Captivating Words: A Passion for Truth and Story in Literature
Read Psalm 8.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!
God is a God of Words. He uses words to reveal Himself, the Word was made flesh, He spoke and created all things, including language and narrative and meaning. When Solomon was a young ruler in I Kings 3, God offered him anything he asked for. Instead of riches or long life, Solomon sought an understanding heart and the ability to discern between good and evil. Is this not what we would have for our children, that they would clearly see the world without compromising right and wrong, that they would be attracted to characters worthy of admiration and imitation? Teach them to wonder.
Read from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Truth/truth, Story/story, Reading/reading (indebted to Mr. Pettit)
Reality as God has ordained it, from the order of His creation and the fall of man. There is good, and that is God. There is evil, and that is the nature of man. There is redemption, and that is Christ.
As common grace: any instance of Truth reduced to the common insights or perceptions of mankind as evidenced in Creation or the common nature of man; (such as the golden rule—Do unto others…). General knowledge.
As truism: ideas that are commonly recognized and accepted among men but may or may not be accurate according to Scripture (God helps those who help themselves).
A classic narrative that has the power to represent T/truth to people of all times and any places or cultures with unity, persuasiveness, conviction and memorability. Timeless themes often found in folklore because they are worthy of being inherited from one generation to the next. The greatest story ever told on earth is the Incarnation of Christ. (If Story does not accomplish its potential, it is due to a failure in adequate Reading.)
is a narrative that fails to achieve classic value or status due to some inerent weakness in unity, persuasiveness, conviction, memorability or truth. Where story fails to realize its potential the fault is likely to be in some aspect of the narrative, its meaning, or its truth. Even if Read with care and skill, even if it contains essential Truth, story falls short in some way.
Any active, skilled, memorable engagement with words or images that conveys worthy meaning or T/truth to the one who absorbs them. The result of Reading should include ideas or responses of one’s own; i.e., something original to the reader occurs by means of the activity and the text or images which occasion the Reading. Real Reading is a kind of creation cooperatively between one human and another, having some of the life of each.
A more or less passive and forgettable encounter with words or images that fails to bring one into any real contact with meaning or truth and resulting in no significant or lasting change in the reader and nothing original.
Read Aiken quote (600 books is how many could be read in childhood—about 2/wk). How do we teach children to Read Story that will enrich their minds and develop a taste which is not satisfied with either filboid studge, or with what is mediocre? You desire to teach your children to develop a variety of tastes through regular exposure, for the sake of their greater pleasure and appreciation of the world. (Bread and Jam for Frances)
You wouldn’t feed your children a steady diet of doughnuts, or they will never have the energy to explore, nor the sensibility to desire vegetables and the fascination of watching them grow in the garden. My mother insisted on making homemade whole-wheat bread for us as I was growing up. I used to wish for the store-bought kind instead, and promised myself that I would buy pop-tarts when I had a home of my own. Guess what? Now I make bread with whole wheat and feed it to my very happy husband! This doesn’t mean we never had doughnuts (we made them on icy days), but they were not the steady source of our diet.
Taste of food, taste in reading. From Gene Edward Veith, Reading Between the Lines: “The enjoyable is subjective—what one person enjoys another might not, and there are many reasons why someone may find pleasure in a given experience. The admirable, on the other hand, refers to objective qualities, to what Adler describes as ‘an intrinsic excellence or perfection appropriate to that kind of thing.’
“The process of learning how to enjoy (subjectively) what is admirable (objectively) is known as the cultivation of taste.”
That which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8) must be taught to the soul. When you appreciate the Truth in a Story and admire the techniques in the language used to tell it, your children will find their hearts and minds swelling with growth and potential, taking pleasure in the beauty of words that God created.
God is a God of Pictures. Yesterday on my walk, I looked at the mountains and the grass and the animals and the sky. Everything we see in books is an imitation of what He has already Created. The garden I labored in this spring and summer is a powerful lesson…
So where can I find Captivating Words to fill their hearts? Glad you asked.
The inevitable HP question:
- Intelligent response—not overreaction. Don’t be afraid of HP. Good story, well-written, but because I’m ornery about liking what everyone else likes, I like to find my own reasons for passionate recommendations.
- If your child is interested, you must determine their ability to discern. Read it together, whether or not you hold the book open at the same time, enjoy it, and allow discussion to come naturally as concerns or connections arise. You are responsible for your child’s literary diet and for their discretion. Far better to share the experience and teach them wisdom than for them to sneak the book elsewhere.
Megan’s Fourteen Rules for Reading Aloud:
- You are never, never, never, never, never too old, or to young, to be read to. (My Little Sister Ate One Hare; The Tale of Tricky Fox)
- Give priority to reading as individuals and among the family. You always have time for whatever you consider important.
- Take time for yourself to read. Let your children see you enjoy it. (Till We Have Faces, The Hiding Place, Stepping Heavenward, The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird)
- Don’t read to your children just because it will improve their success in school! Read because good books are part of life and must be shared experiences. Read until you can’t help it.
- Remember that children are perfectly capable of listening to books a couple years ahead of their reading ability. They’ll appreciate the complexity of the plot and benefit from hearing words they might have difficulty sounding out.
- Use your library. You can’t afford not to.
- Don’t overlook non-fiction. You can find readable books about trains and animals, you’ll find poetry in the 800’s, and you cannot miss folklore and fairy tales in 398.2 with their rich illustrations and essential stories. (Rapunzel, St. George and the Dragon)
- When you go on a trip, please, please, please don’t rely entirely on a DVD player in your minivan. Read a chapter book aloud to everyone. (Watching a movie based on a book doesn’t count!!!) (Cheaper by the Dozen, Caddie Woodlawn, Henry Huggins books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, The Tale of Despereaux, The Great Brain, The Pepins and their Problems, Strawberry Girl, Homer Price, The Teacher’s Funeral, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, Charlotte’s Web)
- Encourage other members of the family to read aloud. (Dad, siblings, etc.)
- Help your children keep reading journals. It may be as simple as a list, or they may add a few comments to remind themselves what the story was about, or how they liked it and whether or not they would recommend it.
- Read captivating words: rhythm for little ones, story for older. (Some Smug Slug, Kitten’s First Full Moon, Do Like a Duck Does!, How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, The Spider and the Fly, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom)
- Read with expression. There is no “right” voice as long as you relate a convincing narrative. (I Stink!, How to Catch an Elephant, Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, Heckedy Peg)
- Engage your listener. Encourage response and “chorus.” (Millions of Cats, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus)
- Childhood is short–don’t settle for mediocre. This doesn’t mean that you never read inferior books, just as sometimes your child eats candy bars, but have stacks of books with colorful, appealing pictures and Captivating Words.