In our technologically advanced age, the clamor of Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and Google threatens to nudge out the wellsprings of our culture: its rich literary history. When once people turned to books to “escape,” relax, or be entertained, people now turn on the T.V. or scroll through social media on their phones. Before our kids get lost in this technology focused world, let’s bring them back to a love of literature we once knew.
“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” – Paul Holmer(1)
Just as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit learned in his unexpected journey, the longing for exhilarating adventure can take us out of our home without so much as a handkerchief. Or as Bishop Jean Latour showed in Death Comes for the Archbishop(2), people feel the universal desire to go home whether one’s native France or one’s adopted Santa Fe, New Mexico. We learn from the Bishop the universal truth: Home is where we choose it, not necessarily our birthplace. Or consider, Harry Potter’s longing for a family(3): do we all not long to be loved and to love? We yearn to know our origin. While the lessons we can learn are endless, how do we develop a love of literature in a busy family?
A good first step, is writing out a reading list for yourself and your family. Talk to your children about the way great literature taught you lessons about yourself and the world. Transport your children to Mars(4) or Arizona or the street next door each night by reading a chapter or two to your children. Reading a great fictional work a bit each night, helps your children collectively enjoy literature with you. This can form the basis for familial conversation and acting out swashbuckling scenes(5).
Listening to audiobooks on long car trips together as a family is another way to enjoy great literature. After finishing the book, consider sitting down and talking about particular parts family members found intriguing. Then watch the movie (most books have been financially mined this way) together. As a family, comparing the book and ‘its’ movie highlights the differences between these media types. This discussion renders everyone a more informed consumer of books and movies.
Literature allows the reader to experience impossible situations such as facing down an army of Orcs as a weak “half-ling”(6) or deciding how to keep your pig friend alive using newspaper clippings(7). Great literature engages the heart, the soul and the mind. It forces contemplation and re-creation as the reader engages the author’s thoughts. People appreciate a character’s choices and introspectively consider their own choices in a similar situation. This develops empathy and contributes to emotional intelligence. Great literature permits appreciation of God’s creative, literary Imago Dei in so many ways. Such investment is worthwhile, even in the hustle and bustle of the busyness of life.
- Quote from Paul Holmer: Available at http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2017/07/08/ccslq-37-literature-adds/ accessed on 2 June 2019
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cathey
- Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
- The Princess of Mars by Edgar Burroughs
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White