Saturday, November 14, 2015

Only good things

I've been chewing on the following idea I came across when I read this article written by Andrew Kern:

You become what you behold.

This is why I want my children to engage with books.  Books and stories have a way of opening our minds to that which is worthy.  They take awhile to digest, allowing time for ideas to sink in.  They make you think.  They develop imagination.  (As opposed to say, tv.)

I read a great book recently called Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson.  It's a book about books, which may sound boring, but it was far from it.  It's a book about the why behind books.  Why are books and stories so important for our children?

In her book, Clarkson manages to draw you into the world of stories by telling a passionate and enchanting tale about stories.  She inspires you to engage your children with books so that they can understand what it means to live a life of courage and love.  (I was inspired myself!)
"Stories are a powerfully formative force.  They furnish children with rich vocabulary, broad imagination, and the spirit of possibility necessary to purposeful living or heroic action.  The great tales of literature both inspire heroism and demonstrate what actions must be taken if the world is to be conquered or creation accomplished. 
The great tales of the ages confront us with the narrative quality of our existence; they remind us that every choice has meaning and that strong hearts, evil or good, determine the fates of whole kingdoms.  Stories remind us that we work for a purpose, we hope and learn and endure because a good ending is in store."
But not every book or story inspires noble character.  There's plenty of twaddle out there - books that lack depth and are just not worth the time (the comments in the linked article are great).  I'm choosy about the books that come into our home.  When we go to the library, I'm the one who picks out the books.  I'm terrible, aren't I :)  That's not to say my kids never get to pick out a book, but I pick out the majority, because they don't know which stories are worthwhile and lovely and which are not.  Hopefully, someday when they're older, they will know because that's what they will have been used to.

"What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl?  We need not ask what the girl or boy likes.  She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure.  We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature; and possibly such food is good for us when our minds are in need of an elbow-chair; but our spiritual life is sustained on other stuff, whether we be boys or girls, men or women.  By spiritual I mean that which is not corporeal; and which, for convenience sake, we call by various names - the life of thought, the life of feeling, the life of the soul."  (Charlotte Mason, School Education, p. 168) 
I want my children to engage with goodqualitywell-written books.  Books that will help form their souls.  Books embodying worthy ideas - goodness, truth, and beauty.  Books like Charlotte's Web, with the ideas of true friendship, loyalty, and self-worth.  Like Pinocchio, with the idea of choices and consequences, but also of spiritual growth and forgiveness.  Like Little House in the Big Woods with ideas of the importance of family, hard work, and contentedness.  (Can you tell we're in AO year one?)

I'm choosy about picture books, too.  There are a ton of beautiful, worthwhile picture books out there, and a ton of senseless ones.  Why bother with the latter when there are so many better options?  Yes, some books are fun and silly and we enjoy the humor, but for the most part we choose worthwhile books and stories because my children deserve the worthwhile books and stories.  Just like they deserve good, nutritious food.  A little bit of junk is okay, but the majority must be healthy.  And I'm not about to allow my kids to decide what they get to eat everyday!  :)

"In childhood, we form foundational ideas about what is possible, what dreams are in our grasp to accomplish.  We form our ideas of which ways are right, what actions are moral and even desirable.  In childhood, we form the habits of study or activity, imagination or creativity that help us to weave a tale of beauty in and through our lives.
Terms such as 'courage,' 'kindness,' 'good,' 'evil,' or 'heroic' are abstract concepts for a child.  In order to learn what it means to be 'good,' a child needs to be shown, not merely told.  In all honesty, I think that is true of the human race, adults as well as children.  It is one of the vital reasons that God gave us the great story of Scripture, a book crammed full with concrete, embodied examples of good and evil, love and hate...We grow and form great character in children mostly by putting them in the presence of excellent characters whose goodness breathes and laughs and glows.  We have to make goodness delightful, and this is exactly what the best children's books have to offer.  From Winnie the Pooh to Treasure Island, children's literature is crammed to bursting with a menagerie of people who vividly embody the good and the bad."  (Caught Up in a Story - emphasis mine)

There is so much in this impious society that will pull our children in the wrong direction.  So it is up to me and my husband to put in front of our children books that inspire honorable character.  Books that develop their imagination so that they can see a world filled with God's love and goodness and beauty. Because they will become what they behold.  What they see and hear and read will influence them more than we think.

Only good things.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."  (Philippians 4:8)


  1. Angela! I felt the SAME way about that book! I knew it would be good (b/c it's Sarah Clarkson) but it exceeded my expectations! It was so inspiring!

    (Funny question: did you write this BEFORE or AFTER your Thread on AO? LOL)

    As for twaddly books for my kids, I'll let them pick out a few, but my rule is that I only read them ONE time (or none at all if I can help it!). Mostly, b/c they're obnoxious to read!

    1. Before, HA!!

      When we go to the library, my girls are usually too busy doing puzzles or playing computer games to pick out books, but I have the same rule as you if they do - I'll read it once :)