Just a few minutes ago, I finished a read aloud with my son Seth, who is 9 and a 1/4 – this 1/4 year being an important distinction that cannot be forgotten. Our epic tale was The Fox Busters by Dick King-Smith. It is a story of fierce courage and unmatched perseverance, blood-thirsty revenge and searing loss.
It is about foxes and pullets. Of course.
Between the pages of this story, a story recommended by a someone, somewhere that I cannot remember, we meet animal characters that have strikingly familiar personalities. The reserved and wise mother, the brash and loving father, 3 fabulously gifted pullets and 4 resourceful foxes, to name a few. We witness tragic loss of life that would be so difficult for a young person to process in a “human” story and bravery reminiscent of the great battles scenes of history, which all garnered the response, “Well, that was dramatic…” from a 9 year old boy.
There are so many, many reasons to read literature. And I cannot do justice to the many words that have been spoken by men and women much wiser than I about the reasons we should read literature… and great stories about chickens and foxes. But, I can take a moment to speak to a unique opportunity we have as we read these great stories.
Let the story speak.
Oh, I had so many opportunities to make deep and meaningful comments during the reading of this story. “Seth, did you notice how brave X character was? Which of the 3 sisters do you think is the wisest/bravest/most skilled, etc.? How would you compare the pullets and the foxes? Let’s do some research on chickens to see if more “grit” will give them stronger eggs, shall we? Which character do you admire the most?”
None of these comments would have been horrible. There ARE times for such leadings. Frankly, there is the chance that those questions might have led to some delightful conversations in which I could have imparted great wisdom and reveled in the brilliant comments that he might have made in response.
But, that is a chance I am not willing to take. Because, there is also the great chance that through all my well-intentioned leading questions, the story will be… BUSTED.
Story is powerful. It speaks to a child. It will speak to you and if you can quiet down enough, you just might hear it.
Fear is also powerful – a powerfully gnawing evil. Fear that Seth didn’t really get it. Fear that he didn’t recognize the traits exemplified in the story that I so want to see exemplified in his life – courage, perseverance, wisdom, family bonds, teamwork – just to name a few. Fear that if there is no outcome from this event, it is as if it did not occur. Fear that I am failing him, each and every day.
The victory tonight – and every day – is found in the truth. The truth that Seth and I are image-bearers of a God who is truth, who loves truth, and who loves us. That He has created us to love story and to have a place in this chapter He is writing right now. That He has placed in my son’s heart a touchstone for truth. While his 9 year old mouth may not have the words to express the truth that he understands, his 9 year old heart has an ear to hear it. So, right now, as he crawls into bed, I wonder with delight – is he thinking about Spillers and Ransome and Sims and Jefferies? Will they enter his dreams and his imaginings?
But I also know there is a good chance he is thinking about Cheddar Cheese Pringles. Nevertheless…
Read to your children. Then, be quiet.
Let the story speak.