Monday, July 11, 2011

Honey For a Child's Heart

My mom came to visit me a couple weeks ago. After she had hugged us all she went back out to the car and returned with an armload of books. Some she had just purchased on the way out to our house when stopping to stretch her legs, and one she brought from home. She handed it to me and said, "This is a book I really enjoyed when I had little children."

What did she hand me? Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

I took it and studied the front cover. Pictures from the early 90s confirmed her date was correct. A description on the cover read: "The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life." (the photo is from a newer edition)

Did mom bring me this book after I'd expressed an interest in reading aloud more to my children or did this book peek my interest in the activity. I can't remember (I know, it was just two weeks ago.)

But now I'm super excited about reading aloud with my boys. The book discussed all kinds of benefits to reading together as a family. More than you'd think. Gladys Hunt shares experiences from her childhood, traditions her parents started when she was young that have continued for three generations so far. Tested by time? I'd say so. She tells of road trips that always involved books, inside jokes possible through experiences they had shared by going on journeys together in books. I love that she focuses on God's Word as the ultimate reading material and shares of some of her family's traditions:

When our son Mark was four years old, we began to read aloud from the Gospel
of Mark. We chose this Gospel because of its name and because of its short
narrative passages. Father had a plan. Everyone at the table (and
this included our numerous guests) had to ask a question and answer one.
He made a game of it. Sometimes the question was directed to the person on
our left, other times to the person on our right. We'd have to listen
carefully, and sometimes the question we had thought to ask was usurped by
someone whose turn came first, and we would have to think of another.

At first our questions were simple. Where did Jesus go? What did
Jesus do? Who went with Jesus? Mark picked up the idea rapidly. Then we
began to interject another kind of question. Why did Jesus say that?
What does He mean? And then later, What can we learn from Jesus about the
way we ought to act?

In these questions are the three elements which open any text: Fact -what
does it say? Interpretation--what does it mean? Application --what does it
mean to me?

For a while Mark's questions centered on facts, but before long he began
asking deeply penetrating ones. If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the
dead, why did He let his dear friend John the Baptist stay dead? Why did
the Jews say Jesus had an evil spirit? Increasingly we delved into the
meat of what the text was saying.

What a cool idea that I hope we will apply to our daily routine. Teaching little bitty children the basics to studying the Bible --I love it.

Hunt also reveals how useful books can be as teachers. I am an over-explainer by nature and am always watching for ways I can train myself not to be a broken record and still teach my boys as many of the 70 trillion things they need to know before they are 18.

The best teaching we have done in our family has been through reading the Bible
and good books aloud together. It is really not such a profound
concept. How would you best be enlightened to some truth --by being told
that it was wrong to be nasty and thoughtless to others or to meet and come to
love some character in a story and then feel her hurts when someone is unkind
and says cruel things?

After a successful appeal by Mrs. Hunt, I am happy to announce that we have finished our first chapter book. We read Stuart Little, the story of a mouse and his adventures. I had hoped that this book would stir curiosity within Jack and Ty's little minds, that they would use what they'd learned from the book, vocabulary, ideas, or lessons and apply some of it to their lives.

Well, the other day, Ty was lying on the floor with his head in my lap. I traced his forehead and nose with my fingers than began asking him questions: "What's that?" I'd ask. "My nose." He'd reply. "What's that?" "My eye." "What's that?" I ask, pointing at his eyebrow. "That's, that's, that's mouse hairs." He grinned up at me.

Well, ...that's a start.

I'm looking forward to many more fun times as we learn and explore together through books.

Underlying all of this discussion is my thesis that parents who read widely
together with
their children are going to be those who most influence
their children, who have the largest world view, who have an uncommon delight in what is good and true and beautiful --and an uncommon commitment to it. Sharing and feeling and talking together will come naturally. Books shared with each other provide that kind of climate.

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