A Good Story Satisfies the Soul
by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
Kuplink! Kuplank! Kuplunk!
As our 22-year-old daughter and I picked blueberries last month, we quoted together this famous line from Blueberries for Sal. Elementary school teachers worth their salt can recite this book in their sleep. As we laughed (and ate) our way down the long row of delicious fruit, our daughter recalled her absolute delight in being able to recall from an early age all her favorites--Little House in the Big Woods, the Chronicles of Narnia, Ramona and Beezus.
Life in the Allen home was far from idyllic much of the time; we had our share of fighting, selfishness, and disobedience. There was plenty of room for improvement, for both parents and children. But there was one common love for us all: reading. It was solace in the middle of the day for this weary mama. Our kids still tease me about Reading and Rest Time, which occurred right after lunch and basically translated means “mom needs a nap.”
Our kids knew the drill: a weekly library trip, complete with a rolling suitcase (I am not kidding), into which we loaded the maximum number of books we could check out at one time. When my library card was maxed out, sometimes we broke out a second one belonging to one of the kids. Every child chose one book for the ride home because we couldn’t wait another minute to dive into our treasures. We hardly got everything inside the front door before said suitcase was dumped onto the living room floor and we had Christmas in July. As each child poured over his or her new treasures, I made lunch in the beautiful quiet and knew it was worth every bit of effort to haul all that literary goodness home.
What is it about a good story that satisfies the soul, whether that soul nine or 90? Of course, God is the original Author, telling us His story throughout Scripture. Perhaps His story of rescue through Christ makes us long for the truth, beauty, and goodness of redemption in other stories.
I think that’s why children’s literature has always been one of my most favorite things in the whole world. When Wilbur, the runt of the litter, is condemned to an early death in Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte becomes his friend and rescuer. Eustace Scrubb from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, selfish brat that he is, gets a heart-makeover that changes the course of his life. Nat Bowditch, in a tale filled with obstacle and loss, still becomes a world-class mathematician and navigator. These are redemptive stories that implicitly reflect God’s redemption in Christ and they are most definitely true, beautiful and good.
Summer is the perfect time to take a break from the homework rut and explore literature for the truth, beauty, and goodness that awaits. Children’s author S.D. Smith calls this the “holy imagination,” developing and training the mind with intentionality to anticipate the kingdom of God--even in a good story. Especially in a good story.
Whether you are reading to your children, they are reading to themselves or even listening to a recording (there is NOTHING like listening to E.B. White read Charlotte’s Web!), I highly recommend sacrificing your summer screens in favor of the printed page. I’ve begun an Allen Family Favorites booklist below to get you started--each of the authors has multiple books! Be sure to check out our links in the BreadBox for more extensive lists of wonderful literature for every age and tap into the redemptive power of a good story. Get that rolling suitcase ready!
- Make Way for Ducklings Robert McCloskey
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Virginia Lee Burton
- The Story of Ferdinand Munro Leaf
- Harry the Dirty Dog Gene Zion
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- Bedtime for Frances Russell Hoban
- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub Don and Audrey Wood
- Redwall Series Brian Jacques
- Wingfeather Saga Andrew Peterson
- The Green Ember Series S.D. Smith
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.