Feeding our minds

Two statements this week have grabbed my attention. One was made by a speaker; the other, by my daughter.

First, the speaker. He said that the typical adult needs about 2,000 calories per day to run on. Of those 2,000 calories, 500 go to fuel the brain. I had not realized that fact. Almost one-fourth of the calories we consume are needed to keep our brains functioning optimally!

The second statement that grabbed my attention was something my oldest daughter relayed. She had met with a group of teens and young adults who were mostly new to each other. To help break the ice, they were each encouraged to share about the most recent books they had read. “Mom,” she told me sadly, “most of them sat there looking blank and replied, ‘I don’t really read books.’ “

Those two statements reminded me of something Charlotte Mason said:

“Our fault, our exceeding great fault, is that we keep our own minds and the minds of our children shamefully underfed” (Vol. 6, p. 330).

Just as calories fuel the brain, ideas fuel the mind. And just as the brain requires a good portion of calories to stay in top form, our minds need abundant ideas to operate well.

So where do we get the idea-food for our minds? In books.

“Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by means of the books they have written that we get into touch with the best minds” (Vol. 3, p. 177).

I encourage you to take a look at your reading diet this week. Not necessarily what you are feeding your brain during your mealtimes. No, I’m talking about what you are feeding your mind and your children’s minds.

Let me encourage you with three simple guidelines for your reading diet.

  1. Quality

    Just as the brain functions under par on inferior food, so the mind will function under par on inferior books. Choose “healthful” books that will reinforce good, loving, noble ideas—ideas that will help shape who your child is becoming. Quality is important.

  2. Variety

    It is best for us physically to consume a variety of foods from different food groups. The same holds true in the books we read. Give yourself and your children books by a variety of good authors and from several different genres: biography, historical, how-to, scientific, fantasy, mystery. I just finished an epic biography about Carl Sandburg, a sweet British fiction, and a gripping new urban fantasy mystery. Currently I’m working through a personal development how-to book about setting priorities and a fascinating historical narrative set in the early 1900s. Variety is good.

  3. Time to Digest

    To get the most good out of the food we eat, we need to allow our bodies time to digest it thoroughly. And to get the most from the ideas we read about, we need to give our minds processing time. Be careful of binge reading and speed reading. Our minds need leisure to consider what we are reading. We will get the most benefit from books if we get in the habit of taking small bites regularly with opportunity to ponder in between. Time to digest is crucial.

So how does your reading diet look? (You are reading, aren’t you?) What are you reading? and What are your children reading?

Let’s feed those minds with plenty of great ideas!


  1. This is a great reminder for summertime. As for me right now, I am reading Charlotte Mason volume 1, The Lamplighter, The Divine Comedy, Winnie the Pooh, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions, the Bible, and our family read-aloud, The Green Ember. I am trying to include some poetry, a rereading of anything by Karen Andreola, and some Tasha Tudor. A very large feast spread out over a long time.

  2. If you recommend it, what is the priority setting book you are reading? I told a friend today I don’t understand ‘setting priorities’ I don’t think.

    • I’m going to choose not to post the title here, I think, Shannon. I’m not entirely sure I agree with its premise (though that may change as I continue reading it), and it hasn’t given a lot of practical how-to’s yet such as you’re looking for. I don’t think it would help a person understand and learn how to set priorities, unfortunately.

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