Friday, March 30, 2012

Tell Me a Story

Who doesn't love a good story? It's almost like saying, "Are people human?" to ask that question.

It's part of the way we're made, to love stories. You may not remember the time and date of an  appointment, but you will remember the story your friend had to share. You may not remember the text of the sermon, but will remember the preacher's sermon illustrations. You remember stories because you came equipped from birth to be a story lover.

How do I know this, you ask? Because the God who made us is a storyteller. "In the beginning," the Bible opens.  The rest is history - his - story. We are made in His image. He has chosen to communicate to us through His Word, the Bible. And Jesus himself, God in the flesh, was The Word.

When introducing children to the wonderful world of literature, it is important to remember these things. I wrote last time about how libraries have changed. The books they used to hold have changed. I'll have lots more to say about that in the future, but for now, here's a story for you.

One evening as Emily and I were teaching a workshop for homeschool parents, we tried to explain how literature for children has changed in the last 100 years. Emily read from a book published for children
in 2002, a biography of Geronimo. She read the first page, a dull litany of information about the organization of plains Indian tribes of which this famous individual was a part. She read to the bottom of page one and stopped. An audible sigh of relief was heard around the group. Then she picked up a different biography of the same person written 44 years before: "The Story of Geronimo" by Jim Kjelgaard, (1958) which began with a boy's stealthy creeping through the grass up a hill to scout out the beautiful horses. The passage related his intent to steal these horses and the danger the boy was facing. She stopped and a babble broke out, "You can't stop there!" "Did he do it?" and, most interestingly, "Why is that?" from one mom. She went on to explain, "When I was a kid, I loved to read. I want my children to be readers and I read to them, but I don't enjoy it any more. I'm embarrassed to admit that I hate reading to my children. I think it's because the books are written differently."

We hear the term "living books." Obviously, books are things, but special things because they hold the expressions of living, thinking beings. We can understand other people, other times and other places best when we take those ideas into our own minds when they are communicated through stories.

The audience forgot about finding out facts when we read the older book because they were caught up in the drama immediately and after two paragraphs wanted to know how the story ended. It was more than
just a story, but a factual biography.

Your children are no different. Charlotte Mason said that facts, well padded in living ideas, would be  absorbed by the child. However, when they are communicated as facts alone, they are about as exciting as
taking a tablet rather than eating a hot meal. If you want to teach and have lessons remembered, pick a book with a good narrative. Good stories are not forgotten. They teach a lot. Dressed in lively action, vivid detail, colorful words, a good storyteller's information is imparted. Truth is meant to be enjoyed.

So did he steal the horses? Did he get caught? Do you really want to know?

For the joy of reading,



  1. I often think that if Charlotte Mason were alive today, she would be thrilled with the immense variety of children's titles now available...books that were such a rarity in her own time. To me, the wonder of Mason is that she recognized that education/information didn't have to come in the form of textbooks but could be broadened to include texts that would appeal to children. Texts that are so widely published and available today.

    Don't you think her progressive methods would extend to include books published today?

    1. Cindy,

      You have asked such a good question, and so in line with the direction I plan to take with this series of considerations, that I plan to make it part of my next post.

      Regards, Liz