My Children Taught Me to Read

reading“Jesus taught them many things by using picture stories…” Matthew 13:3a NLV

My children cut their teeth on books like Pat the Bunny (Dorothy Kunhardt), The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper), Goodnight Moon, The Golden Egg Book and Home for a Bunny (all by Margaret Wise Brown) and various nursery rhyme board books.

It all started when I received a lovely book basket overflowing with these colorful childhood treasures from my sister-in-law as a baby shower gift. I poured over every illustration and devoured every word like I’d never seen the likes of such playfulness. And, I hadn’t.

Growing up just as television became a household item books went to the wayside in our home. Rather than a bedtime story every night, my sisters and I were sent off to bed after watching our favorite week night after-dinner sitcom or weekend variety show. On special occasions we stayed up past our bedtime to watch the latest Sunday night Wonderful World of Disney movie or holiday animated specials.

I loved listening to stories: in school, during the flannel graph Bible stories at Sunday school and listening to family stories as we gathered around the dinner table. But, books just weren’t a priority in our house. I can name my childhood reading history on one hand: Arch Books Bible story books, Pinocchio, Maverick (a hand-me-down from my older boy cousins…yuck!), and an obscure story of a bear family and the baby bear who was afraid of babysitters. While I mastered reading in school, libraries and book reports made my hands sweat and soured my stomach.

So, when my eyes met the playful illustrations of children’s books and my heart cheered for every happy or surprise ending, my love affair with children’s books began.

Determined to expose my own children to these lovely treasures, I kept the children’s books on the bottom shelf of our living room bookcase where my creeping babies could read them on demand (board books only, at first). It amazed me how long our babies could entertain themselves by simply thumbing through a stack of board books. But it was more. As I watched their imaginations respond to the illustrations as they “read” their own versions of every familiar story, my children taught me how to read; how to engage and appreciate the process of story in all our lives.

We made books a priority and bedtimes always included stacks of picture books that, as our children matured, were traded-up for more sophisticated chapter books like: The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner), Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder), The Redwall series (Brian Jacques), The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis), The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien.

While most of these books are not considered Christian children’s books, they helped our children answer moral dilemmas, reinforced Christian family values, prompted discussions on difficult topics, and led to many wholesome, imaginative adventures. And, didn’t Jesus use stories other than the Torah to teach? Didn’t he use parables and everyday examples to clarify his point?

Madeleine L’ Engle (one of my favorite authors) in quoting a friend said, “Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories” (Walking on Water, Waterbrook Press, 2001). If Jesus used stories to help us understand God and His ways, shouldn’t we all learn to read and tell stories through a child’s eyes?

Thankful for the art of story,
Dawn Aldrich
Author & Blogger
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