How Can I Help My Children Develop a Love of Learing?
By Larry Morley Arnoldsen
, professor emeritus of secondary education at Brigham Young University

This is the original manuscript from which the published answer in the Ensign October 1999 p.61 “I Have a Question” was taken from. Used with permission from Larry Arnoldsen.

    Children can be helped to develop a love of learning by helping them learn more about something they already love. Love for something is shown by interest, attention and desire. What are your childrens interests? What do they give attention to? What are the "righteous desires of their hearts?" It will be different no doubt for each child. Karl G. Maeser used to say to parents, "Treat all your children alike, by treating each one differently."
    Seek for insight, inspiration to do what you feel impressed to do to encourage, support and help each of your children learn and do what the Lord would approve of, and what each child will allow you to help him do. One interest may require a lot of a parent's time, another may require little.

Consider a story
    Once a father had a ten-year-old son who "hated learning," or so it appeared to the father. The son "hated reading," "hated" books. Every school day was a battle, it was a battle to get the boy out of bed, to get him to go to school. The father was very concerned and worried.
    There was an older son serving a mission. The younger son loved his big brother and of course his parents. "What could be done?" the father pled. "What does your son do when he can do exactly what he wants?" "What is he interested in, you mean? There is nothing. I don't think he has an interest." Oh, yes he has. He can't be awake and not have an interest. Think about it."
    After some reflection and consideration the father said, "Rocks! He is interested in rocks! I am too actually. He likes to go rock hunting with me, although we rarely go because of lack of time." The father was asked what he was doing the coming Saturday. He said he needed to do some cleaning and repairing of his corrals. The father was both a farmer and a high school chemistry teacher. He was advised to change his plans somewhat and spend at least half of Saturday doing exactly what his son wanted to do. He agreed. The father and son at the request of the son had gone rock hunting and had a wonderful time.
    The father was given four books from a set of children's science encyclopedias and told to give them to his son. "Oh," the father said, "I can't give these to my boy. He will just turn and run. He hates books." "Please," the father was asked, "please take them and give them to him." He reluctantly agreed, but said he would only give his son the book about rocks. The other three would be put away to see what his son would do with the first one. "Do as you think you should, if the boy has no interest, just return them."
    The next week the father reported that the boy had willingly taken the book about rocks and had read and studied it. He loved it. Later he found the other three books and asked why he hadn't also been given them as well. They had again gone rock hunting on Saturday.
    The father was given a few more science books to take to his son and was advised to continue spending time each week doing what his son wanted to do, if it was rock finding, fine, if not, fine.
    A month after the father's request for help the son brought home a report card with the first "A" he had ever received in school. The father said, "he now gets himself up in the morning, and goes off to school willingly. You know, he is changing his feelings about reading and books."
    Six months after this story began, the father and his son continued to spend time each week doing things together. In fact, on one of their Saturdays together they drove 150 miles to a university to see a large mineral collection. Additionally, many books and much reading were part of both their lives now. The father had helped his son develop a love of learning by helping his son learn about what he loved. Jesus said, "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Putting it another way, in this case, we might say, "if his son ask a stone, will he give him bread?" (Matt.7: 9)

Another Story
    A second father (that was me) overheard his ten-year-old son say, "That's the bestess book I've ever read!" "What book," the father asked? The boy showed his father the book. It was, Friday the Arapaho Indian.
    The next day this father ordered from the local book store a copy of the book the son said was the "bestess" he had ever read. When the ordered book arrived it was presented to the son. The son was surprised to be given his very own copy of the book, but was very delighted, and promptly read the book again. Subsequent to that, the son read each and every book of a series of books of which Friday the Arapaho Indian was one. There were over a dozen dealing with the theme, The Early American West. How the boy loved those books, loved reading about "the old west!" He went on from there to read even more widely, books on American history. This second father had helped his son develop a greater love of learning and of reading by helping his son read more about what he loved. This observant father had been impressed to do as he had when he heard his son's expressed love for a book.
    Parents can do much to help their children "develop a love of learning," by helping each child learn more about something they already love. In doing so, such parents will also be helping their children achieve some of the Lords "learning objectives" for members of His Church, some of which are, . . . of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and perplexity of nations . . . a knowledge also of countries and or kingdoms---that ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you. . . . (D & C 88:79,80.)
    The shortest route to "things" the Lord would have us learn can often come from following an interest where it leads, because there occur so many forks in a given road, any of which is so interesting, that it becomes hard to decide which turn to take. One soon wants to know so many things that it becomes hard to stop for "rest" or "lunch." How can one stop learning when just around the turn one might find another important clue to the great treasures of knowledge one has now come to seek? And greatly loved learning experiences create a greater desire to have more such experiences.

Consider one more boy and his interest.
    His interest took him down a road leading to the discovery of the greatest treasure of knowledge any boy, girl, man, woman could ever want. We our eternally thankful for that boy, and for what he so wanted to learn, even the boy Joseph Smith.
    In all of the helping of children to have a love of learning, let the counsel of President Howard W. Hunter be remembered as to, "God's chief way of acting" on behalf of His children. It is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. . . .
    To countermand and ultimately forbid our choices was Satan's way, not God's, and the Father of us all simply never will do that. He will, however, stand by us forever to help us see the right path, find the right choice, respond to the true voice, and feel the influence of his undeniable Spirit. His gentle, peaceful, powerful persuasion to do right and find joy will be with us "so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved." [(Moro. 7:36.) Back cover of THE ENSIGN, August 1994]

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