Saturday, February 11, 2012

Always Winter and Never Christmas

Over twenty families visited the library yesterday and it was a fairly typical  day of checking in and out books and making book recommendations. It is a marvel that so many parents are so deliberately  looking after their children's education.  The day is full for us, going by in a blur as Emily and I enjoy conversations with two-year-olds to 42-year-olds. Two in particular stand out from yesterday's dozens, notably because both moms wanted to know the same thing:  
"Is it too early to start reading the Narnia Chronicles
to my six-year-old?"
Their concerns were either that their children won't get enough out of it -- all the richness of the meaning, or, that it will be over their heads and ruin their interest in it later on. I am being utterly sincere and not a bit flippant in saying that, though I've read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at least six times, I am sure I have much more yet to ponder in that story. Have we forgotten that children enjoy the same story being read over and over since infancy? Read it to them now, they'll read it themselves in a couple of years, and maybe again in a few years after that, and then to their children. The  beauty of great children's literature is that it is still an entrancing story every time you read it afresh, just as the delights of a vacation at the seashore hold the same as well as new experiences every time you go there.

When the Pevensie children visit Narnia the first time, they find it is "always winter and never Christmas". Think of coldness and wetness and never surprises, neither lights nor decorations, gifts nor food nor songs and family merriment.  I'm afraid our pursuit of "just the facts," reading for information, reading a book on a list to cross it off to move to the next "must read" book to be a well-educated individual is like that. Whereas, the joy of Narnia is like the joy of being a child. Sure, a war is going on in England, but that has nothing to do with what happens. The real fact is that they hide in a closet and find a hidden world - a really-real-world with cold crunchy snow, hot tea and toast in a cozy home where the hosts are beavers, real roughhousing with a real lion, real lies and treachery and danger.

Even though children experience Christmas from babyhood and for the rest of their lives, is the truth of Christmas just Luke chapter two with the cold rough stable and the poor shepherds and a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Will we ever really understand all the significance of God becoming a baby? Will we ever get tired of the wonder, and awe, and mystery of that miraculous story?

So I encourage you if you're waiting for the "right time", go ahead and introduce your children to the treasures of Narnia for the first time, now.  Once through that wardrobe door, and they will go on reveling in that other world.  Give your kids some credit.  They'll get it. and there's probably no better time.  The Narnia Chronicles aren't like a lot of passing pleasures of childhood, they don't wear out.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog post is great, and so timely as we have just finished reading the lion the witch and the wardrobe to the girls, and have moved on the Prince Caspian! (we love the illustrator for both, Pauline Baynes) Brant is actually the one who has been reading it to them for their night time story..he has fond memories from his childhood of reading it, and wanted to relive those days again :)

    I do find myself wondering, sometimes in reading great books to the girls, if they are getting it....but then they mention something from the readings, and it seems to confirm that they are indeed grasping bits and pieces....and also learning a ton of good vocabulary in the process!  We are also almost finished reading through " A little Princess" - I bought this book from you all at a book sale you had quite awhile ago:) and it is such a beautiful book. When I started to read it, I was pretty sure they didn't get much....but they get the general idea of what's going on, and the fact that mommy loves the book, and the pictures so much....that gets them excited.   I am also so glad to have access to your great library, and knowledge of quality literature...your library is a blessing to the community!