“What kind of hero are you going to be?”
This is the question that author Sally Clarkson grew up with in a home where books of heroes where read aloud and cherished. In her family, books were read to stir the imagination, engage the heart, and show the way to live their own life story.
In Caught Up in a Story – Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books and Imagination, Ms. Clarkson shares both her own experiences with books growing up – a storyformed life – and her long study of children’s literature to demonstrate the need for good literature in our families and cultures. She examines what imagination is, why it is vital to a childhood education, and how stories help shape our perception of ourself, of life, and even of God.
Each of us have a story to live and by reading of others life stories, we learn to find beauty, goodness, truth, and how to live a great story ourselves.
Let me share a personal experience that demonstrates this ideal and how reading this book brought this concept back into a crystallized focus for me. A few years ago, before my kids were old enough for formal schooling a fellow mom and I were talking. She homeschooled her kids and at the time I thought it was weird. (Oh, how little did I know…hahaha!!) She was commenting that she didn’t read fiction, she didn’t have time for it. I was horrified. Then she started lamenting that her children weren’t reading and progressing like she wanted them to. Upon further discussion, she admitted that she was not having her children read much fiction either. I casually mentioned I loved fiction – there was so much to be learned from it and that she might consider letting her children read it. Specifically her oldest daughter – the boys were more into the sciencey type of books about snakes and reptiles (so was she). I didn’t say much more and we changed to another topic. Imagine my delight when she came to me about six weeks later and said “You were right.” Mystified, I asked her what on earth she was talking about. She reminded me of that “fiction vs. nonfiction” conversation we had had and then added “_______ is reading and loving it. I gave her the Anne of Green Gables set and she has been reading non-stop. One day as I was working in the kitchen, she came to talk for a minute and starting telling me about Anne and a funeral. After she finished me, she said that she hoped she could be like Anne when she had to deal with that situation because she liked how Anne handled it. So thank you. I guess fiction isn’t so bad.” My no-frills friend had learned something and so had I.
That story perfectly illustrates Ms. Clarkson’s points. It is as we read and ponder, learn and think, that we form ourselves into who and what we want to be. Exposing our children to situations in the safe environment of excellent books allow them to decide how they will react when they come face to face with various similar situations. I love how empowering it is to realize that we are creating our own life story and that we can choose how we live it: with courage, dignity, joy, and love, having seen those virtues lived out in the lives of our book friends.
This book was an encouraging, uplifting read that is not hard or long. I recommend it – though I must warn you that you will come away from it yearning to give your children a storyformed life. 😉
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are my own and I do not receive anything in return for my opinions or links.