Several years ago, I found myself in the company of a high school freshman with whom I had not visited in some time. We sat down to catch up on things, chatting about volleyball, band, friends and the differences between ninth grade and middle school. We talked about her classes, and when I asked what she was reading, she proudly exclaimed, “I hate to read!” It seemed I was supposed to award her some badge of honor for such a proclamation. While not surprised, I was saddened by a sentiment I have heard expressed by other kids and sometimes, adults. As we finished our conversation, I returned to a familiar ponder: wondering if I read enough to my children, hoping they like to read as young adults now free of scholastic assignments, and thinking I still need to read more.
I believe the power of a good story—of reading a good story—is vastly underestimated, especially when it comes to children and young adults. When we connect with characters in a tale, we can hope with them, hurt with them, figure out right from wrong with them. Contemporary research shows that stories are essential in developing a moral life. Plato maintained that the right kind of stories will help children love virtue and hate vice. Jesus chose stories to help his followers understand important spiritual truths revealed in the scriptures.
In C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children are transported to the land of Narnia through a wonderfully magic wardrobe. Once inside, their portal between the two worlds is marked by a lamp post where we join them in a tale of adventure, bravery, mercy, forgiveness and love. Believing that one way to help children love reading is to read to them aloud. I invite you to join me a few weeks this summer for a reading program we will call “Meet Me at the Lamp Post.”
We will gather July 12, 19 and 26 at 6:30 pm in Cove 2 to read from another Narnian Chronicle, The Horse and His Boy. This story by Lewis is one of my favorites and often reminds me of some great spiritual lessons that, to be honest, I have a hard time applying in my life; but when I read about Bree and Shasta and Hwin and Aravis, I want to try harder. On these three Tuesday evenings, we will listen to a chapter or two read aloud, talk about chapters we read at home, and participate in an activity that helps us enjoy their adventure even more.
When our son Jackson was a college senior, he was home one weekend, and over dinner, I asked about books we read together when he was little—his favorites. We laughed about him falling asleep before the end of the Big Red Barn and about me crying every time we read Love You Forever. Then we skipped a few years to a family favorite, The Lord of the Rings, when we found ourselves—between the two of us—quoting together, “All that Is Gold Does Not Glitter,” a poem about Aragorn, one of our favorite characters. Until then, neither of us realized the other had worked on memorizing it, and in that happy moment, I knew we were meeting at the lamp post.
Before the hurried pace of the school year begins, I hope you will meet me at the lamp post in July.
A reading schedule will soon be posted online. You can also watch your mail and email for details. Children will need to be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult. Adults who love a good story, but are without children, are also welcome to attend.