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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Teaching Values Through Storytelling!

From a master story-teller
“We human beings are story-tellers, we pass on our values through the stories we tell. This is particularly true of Catholics, who get their identity through their histories, which they see as salvation history linking them to the saving actions of Christ. So, for Catholics, doing history – passing on the values by telling stories – is a pastoral imperative. We must look where we have been in order to know where we are going.”                                                                                          
                          Edmund Campion, Australian Catholic Lives

Jesus was a storyteller. His stories related truths by describing relationships with family (The Prodigal Son), nature (the barren fig tree), authority figures (the talents, the unjust steward, and the master's dinner), and neighbors (Dives and Lazarus and the lost coin). 

I can just see the crowds listening intently as he began to relate another story, nudging one another and nodding, saying, "Listen, this will be good!" And then repeating the stories at home to family and friends.

The Left ruined Uncle Remus, one of
the great figures of Black Culture, whose
dialect was captured by Joel Chandler
Harris. The suppression of Disney's
Song of the South was a tragedy! 
When our children were young we often used car time as story time. Sometimes we took a book on tape. I still remember listening to A Bell for Adano on a long trip to the Outer Banks. The kids were just as eager as we were to turn on the story again after a stop. But most of the time it was fairy tales and Bible stories on short trips. Larry's specialties were fairy tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and Goldilocks. Mine were about real people in the Bible: Jonah and the Whale, Joseph and his Many-Colored Coat, and Job ("Tell the story about 'Joe,' Mom!"). 

Sometimes I made up stories like the one about the "whine-a bird" who "liked to dine on whine." I still tell that occasionally to whiny grandchildren. Once on the Metro I calmed a restless 4-year-old with the story and, when we reached our stop, the man in the seat behind us commented that he hated to see us get off before the end. That made me laugh!

The best stories are entertaining and engage us without being polemical. That is the test of good literature. The lesson needs to be organic to the story rather than preachy, or else, as Walker Percy once said, it's not a novel; it's a tract. 


Anne with an e, one of the most
charming heroines in literature. 
Stories teach. They can teach something good -- like the Lord of the Rings showing how the humble (the hobbits) can be heroes in fighting for family and homeland against evil strong men. But on the other hand stories can teach something evil -- like Fifty Shades of Grey promoting kinky BDSM sex as mainstream. (I didn't need to see it to know it was evil and would increase pornification of the culture and lead to more sex abuse.

Read good stories or make them up and share them with your children and grandchildren. When you do, you offer them fruit for their play. Think of little boys imagining themselves as Robinson Crusoe or St. Paul shipwrecked and washed up on an island struggling against adversity. Let them imagine themselves as the fictional King Aragorn or the real Don John of Austria, the last knight of Europe as Chesterton called him, fighting battles against evil empires. 
Return of the Prodigal Son, one of the
most famous parables of Jesus.
Leonello Spada 16th century

Give your children real and fictional heroes to emulate. 

Above all, teach them to know the difference between bad stories and good stories. Purge the shelves of the Goosebumps series and Judie Bloom and give them George MacDonald (I love his Princess and Curdie stories), Walter de la Mare, (, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Louis Stevenson (a great way to introduce your children to poetry) and Lucy Maude Montgomery (Her Anne was Mark Twain's favorite heroine). Don't let them fill their minds with the literary equivalent of bubble gum. Give children the tools to discern what is worth the investment of time that reading requires. 

A love of good literature leads to a lifetime of learning. Get your kids to turn off the TV and the electronics and pick up a good book. 

What are your favorite books/heroes for children?

4 comments:

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

BTW - The quote is from a modern writer, not Fr. Edmund Campion executed at Tyburn in the 16th century.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Have your kids read Robinson Crusoe and learn the modern habit of trying to write like Hemingway is both a farce and a tragedy :

He bade me observe it, and I should always and that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind, but that the middle station had the fewest disasters, and was not exposed to so many vicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind; nay, they were not subjected to so many distempers and uneasinesses, either of body or mind, as those were who, by vicious living, luxury, and extravagances on the one hand, or by hard labour, want of necessaries, and mean or insufficient diet on the other hand, bring distemper upon themselves by the natural consequences of their way of living; that the middle station of life was calculated for all kind of virtue and all kind of enjoyments; that peace and plenty were the hand- maids of a middle fortune; that temperance, moderation, quietness, health, society, all agreeable diversions, and all desirable pleasures, were the blessings attending the middle station of life; that this way men went silently and smoothly through the world, and comfortably out of it, not embarrassed with the labours of the hands or of the head, not sold to a life of slavery for daily bread, nor harassed with perplexed circumstances, which rob the soul of peace and the body of rest, nor enraged with the passion of envy, or the secret burning lust of ambition for great things; but, in easy circumstances, sliding gently through the world, and sensibly tasting the sweets of living, without the bitter; feeling that they are happy, and learning by every day’s experience to know it more sensibly

Chriss Rainey said...

My favorite stories as a child and now are those written by Thornton W. Burgess. I know nothing of his religion or his politics, but I appreciate his insertion of good values and virtues in his stories about animals and nature. I never have the impression he is an "earth worshiper" when I read his tales, but I do imagine the animals in them imitating people we all can identify with. They are as readable for a first grader as they are an adult. Excellent choice in my estimation.

I have a copy of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. It is the FUNNIEST literature you will ever get your hands on. But, it is not easy to read and you absolutely MUST read it aloud to even get the meaning of what you are asked to say. Example: "Well, Brer Rabbit rid Brer Fox up, he did, en tied 'I'm to de rack. en den sot out in de peazzer wid de gals a smokin' er his seegyar wid mo' proudness dan w'at you mos' ever see. Dey talk, en dey sing, en day play on de peanner, de gals did, twel bimeby hit come time fer Brer Rabbit fer to be gwine, en he tell um all good-by, en strut out to de hoss-rack same's ef he wuz de king er de patter-rollers, en den he mount Brer Fox en ride off. Brer Fox ain't sayin' nuthin' tall. he des rack off, he did, en keep his mouf shet, en Brer Rabbit know'd der wuze bisness cookin up fer him, en he feel monstus skittish.

Parts of this are so funny you lose your breath laughing. So hard in fact if you are reading it aloud you can't go on with the story and those listening can lose patience waiting for you to recompose and go on. I know. This happens to me every time I try.

Another good story that I think is great to share with young people is the core story in the book, Who Moved My Cheese. It is four mice characters who have to deal with change in their lives. This is a great topic for people of all ages and one we don't often address as well as we might with a little wisdom and self discipline.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Among his other talents, Harris was a folklorist who tried to save the culture of black Americans. If the leftists weren't such ignorant iconoclasts they would see what a treasure Uncle Remus is and what respect Harris had for the stories and culture of blacks. Linguists who have studied Harris confirm the authenticity of the dialect in his stories. http://americanspeech.dukejournals.org/content/85/3/287.abstract

Blacks should see him as a hero who respected and valued their wonderful blend of humor and imagination found in their folklore depicted by Uncle Remus. And when I remember the warmth and love of Uncle Remus for the little white boy and the child's love for him, I mourn what we lost when Disney shelved The Song of the South. I hope one day they will wake up and Song of the South will again be available for a new generation of American both black and white!