Children & Reading: a Mother's Day Post
By Debora Lingwood

There was once a little boy who was afraid of the dark. It didn’t matter how much his mother told him not to be afraid, he just couldn’t get over it. Then, one day she told him an incredible story based on Ephesians 6:15 about putting on the armor of God. She taught him about each piece of armor and what they stood for. Suddenly the boy understood the story and decided to believe in it and he realized he was not afraid anymore. So many stories; so many life lessons to be learned. In this day and age when everything is changing so quickly and information is so easily accessible, I believe we need to cling to the gift of teaching children through stories now more than ever.

Stories and the Bible

Jesus understood the importance of stories as he taught so many life lessons through his parables. He knew if he taught in this way, it would make people think for themselves and come to their own understandings of the story. And so it is for our children. One of the greatest gifts we can give them is to think and comprehend for themselves. Not only do stories teach practical elements like listening and reading skills, skills which in today’s world are being severely undermined and compromised, they also unlock the creative imagination. What an incredible tool God has given us to teach with—like His creative downloads from Heaven that allow us to equip and train our children with the necessary life skills.

The incredible thing about stories, is that every day someone, somewhere is imagining, creating and writing a new story and at the same time we have to pay tribute to the old stories too; the ones that have stood the test of time. Most of us grew up with the tales of young David, who stood before the giant Goliath with nothing but a slingshot, stone and the strength of his faith in God. Who can forget the incredible story of Noah and his Ark, or Jonah spending three days in the belly of the whale? These are the stories that have been taught for generations, have left their imprint on many a young mind and will continue to be taught for generations to come.

Stories Change Lives

All stories, even the simple ones have the power to change lives, and all children no matter what background they come from love to hear a story. I remember when I was a Care worker in a children’s place of safety many years ago. Being a Housemother to eight children in a cottage can be fairly chaotic but every night, after dinner, we would have story time. Sometimes I would give the children a chance to read too, and I soon noticed that one of the boys who had recently come to the home never put his hand up to read. He was almost ten and came from a very traumatic environment. When all the children were off to bed, I quietly asked him if he could read and he shook his head. With the help of the school he joined and our story time every night, he slowly, painstakingly learned to read. I watched as this quiet, scared boy changed into someone with confidence because a whole new world had been unlocked for him. The world of words, stories and knowledge. A few months later, I went to say goodnight to him and found him fast asleep with an Encyclopedia under his arm. I think that says it all! That was many years ago and I often wonder what happened to that boy, but I hope that the stories he learned in that lounge are still with him.

Years later, I worked as a teacher’s aid in a kindergarten class. One particular year was the biggest intake of children in that grade so I knew we were in for a hectic time. But again, I learned the value of teaching through stories. Even though stories should be age appropriate, a child’s ability to understand sometimes even advanced stories, should never be underestimated. I learned the importance of allowing children to ask plenty of questions but most importantly that children don’t just want to listen to a story, they want to be part of the story. A page would be read and either myself or one of the children would act it out and imaginations ran wild. During one of the Creative Drawing Times, I noticed one of the boys drawing a picture from one of the stories we had read weeks earlier because the story had made such an impression on him. That is the beauty of teaching through stories. Any educator will say that those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

I have my own children now, or rather they are young adults who have also grown up learning many life lessons through stories and I know they will continue to do the same for their own children. There is a definite bond that is formed between parents and children during story time. My hope and my prayer as a mother is that we never lose the art of teaching children through stories so that they will never lose their capacity to enrich their lives through the magic of stories.

About this Contributor:

Born in South Africa, Debora Lingwood worked as a Child Care Worker in a children’s place of safety and a Kindergarten Teacher’s Aid. For nine years she helped her husband run a vibrant church in a rural community where she also wrote articles for the local newspaper, focusing on unsung heroes and heroines in the community. Answering God’s call to help lead an established church in Canada, the family relocated where they made many wonderful friends and Debora fulfilled a lifelong dream to write books. She is the author of Matt the Dragon Slayer, The Skateboard, and A Tale of Two Villages (Coming Soon). Now back in sunny South Africa, Debora is inspired by the beauty of God’s Creation and her two wonderful children. Apart from writing, she enjoys travelling, music, theatre and photography.

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