|Jude pleading for a story!|
You know the books. The whimsical, nonsensical stories filled with rhythm, rhyme, and easy-read words for beginner readers. The simple yet outlandishly imaginative artistry. What's not to love? And my favorite is The Grinch... Yes. We have THOSE books.
My son loves them. And I do too; because reading (any book) gives opportunity to teach. I try to remember, as I read my son his favorite book of the day for the tenth time, that this is a precious time to teach and train and nourish my son's character. He knows the stories so well, he can "read" the books to himself. And, he remembers what we've talked about and reiterates the lessons to himself or his brother when he "reads" the book himself.
The basic classic, The Cat in the Hat, provides several opportunities to sharpen my son into a discerning young man:
"'I know some new tricks... I will show them to you. Your mother will not mind at all if I do.'
Then Sally and I did not know what to say. Our mother was out of the house for the day."
Here, I ask Jude if it is wise to have friends over when your parents are not home. He shakes his head and gives an exaggerated "nooooo". This book continues to teach why.
The fish in the story gives a fine example of one's conscience, for though he voices his opinion loudly, it isn't until the boy listens and commands the Cat by himself that the Cat heeds the words. When our Spirit or a friend speaks wise words, we have a choice to ignore or to listen. (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
When the Cat falls after balancing all his toys, and the fish mentions leaving, he says: "But I like to be here... I will NOT go away, I do NOT wish to go. And so, so, so,.... I will show you another good game that I know." Some friends have a strong influence over us, even though the influence is bad. When they are offended or confronted with their wrong actions, they recover by inviting us to do wrong. It makes sinful people feel better when they see others sinning too. Make sure to choose good friends that help you do right, not sin. (Proverbs 13:20)
And then we are introduced to Thing One and Thing Two who have "all kinds of bad tricks". At this point, the boy in our story begins to see a problem. "I do not like the way that they play! If Mother could see this, oh, what would she say!" Fearing our parents' loving reproach is good, and someday, I hope it transfers to fearing the loving and just Lord. Remembering what your (wise) parents might think is a great way to make wise choices. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)
After the Cat and his Things leave, we are faced with a mess "So deep and so tall, we can not pick it up. There is no way at all." Sin is fun for a season, but it ALWAYS has consequences. And those consequences will be bigger than the sin- more than we want to handle. The biggest consequence of sin is death. "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ" Amen! (Romans 6:23)
Before he was banished forever, the Cat comes back to pick up his play things. Sometimes, here, we talk about picking up toys after play. Mostly though, I find myself explaining that some friends do wrong but never seem to get into trouble. They are able to "look good" when it counts. But we know that someday, everyone WILL die. That is when it REALLY counts. What will they say to God?
The book ends open-ended asking what the reader would do if their mother asked about their day. "What would you say if your mother asked you?" "Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?" Always tell the truth, even if it's hard. It may get you into trouble (i.e. consequences for the action). But, you must always tell the truth because that's what God wants us to do. (Ex. 20)
And these are just a few examples of how we use reading books as teachable moments.
"Tell me, what would you do?"
*Disclaimer: I am not against Dr Seuss! I love the books! -Just using this as one example on how I teach a two year old while reading stories. Story quotes are from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, published by Random House, copyright 1957 and 1985.