by Betty Jackson
This title is that of an article in the May 5, 1996 issue of Parade Magazine about Thomas L. Harken. At the time the article was written he was a fifty-nine year old millionaire. He has been described as an “entrepreneur of the highest order and in the strictest sense of the word, with little formal education.” His was an amazing story.
Tom was stricken with polio when he was eleven years old. He was placed in a hospital ward in an iron lung with numerous other polio stricken children. He recalls crying and laying all night in his own vomit when no one came to his aide. Tom recalled, “I just needed a hug, real, real bad.” Finally a kind-hearted doctor found him, took him out of the iron lung, cleaned him up, and hugged him.
At last he was well enough to go home. Then he came down with tuberculosis and was quarantined for another long year. By the time Tom was able to return to school, his classroom peers were small children. Being humiliated by the age difference and taunting by the young children, he quit school in the 7th grade, without learning to read.
In spite of Tom’s illiteracy, his burning work ethic and love of people brought him success in the sales work he pursued. His devoted wife, Melba, helped him keep his secret. He made excuses so he would not have to take his turn in a Sunday Bible class to read. Though he was a successful businessman, he could not even read to his own children. That saddened Tom, yet motivated him. It was a painstaking effort, but Melba taught him to read. He was delighted when he was able read to his grandchildren. Mr. Harken died on July 10, 2013. During his lifetime he was an outspoken activist for literacy.
This wonderful story is an illustration of how a determined person who was handicapped by illiteracy became successful. He overcame his problem long after he had established himself in the business world. What an example some people are of determination and self-discipline. We need to have the ambition to set and accomplish some goals in our lives, especially in service to the Lord.
As Christian parents we must do everything within our power to see to it that our children learn to read. If we fail them, what valuable service by them might be lost. What rich knowledge of God's word will be unknown because of illiteracy.
You can teach your child to read. Begin early to read books to your babies. My nephew’s six month old baby boy was read to since his first days. One night on vacation they attempted to put Ethan to bed without reading to him. A normally easy-going baby, he became upset. They remembered they had not read to him, did so, and put him to bed with no further problems.
Reading to your children simply must include reading Bible story books and the Bible. Emphasis upon the wonderful message of God will be absorbed early, if we expose our children daily. Some families make Bible reading their family devotional time.
I remember one of my elementary teachers read stories to our class after lunch or recess. She was a beloved teacher, and demonstrated a love for written words. I read to my own children after they were older. Our daughter did so as well. All of our children and grandchildren have a love for reading and learning. It is a priceless gift to teach children to read, and show them a passion for learning.
If your children learn to love books from the first days of their lives, they will learn to read! There are tools you can use on your own. (See: http://www.icanteachmychild.com/10-steps-to-teaching-your-child-to-read/.) Your public library may offer literacy programs for children and adults.
We must be cautioned concerning the influence of the so-called educational circles. We may be impressed with some folks that are so far from God, simply because they are learned. Education should be a tool with which to serve God, and not for impressing the world with our monetary success or some other vision of greatness. Instead, any wealth or prestige we may gain resulting from the educational blessings should be used to further the kingdom. After all, many poor souls are lost in the poverty of ignorance and starvation for spiritual nourishment, as well as physical.
Children should be taught that the learning and material gain they receive are blessings to be used in the service of God. Seeking the righteousness of the kingdom must be the foremost mission statement for all we do (Mt. 6:33).
The Beaumont Enterprise: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/beaumontenterprise/obituary.aspx?pid=165812820
Horatio Alger Association: http://www.horatioalger.org/members_info.cfm?memberid=har92
Jackson, Jason. Building Character Before the Concrete Sets. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1233-building-character-before-the-concrete-sets
Jackson, Jason. Have You Not Read? https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1186-have-you-not-read
Jackson, Wayne. Television and Your Children. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/864-television-and-your-children