That’s the line I just read to my children. We were all piled onto Jake’s bed, almost everyone freshly bathed and smelling like everything right with the world, and we’d finished our chapter for the night. “Just read us the first sentence of the next chapter,” Drew begged. So I reopened the book and peeked at the first line and a thrill went right to my toes. “Ooh, I said. It’s a really good one.”
I’d like to thank C.S. Lewis and my dad for that moment. C.S. Lewis for writing the line, which comes at the beginning of Chapter Four in the first (chronological) story of the Chronicles of Narnia, and Dad for reading it to me years and years ago and sealing it forever in my heart as the best way to end any given day. I still remember the night Charity tried to see the book through Dad’s glasses while he read.
I mentioned it a while back, that I had taken back bedtime. But I did it at first with a bible storybook that I have to tell you, is kind of stupid. It has a memory verse and then a modern day story to help explain a word in the verse – like praise or gratitude or something, then a paraphrase of an actual bible story, and then a sum-up, i.e., “Here’s what God meant by this.”
The problem, I think, is Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. When my children were much younger, I read a book by her about education. And she suggested several things I adored. First, that children are people – just shorter ones – and we should treat them as such. Also, that we should build imaginative play into their education, because there are few better ways to learn and grow. And, finally, that we should let the bible speak for itself. It has beautiful language and rich themes and engrossing stories, and we should read it to them but resist the urge to dumb it down afterward and attempt to explain what we’ve read in our own words. Similarly, we should read literature to our children.
I loved so much about that book, and I like to think I’m the ultimate example of that person technically outside your audience but who takes the book completely to heart and applies it the best they can. Because I don’t home-school and haven’t yet found the gumption to establish a school based on the principles of the book, but I do read to my children, and I shiver with delight when they play at something that involves things like sticks or paper and pencil or a blanket for a cape.
It felt so good the other day to read and close the final page of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I probably don’t have to tell you it was wonderful since I’m surely one of the last book lovers on earth to have read it. But mostly it just felt so good to catch up with the world on something that had mattered to it so much. And thinking of that feeling, I cannot wait to close book after book after book, having read it to my children, letting them in on some of the world’s best stories and, once we leave those stories, trusting them to understand where they have been.