by Oliver DeMille

“The only expensive books
are the ones we don’t read.”

 A Powerful Story

womanI’m not sure who first said the words in the quote above, but I’ve repeated them for years. Think about it: in your home, you probably have a hidden treasure trove! Unread books contain so much wisdom, so many untapped resources, ad so much opportunity to learn, know, feel, and experience. And they are packed with so much potential fun.

Years ago I spoke at a homeschool convention, and I happened to catch the last few minutes of the speaker just before I took the stage. I’ve never forgotten the story he told, because it really made me think. As best I remember it, here’s the story as the speaker told it:

I was introduced to homeschooling a while back by a young man in my community. He came to me asking for help on an assignment, and I was so impressed with his passion for learning and his work ethic that I decided homeschooling must have some real merit. When I learned about the young man’s story, I was amazed.

This boy was dismissed from his high school for repeatedly getting into fights because he just wouldn’t put up with being bullied. When his parents met with the school Principal for the last time, it was the Principal himself who recommended homeschool. He just didn’t have any other ideas by that point.

The Principal agreed to let the young man use his high school books for the rest of the school year, and the teachers gave the parents a list of assignments for the boy. His parents handed him the assignments and went back to their work and lives. He was on his own.

A Powerful Rule

They did give him two rules. First, he couldn’t leave home during school hours. Second, he couldn’t watch TV, listen to music, or use any electronics during school hours.

These rules turned out to be a huge blessing for the young man. He sat bored for over a week, then he finally opened his textbooks and tried to find something interesting to read. He soon gave up, and started perusing the bookshelves in his home.

This changed everything. The boy found a book he really liked, and he read it from beginning to end. Returning to the shelf, he found its sequel and repeated the process. By the time he completed the second book, he was hooked. Over the course of the following years he read all the books in his home, including the high school texts.

This led to a library card and unlimited access to books, an intense interest in several topics that personally excited the young man, a search for tutors and mentors in the community, and eventually a college scholarship and a passion for education.

When the speaker recounted this story, he became noticeably emotional. The power of books is real.

A Powerful Example

Of course, it’s obvious that there is more to this story than the speaker shared. The parents sadly seem to have done the bare minimum, and the school apparently dealt with bullies by expelling their victims. Hardly the ideal in either case. But whatever the other details in this story, it illustrates how powerful books can be.

How does this apply to you and me? Simple. Nearly every home has a true gold mine of learning, knowledge, experience, culture, and wisdom tucked away in dusty shelves. Books are powerful.

Try pulling the family together, take a few books off the shelves and briefly describe what they contain. Use emotion, and really share why these books matter to you. Read a few very short selections. Then put the books back and excuse the family members. Watch to see what happens.

But do one more thing. Peruse the shelves, pull off a book, and read it. Then, when you finish it, read another. And keep doing this.

The kids will see what you are doing, and your example will have a lasting influence on them. Show your children and young adults how reading can catch on, and how much you enjoy the hidden treasures of learning in your own home.

For most people, books are the greatest source of great learning! And for most young people, parents reading books is the most powerful example of great education possible.


For more commentary on this theme, see The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Homeschoolers by Oliver and Rachel DeMille