Why Johnny Can’t Read

I have a theory.  And I think I’m right.  The Scriptures declare that Satan is a master strategist:  “In order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes”  (2 Corinthians 2:11).  Another translation says, “We are not ignorant of his devices.”  However, I’m not sure about that. 
I think we as a church culture have been ignorant or at least lured into a subtle sleep.  And it has to do with Johnny not being able to read.  Let me explain.
In 1955 best-selling author, Rudolf Flesch, wrote a book entitled, “Why Johnny Can’t Read.”  This book attacked the discontinuance of phonics to teach children to read.  Later TIME Magazine would ask the same question when reading levels continued to substantially decline across the country.  In 1983 Flesch wrote the sequel, “Why Johnny Still Can’t Read,” continuing his campaign to reform reading in America.
Over the years I’ve heard Christian leaders say, “Satan is stupid, he’s a defeated foe.”  However, this is only partially true.  Yes, Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, winning over death and hell.  But the consummation of that victory will not be fully realized until Jesus returns and Satan is ultimately cast into the Lake of Fire.  In the meantime, the battle for men’s souls continues to rage.  Individuals are still called upon to make Christ their Savior and Lord; and because we still live on this fallen planet, the consummation of all things still lies ahead (this is fodder for a separate blog). So, the previous statement represents only partial truth.
Satan is a lot of things, but ‘stupid’ is not one of them.  If Satan is stupid, then where does that leave us?  The Scriptures tell us “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the words of Christ” (Romans 10:17).   Christianity has always been a “Religion of the Book.”  The Bible, when read and acted upon, transforms the human spirit.  Other books inform and conform the way we think, but only the Bible transforms the heart of man.  Jesus declares, “The words I have spoken to you are full of the Spirit and they bring life” (John 6:63).
I personally believe the reason “Johnny can’t read” is because the enemy secretly, subtly and with prolonged determination undermined the educational system of this country.  The proof is in the pudding.  Reading skills have continued to decline ever since the use of phonics was removed from our elementary schools.  I thank God that Jefferson Schools embraced the use of phonics in the 1960’s.  I was taught to read in small groups where phonics helped us sound out difficult words. 
What’s my point?  When reading skills decline, Bible reading or any reading for that matter, is shelved for lesser pursuits.  When “Johnny no longer reads,” the written words of Christ are unable to bring life-changing results.  I was alarmed when I recently heard a man raised in the 1970’s say, “I never learned to read and I hate to read.”  At first I thought, “How sad.”  Then, the further reality of his statement set an alarm off in my spirit.  That’s one way Satan undermines Christian endeavor today.  When believers don’t like to read, or can’t read, they place in jeopardy their ability to grow to maturity.  My friend, Satan may be defeated; however, he is anything but stupid!   
While conspiracy theories abound at other levels, I’m convinced Satan has a master plan to undermine the Word of God and low reading scores indicate that he has successfully lured at least two generations of students away from reading groups, libraries and the Bible.
Perhaps our churches should be offering remedial reading classes as part of their evangelistic outreaches and strive to bring back reading skills to an America where “Johnny can’t read.” 
We have moved far from our roots.  In frontier America, the Bible was one of the key texts used to supplement reading.  Do you remember the fireside stories about Mary Todd Lincoln reading to her son Abe from out of the Bible?  McGuffey Readers were introduced in 1836 and used in American schools until 1960.  Both the Bible and McGuffey Readers kept reading skills at an effective working level.  Reading by the use of phonics (sounding out) was presented as both a necessity and as a hobby for aspiring students.  For many decades the enemy has successfully lured people away from the absolute necessity to read well.  So, when “Johnny can’t read,” Johnny is unable to draw from the life-sustaining words of Christ that save and mature him in his faith.  This remains a cause for concern!
Are you the parent of a preschooler?  Then let me encourage you to make reading a priority in your home.  You may want to turn off the television, lay aside the cell phone and video games and make good books available for your children.  Buy a good children’s Bible, read along with them and make reading fun.  Good reading skills will produce eternal results!



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