Training Up a Child

complete-narnia-l1By Sue vanHoornbeek –

Words are the way God has chosen to communicate with us, His creatures, to reveal Himself and to show us the good and true and beautiful. With such importance put on words, it is no wonder that one of man’s greatest achievements was Gutenberg’s invention, providing tremendous accessibility to the written word. From a Christian perspective, reading is a vital part of everyone’s life, a necessity, for we are led to communion with and access to God by prayer and reading the Word. Good books provide profound opportunities to study virtue; to identify its presence or its lack, to learn to nurture it by hearing about it and to become virtuous. Given God’s mandate to parents to teach our children, the importance of books is obvious; the importance of reading together as a family is imperative.

No matter what their age, when children are read to, the result is extraordinary. There is the communication of great ideas, of Christian values, of morals, of beliefs. Hence, there is a clearer understanding of who we are in Christ, and what is good and true and beautiful becomes the focal point. As God calls us to teach our children, daily reading as a family, has a vital place in their education. When children read, hear, and discuss God’s Word and good literature daily with parents, learning takes place that goes well beyond reinforcing the ability to listen and read. Critical thinking, a skill that has been nurtured in students at Providence since grammar school, is strengthened. And, as we read and discuss together, our Christian worldview becomes better defined. Certainly, a great impact can be made on a child’s life when the consequences of good and bad behavior of literary characters have been discussed, and the family’s Christian values are clearly understood.

The question among parents, then, becomes what to read. A suggestion is to start with fairy tales and fables. They are invaluable because each tells a moral that is readily grasped when opened for discussion; good and evil are easily distinguished. Aesop’s fables are the most familiar. However, Tolstoy’s fables and tales, along with other Russian fairy tales, and those of France, China, and Japan, are excellent and usually available in local libraries.

Myriad short stories, like The Hundred Dresses, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Rootabaga Stories, The Jungle Book, and The Moral Compass, invite discussion about character and behavior, the battle between good and evil in our lives. Novels present opportunities to very thoroughly investigate character development and the consequences of behavior, to more fully develop ideas about Biblical ethics, morals, and worldview. The Little House series, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Cricket in Times Square are all suggestions that offer valuable plot development and memorable characters.

And those books, that perhaps we have heard about but never read, need to be read to our children. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Treasure Island, Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, and Colum’s Children’s Homer all develop a love of classical literature, as do Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men and North’s Rascal.

Certainly, this is only a very small number of wonderful book titles, but, hopefully, these suggestions provide opportunities to get started reading together.
Even though you have seen the movie, your children have read the books in class, or you read them years ago, read them to your children. The gains are tremendous: children and parents become better readers and thinkers; we become better communicators. Most importantly, parents teach children what is good and true and beautiful.