Frederick Buechner discussing his childhood and boyhood reading:
“Nothing was more remote from my thought at this period (childhood) than theological speculation … these books were all childhood or early boyhood reading – but certainly patterns were set, certain rooms were made ready, so that when, years later, I came upon Saint Paul for the first time and heard him say, ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God hose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are’, I had the feeling that I knew something of what he was talking about. Something of the divine comedy that we are all of us involved in. Something of grace.”
We take great care in making decisions that will impact our children’s future. For their health, we are cautious about what they eat, ensure that they get enough sleep, fresh air, and exercise. For their education, we explore the various options for their early schooling years, while keeping an eye fixed on the horizon as we work toward college. We know innately that reading with our children is a good thing, but don’t often have a plan in place for strategically choosing the books we read . When I’m with groups of young (-er than me) moms, a frequent theme is the desire to find good books, but limited time available to do the research.
In response, I will dedicate occasional upcoming posts to exploring five genres of literature that can help “set patterns and make rooms ready” in the minds and souls of children. You may be asking, “Ready for what?”
Ready for developing an accurate understanding of:
~the world they live in
~the people they will encounter in life
~choices and consequences
~the truth of who they are
Before we get started, let me say that I’m writing this while making the following assumptions:
~ Stories work on us secretly. This is an important one. In a well-written story, the goal is not to impart information, push an agenda, or manipulate a pre-determined response. Stories are seeds, packed with nutrition for the soul, that need to be planted and left to grow in their own time. More of my thoughts on that topic can be found (here).
~ If it’s true of children, it’s true of adults. Adults have as much to gain as children from well-written children’s literature, and perhaps more. Adults just have more defenses, opinions, biases, and pride to be overcome than do children. Jesus spoke in parables for that very reason. His stories were food for the souls and minds of those who wanted more of him; and his stories revealed the hardened hearts of those who were too “grown up” to learn, to grow, to accept truth that had been distilled to its simplest and purest form.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeline L’Engle
~ Neither the list of genres nor the suggested resources mentioned are intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. They are a starting point – a place to begin. I’ll include a “show and tell” of some of our favorite versions which is intended to make your book hunting a bit less arduous. There are multiple resources available that can help in the creation and implementation of a thoughtful, methodical approach to giving our children the priceless gift of quality literature. Some great books that will help you navigate the world of children’s literature can be found here.
The majority of information shared is a direct result of the labor of others (more on that story here), and I count it a privilege to invite you to join us on the journey as we explore:
The Fabulous Foundational Five