Like most moms, these days I read more kids’ books than adult books. Summer is a good time for me to catch up on my reading wishlist, but I’m still going pretty slowly, especially when it comes to books that demand sustained focus. My copy of David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is gathering dust on the end table, while the books in Matthew’s library are growing wrinkled from constant bedtime reading. But you know what? That’s okay, because if it’s food for thought that I’m after, there is actually a whole lot of that in children’s literature.
And so an idea was born: what if I do a series of posts on the spiritual wisdom in kids’ books? I’m not talking the books that are overtly religious, like Prayer for a Child; I’m talking the ones that we might not instinctively classify as spiritual, but which nonetheless echo what William Faulkner (another author I’m not reading, alas!) once called “the truths of the heart.” The fact is, most of these classic picture books have survived not just because of engaging plots or captivating illustrations, but because there is some underlying point to them that just keeps resonating, generation after generation. Whether it’s conscious or not, we parents like reading these stories to our kids because we sense that our kids will get Something Good out of the books. They’ll be entertained, yes, but also taught something positive, some little message or truth that we hope will burrow into their subconscious and make their lives fuller, sweeter, happier.
So in this series, I’ll be looking at the spiritual lessons of some beloved children’s books. (They’ll all be picture books, since this is the reading level of my own boys.) And my goal is not so much that you will force your kids to have an intellectually weighty Conversation about these lessons, turning bedtime into a seminar. Some conscious discussion of these themes is great, I think, but only as long as it is light and goes at the kid’s pace. Mostly, I cherish a little hope that these books and posts will help you find a way to deepen your own spiritual life, in a painless, effortless way. (When you are a busy mom, that is the best kind of way there is.)
So come back tomorrow for the first installment of the series! It will feature a book that we just got from the library, one that I remember loving as a child. (I’ll give you a little hint: it involves three hungry soldiers and a very unusual soup.)
Image courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy