Monday, June 1, 2015

For the Days When You Need a Story.....{Plus Some Printables}

I am but four years old, sitting in an old ladder-back chair, puzzling over the funny squiggles on the page before me while my mother cooks supper. The memories of that day are a bit blurry, but I do remember that I kept jumping to the next page instead of finishing the one I was on, my mother patiently reminding me to read the first page first.

I don't know exactly when I fell in love with the written word, I just know I did.

As I think back, scenes slip before my eyes...
Alice in Wonderland stashed under my desk at school, and me hoping that I could get my seatwork done quickly so that I could squeeze in a few more pages.
My first time reading Black Beauty, trying hard not to cry over his plight as I sat in the back of the summer school classroom waiting for my little brother's class to be done.
Holding The Hobbit up in the air, trying to catch just a bit of the interstate lights so I could keep reading as we zoomed down the highway to Kentucky for Thanksgiving.
Curling up in the peach and cream striped armchair in my mom and dad's room as I desperately tried to finish my book before a sibling found me.
My first time reading Hitty, a book about a doll that I was sure I would despise, and feeling utter despair that it was over, wishing to know more of her story.
The Christmas I received the entire set of Anne of Green Gables for my very own. I don't remember anything else about that night, just the throbbing excitement to get to bed so I could start reading them.

When John and I found out we were going to have a baby, we knew that there was one thing that little one had to have ~ books!
We arrived in the capital city of Ghana two weeks before my due date. Our plan included buying some things for the baby, but the longest list we made was of the book stores. There weren't too many of them, but we hunted for them day after day. We searched little holes in the wall, tiny rooms stacked floor to ceiling with used books, the book stand on the corner downtown where we could go through boxes of donated children's books that no one wanted to buy. When the people asked us what we were looking for, we glibly told them books for our child. When they asked what the child's age was and I pointed at my belly, they would give us strange looks and walk away muttering under their breath about the strange foreigners.

A child has two basic needs from his or her parent, says Erich Fromm ~ milk and honey. Milk pictures the physical needs that must be cared for, and honey is the sweetness of life. God himself made a similar promise to the children of Israel if they obeyed Him. He vowed to fill them with wheat {the necessities} and honey {the luxuries}.
Good books aren't a necessity. If a child does not have them, he or she will survive.
But, they are a wonderful sweetener in this life. They are a beautiful, worthwhile luxury.
I don't want a "magical" childhood for my girls, as so many are want to say. I want a childhood filled with milk AND honey, and once they leave my home, I want that honey to keep slowly drizzling sweetness over the rest of their lives.

I sit down at our heavy wooden table after placing the girls' lunches in front of them. As they begin to eat, I pull out our very first read-aloud: Little House in the Big Woods. They sit spell-bound as I read of Ma and Pa, Laura and Mary. We hoot with laughter over Ma smacking the bear in the nose with a frying pan, and tremble in fear as Pa tells the story of the panther that almost ate his father.
With that simple step, a new tradition is formed in our family ~ read-aloud time.
Lunch set-up is not complete without the book we are reading as a family.
Once The Little House on the Prairies Series is complete, we move on. More stories beckon us to dive in together, savoring the sweet beauty of well-written words and human pictures of God's truths lived out.

It's early morning, our first day home in Ghana after furlough. Bulging suitcases and weighty trunks are piled everywhere. The list of things to be cleaned and reorganized is long. We sit down for breakfast, and Daddy pulls out his Bible. It's time to start another tradition ~ filling our hearts and minds with the best book while we fill our bellies with nourishment. He reads a story, because really that's what most of the Bible is, a storybook. God didn't give us a theology textbook. He gave us a book full of true stories, living words, narratives, poetry. We chew on the Word as we chew on our food.

It's seven o'clock at night, and the lights cut off. The whirring of the fans die, and the buzz of electricity ceases. It's going to be another night in the dark. Our first reaction is to be irritated, wondering when or *if* it will be back on this night. After letting the kids run circles and wrestle a bit in the light of the lone rechargeable lamp and narrowly averting a few disasters, I'm struck with an idea. What about a book to be read only when the lights go out? The girls are excited, and mama and daddy are happy to have a diversion from the fact that the lights have been more off than on lately.
We start with The Incredible Journey. Soon, the girls are asking if the lights will be off every night, hoping to hear just a bit more!

Books are now such a part of our family culture that I cannot imagine life without them. Stories fill our mouths with new words, our minds with imagination fodder, our play with scene upon scene to be acted out. They sing truth when the noise of the world outside is loud. They gift us with family jokes and funny phrases. They teach us courage, joy, bravery, resilience, faithfulness, love of beauty. The best books impart the best thoughts. As a family they give us joy and draw us close. There's no place I'd rather be with my family than gathered round the pages of a book.

*This summer, we wanted to share the best books with our extended family. As we live a long way from all of the them, hubby devised a plan ~ A Summer Book Club!
We hatched the idea to our cousins' mamas, and they were excited too.
We wrote out a few rules, set the dates, declared the prize and made some reading lists of living books for each cousin.
We are planning a weekly time to read-aloud a book over Skype with the younger cousins and time for the older cousins to discuss their books with John.
It should be fun, and what better thing to bond over than stories?

If you are interested, I included the pdf of what I sent our families. It's nothing fancy, but you are welcome to use it, if you wish. If you are just looking for book lists, there is something for everybody, from picture books for non-readers up to upper elementary/jr. high readers.

Summer Book Club Download


  1. Cannot wait to do the read-along over Skype! :D Now to have a moment to review the book list and let you know if we need to add some others or what not. :D Looking forward to it sooooooooooo much! (The kids are, too. ;) )

  2. I love it!! You are giving your girls such a rich enviroment to grow up in!! My childhood was filled with good books and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up that way!! Keep up the good work and keep reading to your kiddos!!