Snow swept the pines and peaks out the windows of our Colorado home, but we were warm round our fire inside, about to use the wintry storm as an excuse to take the afternoon for one of our favorite activities: reading aloud. That day, we were deep into a reread of Narnia, imaginations alight with fauns and lions and dancing trees. We sprawled on couch and floor, or curled in a blanket by the fireside, sketchbooks in hand, hot chocolate nearby, and together we formed both soul and mind by the power of the beautiful stories we read.
A significant factor in how story shapes children is that it allows them to imagine who they might become. Stories give children the opportunity to enter into a world in which their unique capacities can grow and gain substance. Children play and imagine so that they can experiment with what it means to develop their sense of themselves, in all their singular beauty. In other words, story helps them break out of the mold by giving them a space in which to imagine what they themselves might become someday.
In Only You can be You, Nathan and I tried to put our own imaginations to the task of some of the vast landscape of how different children might see themselves. We wanted to give them both an imaginative world, and a dynamic vocabulary to describe their own special perspective of how they fit in with others around them, to recognize the way in which they are valuable for exactly what they bring in their own right. Children should not feel pressure to conforming to a particular mold of what they ought to be, but rather imagining what they might be in the power of their own sense of self.
Confidence comes from that sense of one’s own awareness of who they are and their value to the world at large. Stories give them validation to affirm the things that they feel, and that affirmation of their inner emotional sense gives them the ability to feel at peace with who they are amongst the many voices they will receive in their world.
Another reason we wrote this book is that
children need to imagine who they are and how they fit into the world—
We give them words that speak to their hearts and imagination of what they enjoy, love and who they will become in the many pictures of different children through the pages. This book want them to imagine themselves and their siblings and friends fit together in the whole beautiful world.
In our family, we talk about stories, books all the time from morning till night. Clarksons and books go together. You can’t really have one without the other, and our home is a place crammed with the books we loved. The shared stories of our home, the evenings of read aloud, the picture books we all first knew, have a power to create both camaraderie and identity that I delight in to this day.
Camaraderie first: I have often pondered the special power, the heightened delight of stories when they are shared. In the same way that a week’s visit at a friend’s home brings you closer than any number of coffee dates or bump-ins at church, the sharing of a story accelerates the comradeship of souls.
When people inhabit a realm of imagination together, it is inevitable that a bit of their own imagination and spirit are revealed to the others who sojourn with them in that marvelous place.
I think I am especially aware of this because of the way that stories have helped our family be close to one another, shaping our history, our memories, even the language we use to talk about life to this day.
When I think back over my childhood of our children, I realize that many of my favorite memories come from the sharing of stories.
Join Joel and me as we talk about these things, about how music and story melded together to shape his imagination. Learn how you might be able to have Joel’s artistic music and photos and readings be a blessing to you and your family. And, of course, get your own copy of my new children’s book!
Books and Music Referenced in this Podcast:
You can find all things Joel on his music below at Storybook Soundscapes, and on Instagram@ Joel.i.clarkson,
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