Monday, February 11, 2013

Why Children Need Love Stories

In the middle of the "deep freeze month" comes the holiday for celebrating love. My husband just read my boys The Story of Valentine by W.P. Hayes. It is a simply told account of some of the true things that are known about the saint, as discovered through the lives of four boys in the days of ancient Rome's persecution of those who believed in "the One True God."

About the only connection with his life and the current practice of the holiday is love and sending messages of love. Valentine's life, however, was motivated by the love of God and spreading the gospel of His Beloved Son. The message he shared with the pagans around him was of the salvation offered to those who trusted in the God of love who sent his Beloved Son to lay down His life for them.

I was recently asked to come up with a list of love stories for children and include that list here along with some thoughts on why love stories are appropriate for children and why even their literature needs to include a little romance.

I believe everyone has a heart that longs for romance and that a little romantic theme is important for children as well, and is actually present in many classic children's books. Certainly I am not referring to the silly,  sentimental, formulaic drivel turned out by the truck load for mindless feminine consumption. Those books, if not tawdry, are usually unrealistic pictures of a false, selfish, and short-lived love - the world's counterfeit  version that mocks God's design for true love.

My ideas of true love are found in the Bible, which is God's long and articulate love story to and for us. It begins in the garden with Adam and Eve and ends with the Bridegroom receiving us, His Bride, at a wedding. In between are Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel; the poetry of Song of Songs; prophet's agonizing pleas to God's bride, Israel; and all the New Testament allusions to our  relationship with Christ, our husband. I don't know if we are "genetically wired," for romance, but I am on  pretty firm ground in saying that God has made the heart of all of us to crave romance. He conveys it in story form, has made us to love stories, and even godless authors of non-religious books cannot ever keep it out of their stories, warped and twisted as their versions may be.

Below is a list of stories for boys and girls from the days before our culture tossed the mystery and beauty of romantic love out to embrace the sordid one of no secrets and no boundaries. All children need some seeds of love and romance sprinkled in their lives, hinted at in their literature, sown in their imaginations to later burst into healthy adult love. Don't make the mistake of dismissing fairy tales either just because they are scorned by our rational age; they are the first ideas planted in the souls of little ones that there is a plan for a man and a woman, and God Himself promises the happiest of endings in the plot of His perfect love story.

For Everyone:

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
This collection of famous fairy tales, including romantic tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, will inspire your young readers with the virtue of good triumphing over evil.

The Story of Valentine by Wilma Pitchford Hays
Written for elementary students, this life of the Roman man Valentine, who later became the Christian Saint Valentine is, through the eyes of a young boy. A good book to read to teach the true origins of Valentine's Day.

For Girls:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The story of a young orphan girl in England who through many trials and twists of plot finds the love of her life. 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
The quintessential “romantic” temperament is displayed by this beloved heroine throughout her exploits and adventures and ultimate love-interest. 

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This book describes the courtship and marriage of famous pioneer girl Laura Ingalls. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This book should be read by every child for its warm family values. The reader follows the March girls as they grow up and ultimately get married.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Any of Jane Austen's books could be models for courtship, either what to do or to avoid, but this particular title shows two very different sisters and their approaches to romance—excellent lessons to be learned.

An historical novel for upper-elementary/middle school readers which chronicles the story of a girl who grew up in the Caribbean and finds herself suspected of being a witch in the Puritan Massachusetts Colony. Her friendship with a young man blossoms into love. 

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
A girl bright and kind overcomes many hardships in this vintage novel that extolls sacrificial and virtuous love.

For Boys:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Woven throughout this hero's rough-and-tumble adventures is a girl, Becky Thatcher. Twain describes the typical boy's ideas of gallantry and chivalry towards the feminine sex.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Howard Pyle
Pyle's descriptions of the Court of Chivalry enlighten our ideas of decorum and virtue in young men as they protect and fight for their ladies.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
A subtle theme throughout this gripping novel of pre-Revolutionary Boston is the love of the young hero for a dear friend who helps him in his difficult times.

The Story of Roland by James Baldwin
Another knightly tale of chivalry, this classic French legend is retold for young readers. 

The Arabian Knights edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin
This collection of stories from Ancient Persia contains famous tales such as Aladdin and Sindbad the Sailor to inspire the hero in every young boy.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Set during the time of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionhearted, and Bad Prince John, this historical novel for middle- through high-school readers centers around a love story between an estranged knight and his lady.

Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
A prequel to A Girl of the Limberlost, this story focuses on a young man full of bravery despite a disability. Freckles exemplifies true and honorable love for a girl.


  1. You make me want to reread some of those titles!

    1. Bonnie,

      Yes, me too, even though I've read some of them several times already. Happy Valentine's Day!