While going through the brochure for the upcoming L’Abri conference, I noticed that one of the sessions by the estimable Jerram Barrs was entitled “Children’s Books: The Power of Stories in Renewing our Humanness”. Which reminded me of a conversation I had with a co-worker earlier today about children’s stories, and more specifically, the stories that I read, or plan to read, to Simon.
Right now, most of our reading with Simon consists of those baby books that are designed to teach children important concepts like letters, colors, shapes, and all of the different kinds of trucks. We also read Goodnight Moon, That’s Not My Truck…, and the illustrated children’s Bible. But when it comes to stories, Simon’s just not there yet.
I’ve read to him portions of C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, and H.P. Lovecraft (it was Simon’s idea, and besides, he doesn’t know his Cthulhu from his Yog-Sothoth yet), but he just doesn’t quite have the attention span to sit still for more than a few paragraphs. But as I look forward a few years from now, when we’re actually able to read real, honest to God stories together, I find myself greatly desiring to read to Simon those stories that I loved as a young boy.
I developed, at a very young age, a great love for myths and fairy tales of all kinds: Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, Russian, etc. I certainly read more than my fair share of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I read J.R.R. Tolkien, though I think I was much too young at the time to truly appreciate his writings (I certainly don’t want Simon to make that mistake). I read the books of Jack London, though I personally preferred Jack O’Brien’s Silver Chief series. And of course, there were the Arthurian legends, particularly the versions written and beautifully illustrated by Howard Pyle.
In short, I want to read stories that will instill within Simon a few key points, points that will serve him well later on in life:
- Goodness, truth, beauty, honor, justice, and love are defended by the Good Guys.
- Evil, death, lying, cheating, and hatred are defended by the Bad Guys.
- In the end, the Good Guys always beat the Bad Guys.
Yes, they’re simple and no, life is not that simple. But that doesn’t make the above points any less true or necessary for a little boy hearing tales of adventure, wonder, chivalry, and derring-do. Moral complexities can wait a few more years.