I Have a Question
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“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 61

How can I help my children develop a love of learning?

Larry M. Arnoldsen, professor emeritus of secondary education at Brigham Young University.

Children develop a love of learning when they are given opportunities to learn more about things that already interest them, that hold their attention, and that spark their curiosity.

Parents play the greatest role in their children’s intellectual development and lifelong study habits. The challenge is to become aware of and to encourage the righteous desires of their children’s hearts. Parents do this by giving time and attention to each child, by emphasizing the value of learning, and by setting an example—through their own study habits—of the importance of acquiring knowledge.

Without a love of learning, children may grow into adulthood with minimal preparation and motivation to study the word of God or the subjects outlined by the Lord: knowledge “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 the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge of countries and also of kingdoms” (D&C 88:79).

Promoting a love of learning requires parents to carefully observe each child’s interests and provide each child with opportunities to pursue those interests.

I know of a father whose 10-year-old son disliked books. Every morning was a battle to get the boy out of bed and off to school. The father came to me asking for advice.

“What does your son do when he can do exactly what he wants?” I asked him.

After some reflection, the father mentioned that his son enjoyed rock hunting and rock climbing. “He likes to rock hunt with me, but we rarely go because of lack of time,” he said.

I suggested that the father ignore time constraints the following Saturday and take his son rock hunting. Afterward he told me that they not only had a great time, but the outing prompted him to introduce his son to a book on rocks and minerals. The boy’s positive response to the book led his father to introduce him to other books on related topics. More outings and science books followed as the father continued feeding his son’s interests and doing things his son wanted to do. Before long, this 10-year-old boy had earned an A in science, the first he had ever received.

This father helped his son develop a love of learning merely by helping his son learn about something he already loved.

President Howard W. Hunter said that Heavenly Father’s chief way of acting toward His children is by persuasion, patience, and long-suffering, “by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess” (Ensign, Aug. 1994, back cover).

Parents who follow our Heavenly Father’s example can create a loving atmosphere that will lead their children to positive learning experiences. One positive learning experience, formal or informal, creates a desire for similar experiences.

Consider another boy, where heartfelt interest led to discovery of the greatest treasure of knowledge any child of God could ever want. We are eternally thankful for that 14-year-old boy, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and for his interest in seeking wisdom from God. And we are eternally thankful that his Heavenly Father answered him, educated him, assisted him, and encouraged him. Parents who follow that example in guiding their children can expect to see significant improvement in their children’s attitudes toward learning things both temporal and spiritual.

Photo by John Luke; posed by models