When the opportunity to teach Literature 5 arose nine years ago, I thought, “Sure, why not? I get to read some fun children’s classics with the students. Piece of cake.” At first, I was excited to help the students improve their reading skills, focus on comprehension, and introduce them to some literary terms like “simile” and “personification.” And we do work on those things.
Very quickly, however, I realized that the literature course was much more than a book club. I was amazed at the level of community and interaction the students had with one another. They meet peers from all over the US -- all over the world, adding a richness to the class I never would have anticipated. And this bond doesn’t stop with the end of class. Many of my students still message one another and ask me to hold virtual class reunions.
I was also surprised at the opportunity these books gave families to bond over the readings and the projects. I have heard many stories about parents working on the projects with their students. Students and parents often tell me how much fun they had reviewing the books together.
In addition to bonding, literature is one of the first gateways allowing parents and their children to apply a biblical worldview to themselves and to the world around them. Nursery rhymes, like “Little Jack Horner,” provide the opportunity to teach the consequences of sin, and that works don’t make us “good,” no matter how big the plum is. Fast forward a few years, and the delightful story of a pig, adopted by a spider, demonstrates biblical friendship. Heading toward the tail-end of the grammar school years, you have adventurous tales of pirates, shipwrecks, strange lands, and loyal pets all directing the students to a deeper understanding of sin, Providence, and sacrificial love. With guidance, students begin to relate to the characters and circumstances, seeing the stories through the lens of Scripture. Jesus used great stories to teach his followers about deep biblical principles that they just could not grasp on their own.
We are all called to teach biblical principles “diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 6:7, ESV) Whether it’s sitting in a big arm chair reading about a woman living in a pumpkin shell, at the kitchen table sounding out words and looking up vocabulary, or at a computer trying to wrap our heads around the symbolism in Dante’s Inferno, it’s all the same. It’s all about the Lord’s gift of amazing stories drawing us into another place and time with the ultimate goal of knowing more of Him.