“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
- Victor Hugo
Sitting at a creaky, beloved table in my Austrian apartment, I looked around at the people who had come for lunch: a diplomat and his wife from South Africa; a player in the Vienna Philharmonic and his opera-singer wife; a refugee professor from Iraq; and a businessman and his wife who worked in Russia.
The conversation flew from one subject to another, laughter accompanied a wide range of stories shared, somber quiet breathed strong as our refugee friend shared his story of escaping without a passport under barbed wire, running hard from his would be captors.
Hunger to know more, to understand countries, art, literature, geography, history, political philosophies bubbled up in my heart. I experienced a new longing to become educated, I wanted to learn more, I wanted to understand more. Realizing in that moment that I was hungry for a deep education took me by surprise. I had my college degree and could speak a portion of several languages and was becoming exposed to some of the greatest ideas ever spoken or written, but I realized that I had not had a broad, deep education in my life. I had the feeling that my knowledge was shallow and I wanted to drink more deeply from history, literature, all the things that were interesting that I had never been taught.
Idealism overtook me when I had children and I collected hundreds, thousands of books. They grew piled high in book baskets in every room, filled shelves in all of our bedroom. We read every day, listened to stories in the car, and shared the drama of stories that captured our imagination.
Now that all four of my children have become writers, love learning, seek to inspire and teach others, I can breathe easier and know that I gave them what I hoped--a love for God, a passion for messages and a desire to invest this truth and love into their own worlds. And I believe that this mysterious process came about by cultivating in my children a storyformed heart--a heart that was inspired by heroic acts, by understanding true life historical stories, by being exposed to the best writers who ever lived and by grasping the truth and vitality of scripture.
This next few weeks, I am speaking at a leadership development conference in London as well as a Mum Heart conference for women from all over the UK and Europe. And then I will spoil myself by spending glorious days with my true kindred spirits, Sarah and Joy, my beloved best friends and daughters.
So, Sarah, a friend Holly Packiam, and I decided that we want to sprinkle my blog and podcasts with ideas from our own lives about the best books, about filling souls with inspiration through story and by giving you exposure to some of our own favorite stories and books. We hope you will share yours with us.
I hope our podcast will inspire you--it was so much fun it made me want to have kids all over again.
We are incredibly excited to bring you a brand new podcast called Storyformed! Storyformed, founded by Sarah Clarkson, is here to celebrate the soul-forming power of imagination, good books, and beauty in the life of a child. We believe in the power of great stories to change lives - so here’s to many more podcasts to come!
As you might imagine in our current culture, reading is on the decline. But many of us long to give our children the gift of a storyformed life. I talk to so many moms who say, “I was never read to as a child,” or “I have no idea what to read to my child.” “How could I possibly give them a gift of a storyformed life when I haven’t received it myself?”
When children are born into a family, they accept their surroundings, their life as normal. Let me fill you in on a secret - your children don’t realize what you don’t know. Phew…..I’m so grateful for this! My kids, who are now between four and twelve, don't known that I’m reading many of the greatest books ever written for the first time. Any insight or wisdom I’m gaining, I’m gaining right along with them. I have to admit, I am a bit grieved that I missed out so many incredible books, even life-giving picture books when I was a child. But, all is not lost. I can receive the gift of these beautiful stories right along with them.
“Children accept the world they’re given. Children don’t know what you don’t know. I never knew my mom didn’t feel adequate. The reading life isn’t fine art or gourmet food. We are all people of words. We are all people of language. We are formed by words whether we read or not.” Sarah Clarkson
If you have the desire to give your child a feast of books, start with a children’s Bible. A couple favorites of mine are The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. As you read Bible stories to your children, continue to add other books to your library, little by little, and before you know it - you may realize you have books in all corners of your home.
When I didn’t know what to read to our children besides the Bible, I trusted some brilliant sources, one called, Honey for the Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Sarah Clarkson also wrote a great guide highlighting what was read to her as a child called Read for the Heart. These two books still sit on my bedside table - both marked up as I make library lists from them so I know what to check out next. I also have a little system to help me remember what child has read which book so I can go back through and make sure each child has had the opportunity to read each suggestion.
“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” C.S. Lewis
A storyformed life is a true to gift to a child. What role do great books play in shaping a child's perception of self, life, and even God?
In Sarah Clarkson’s book - Caught Up in a Story, she gives us a vision for how great books can be a parent's best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is true. Sarah draws upon her own storyformed childhood and her reading of great literature while exploring and celebrating the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.
I see how stories can be such a formational part of this vision of helping my kids to live out their own unique story within the grand narrative. But when we’re home with kids day in and day out, sometimes its hard to make the time to sit down and read with our kids.
Take heart dear mommas, as we continue to gain a vision for reading - whatever that may look like for you - inspiration to keep you moving forward will likely follow if we merely present ourselves to the Lord. It’s not in our own strength, but in the working of the Holy Spirit through us, we can commit and follow through with His plans for us. Whether you’re reading great Bible stories or timeless fiction, whether you’ve been reading your whole life or just getting started, be encouraged that the Lord will lead you.
“Every person is called to be storyformed, to live out a great narrative for the Lord”. Sarah Clarkson
If you would like to keep up with Sarah and hear more from her, please follow her on www.sarahclarkson.com
Please leave us a comment and let us know if you’d like to hear more Storyformed episodes like this one!