, and encouraging their children to read books as opposed to play video games and what not. This line of thinking also tends to support the idea of spending more time outside away from the television, computer and video games.

Now, I read a great deal, but I don't like going outside to read. I can't get comfortable, or the sun's too bright (big problem there) or it's too cold, or any other reason I can come up with at the time. I prefer to read on the couch or on my bed. It's more comfortable. Because it's easier to download free e-books from my library, I read many books on my smartphone.

I also normally have the radio on and tuned to one of two local Christian stations (which is how I first heard both of these reports). The radio is on from around eight in the morning until five at night, providing a wide range of time period for me to listen. Granted, it is often half-listening while I'm weaving or writing, but it is there.

Something struck me while I listened to the interview about lack of reading among children and teens: the radio station provides little book coverage. They might give away self-help books, or they might interview someone during their noon news report, but those are rare occurrences. In fact, I think the last time I heard them interview a fiction writer was nearly six months ago.

My mom taught elementary levels for most of my school life. One of the things she found the hardest to do was encouraging some of the students to read books. The problem, she found, wasn't a lack of desire, but nothing to read. If a book is good, people will read it, but if it doesn't hold their attention, they won't. Unfortunately, if there isn't a wide selection of books, people won't learn about new books they might like.

Trivial News

The second interview I heard focused primarily on secular news media, but what struck me was the interviewee's point about the 24-hour news cycle. "It trivializes the news," he explained then further expounded upon the thought. According to him, the 24-hour news cycle forces media outlets to feed off each other's stories as well as provide more therefore minimizing the big stories.

By trivializing the news, he insisted, it made us less thoughtful. Not in the aspect that we don't care, but in the concept that we don't think. We, as a culture, don't dig into the news stories to find out more. We don't analyze what we are told, and simply accept it. We don't consider the larger pictures and issues at hand. In short, we have forgotten how to think because the large news media thinks for us.

That may or may not be true. I tend to gather a wide amount of news both from the radio, the television and my smartphone. What happens outside my immediate world intrigues me. Besides, I never know when something might trigger a great story idea.

For me, thinking deeply is part of who I am. I analyze and ponder what I hear, read or see. I can't shut off my brain, for even when I'm relaxing I'm still thinking. It's part of who I am.

More than Fine

Reading and thinking aren't things that happen immediately. Both take time to accomplish and to process. People are astounded when I utter great insight. They wonder where it comes from, but they don't realize that I have usually been pondering a concept for some time. While I read, I soak in what is being said; while I listen to the news, I listen to what is being discussed. Sometimes I disregard the new information; sometimes I sit and think about it. Often times, I will come back to an idea when another conversation, book or news article piques my memory.

I like reading novels more than biographies or autobiographies. My reason is simple: I trust the novelist more. It sounds funny, I know, but in a novel I expect there to be trials and dangers. Part of the character's development revolves around how she resolves the trials and dangers. In autobiographies (whether as a straight-up autobiography or whether as a memoirs/account), the person writing may or may not tell us everything. When we write about ourselves, we tend to make ourselves look good; when we write about others we dive into what makes them tick.

Finishing a novel takes time. While I might be able to read an average children's novel in forty minutes, a child probably can't. Larger books take longer time. It takes investment to read a novel: time to read, energy to focus, placing priorities. To finish a novel forces us to decide what we would rather do. It isn't not unusual for me to stop weaving or writing in order to finish a novel; neither is it unusual for me to stay awake until the novel is finished.

Which leads me back to the radio: perchance the problem is not only with the parents, but possibly with the culture surrounding most Christian teens and children? Visit a Christian bookstore, and the predominate three areas are: music, Bibles and knick-knacks. Within the book department, the majority is given to self-help books, devotionals or commentaries targeting adults, primarily pastors. Fiction is negligible at best.

Listen to a Christian radio station, and it's either the Top 40, Bible studies, or counseling. Some provide children's radio dramas with the story wrapped up in twenty minutes, maybe it is a two-part episode and takes forty minutes. The moral is proven, the characters are returned safe and sound.

I believe the mark of good children's programming is the ability for an adult to return to something she liked as a child and still enjoy it. I have a few television shows like that, but I can't think of a single Christian radio drama I enjoy now as an adult. The story lines, for me, are too quick, too easy, and too predictable. There isn't enough danger, real or imagined; the characters don't have enough to fight for in the course of their story.

In all honesty, while Christian adults deride the current state of entertainment in the non-Christian market, I cannot, with all honesty, say it is any better in the Christian community. In fact, in many cases, I believe it is worse, but I think there are other issues at work.

So, what do you think? I'd like to hear how you see Christian media. Does it help or hurt? Does it encourage us to read and to think deeply? Should everyone be doing that in the first place?


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