Have you ever heard someone tell a story, and it made you feel something? Or have you ever listened to someone else’s story and learned anything? Hopefully you have. Stories are how we connect with people, with ourselves, with difficult things in life. Don’t believe me? Think about history. How many of you had history facts drilled into your minds? Dates, names, places, etc. Do you remember them? Did they mean anything to you? Now let me ask you a different question. How many of you remember the stories that you were told about history? (I really hope that you were told some!) How many of you remember a story of mystery that intrigued you? How many of you remember hearing about Cleopatra and Mark Antony? THAT was a STORY! Do you see where I am going with this? Stories are what teach us.
I really do believe that. I believe that it is meant to be that way because life is essentially a story. It isn’t dates, names, and places. Neither is it segmented into bits of science, art, mathematics, language, engineering, etc. It is one great story that contains all of it. That is why I believe in reading to my children. They learn to connect.
We just finished one of the most beautiful books that I know I will be recommending for a long while to anyone with kids. It is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo. Wow. Wowza. As I stated earlier, one of the things children (and honestly, anyone) needs to learn to connect to is heartbreak and the cruelties of the world. I really do believe that. However, I also believe that they need to learn these things from a safe place. What could be safer than their own homes? With their beloved parent there to share the heartache? Help them understand?
My son who has an autism spectrum disorder had incredibly high praise for this book. “I can’t believe someone could write a book without magic in it that I would want to keep reading.”
We had so many great discussions spawned by this one book that was started and finished in three short days (or rather, evenings.) We talked about ocean currents and storms. We discussed homelessness, hobos, riding the rails, and judgments. We talked about broken homes, absentee parents, death, sickness, brotherly love, mourning, forgiveness, and perseverance. We were able to have meaningful conversations about hope, love, happiness, and opening your heart. We looked at railroad timetables and railroad maps. We even read a tiny bit about the profession of doll makers and doll repair.
In the end, however, what the children loved most was Edward. There is a quote from the book. “How can a story end happily if there is no love?” It comes very near the beginning of the book, but the kidlets remembered it through the whole story. After we finished it when I was tucking them into bed that night, they each told me privately in their own way that they want to keep love in their lives always. This was expected. (Whenever you read, there are always expected lessons.) My favorite, though, are the unexpected.
As I tucked my youngest in to bed and hugged her for the umpteenth time, she said in my ear, “Mom, we need to find all the people in the world like Edward and love them. They need so much love.” And my momma heart just about squeezed right out of my throat. I hadn’t learned that.
Read to your children. No matter how old they are, read to them. Family reading time cannot be overestimated. Teach them to connect with you, with others, with the world, with themselves, with trials, with everything.
Take It, and Be Thankful