Monday, April 4, 2011

“Stories That Build Statesman” and a Book Q & A

This past week I purchased the lecture, "Stories That Build Statesman" by Marlene Peterson from the 2010 TJEd Forum in Salt Lake City. I enjoyed listening to it and received several insights that will be helpful for my family. I've decided to share some thoughts from her and from myself. I believe that reading to our children is one of the most important activities we can pursue with our families.

Marlene reminds us that we remember information best if it's in story form. This reminded me of President Monson's talks. He teaches us in stories. She shares that stories connect with our heart and make things real and lasting with us. Marlene states that it is vital we give our children and ourselves a great depth of stories that can last throughout our lives.

I thought it was interesting to learn that Mao removed the stories of the Chinese so they were forced to function in the here and now. In this way he was able to control his people.

She stated that in public school we learn only one story. "If you do well you can graduate and go to a good college, then you'll get a good job and have a good life." In my own personal life I have seen that not only this story told in school, but recognized that another story is told at church/home. I will call it the Plan of Salvation story and it has a different point than the one in public school. I lived through my own confusion of trying to live two separate lives: a church life and a school life. They were incompatible. I have seen while working in the Young Women for many, many years that girls are confused. Should they focus on job and career or should they focus on motherhood and preparing to be a help-meet? What should they do? Who do they please? I believe this is one of the biggest dilemma's facing the young women. Learning what story to believe and focus on is important.

Testbooks are boring because they teach us the information without the stories. There is no heart in it. No way to connect, feel and remember. (This is regardless of the many other reasons I have for dismissing textbooks from my children's life).

Marlene shared that stories help us to know that no matter what trials and hard times come our way in life other people have gone through them and so we can do. I think these stories are especially learned from the scriptures. She tells us that in the last days when "men's hearts will fail" she believes this will in part be from not having stories to help them through those dark days. I add especially not knowing and believing the story of Jesus Christ will cause our hearts to fail.

We need to ask who are the storytellers in our lives and what are they teaching us? We need to make sure that we reject stories that go against our moral values and standards. We don't want their story becoming ours. We need to have stories that teach us about human nature, heroes, courage, truth and love. The old stories were written/told to make us better while many of the stories now are written to entertain us. Many current stories contain half-hearted attempts at a simple moral to appease the parents, but will pass right over the children's heads. These stories are NOT written to make us better.

I believe it is so important that we spend time every day curled up on the couch or in a bed sharing great stories with our children. Start with original fairy tales (not the Disneyfied versions) with great pictures. These will be easy to understand and contain morals. You will be surprised to find how different the "real" version is from the version you think you know. Then move on to classic books that are simply written like "Little House on the Prairie" books. I have always been amazed at what my kids could comprehend. We've read Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, every Narnia, Silas Marner, and many biographies to name just a very few. Please look on my Goodreads lists to see what we have read. Read them the great classics and fill their minds with great thoughts. There are many stories now that I wish I had not told them. I am wiser now.

The classics are wonderful but they are not complete unless you have read the scriptures everyday also. We have a rule in our house: you may not read anything unless you have first read your scriptures for the day. As a family we have read the Book of Mormon over eight times together as well as parts of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price at least twice each. Our children need the Great Story of the Gospel or the "Good News" told to them over and over again. This will fill their hearts and give them courage to face these dark days.

Marlene says that without great stories there will be no warmth for growth. Great statesman will come from well-educated hearts that contain a treasure trove of great stories.

Please share with me your thoughts on these questions:
  1. What books do you consider the best in your family? (besides the scriptures)
  2. What have been your favorite read-a-louds together?
  3. How do you decide what church/doctrinal books to keep?
  4. What put you over the edge on getting rid of books that cost a lot of money but you now realize you don't need/shouldn't have to keep anymore? (It always seems harder to get rid of books/movies that I spent money on even if I now know I don't need or shouldn't have them).


Celeste B. said...

I think you are right, there are two stories for most LDS people. I see that in Young Women's as well and even amongst Relief Society. Women will say, "I'm only a housewife."

I was substituting in a Kindergarten class a few weeks ago where the school counselor came in to teach the children. Her 30 minute lesson asked the children to share their "dream" with the class. She then related each dream to a job and what training that job needed. I was so upset by the end of her lesson that I wanted to tell her what a disservice she is doing to these young children.

What was even sadder was when one girl said her dream was to be a mom the counselor informed her it was not a good dream as it would not provide for her in the future. She needed to choose a dream that would make money. I was heartsick!

I've been asked several times how public education can be fixed. I simply say, "It can't. We have to send the children home."

Mrs. Small House said...

Celeste-That's my biggest worry if my oldest daughter goes to school (I'll pray about it when we get close). She wants to be a mom (and an astronaut) when she grows up. I don't want someone else changing her mind for her.
Can I just say that purging the books has been the hardest thing for me?!
The best books for us have been the Little House series. We love reading how the family treats each other and how they react to hard times. We also enjoy reading some Roald Dahl and the Chronicles of Narnia together. My oldest is only six so we still just read younger books.
In regards to church books, anything we can find online we've gotten rid of. We only have a handful of books by some apostles and prophets. The rest we just get from the library (a luxury we get living in Provo).
On books that cost a lot, the easiest thing was giving them to the library. If you're never going to read it again it's already a sunk cost. But donating it helps you feel a little better about it. At least for me.

Ranee said...

I completely agree that are 2 stories taught to kids/youth who attend public school and church. Celeste, that story about your recent substituting experience, really is sad!

So far, the best books in our family, are The Little House series (my kids always ask me to read from them), we loved The Trumpet of the Swan and my kids love the stories from The Book of Virtues! We also love all of the books recommended in Linda and Richard Eyre's Teaching Children Joy! I LOVE Little Britches, and am reading it to 2 of my boys right now, and I love LDS Historical Fiction, like Standing On the Promises and also Thorns in the Sun and The Children of the Promise series. I absolutely LOVED The Work and The Glory! We are at a crossroads right now, about having too many books, in general though. We pretty much started collecting all the books recommended by DeMille, when we chose TJed, and now I find myself feeling like I need to read them all, pick the best of the best for our family, and donate the rest. I am glad to have them, to be able to decide for ourselves what we must keep.

Church/Doctrinal books have been on my mind a lot this week, with regard to the purge we have going on over here. We have a TON! (Too many!) All of them are AWESOME! I don't know how we'll ever decide what goes and what stays!
The only thing I can think of, that I am just keeping because I spent so much money on it, is my The Four Year Plan, curriculum that cost me over $115.00 (Pre-TJEd days.) It's completely textbook based, so I don't know what I am thinking. I just need to find someone who will buy it from me. I have all the textbooks that go with it, too, sitting in our spare room on the floor.

Shanny said...

I have always remembered President Hinckley saying that the hallmarks of a happy home are... A pattern of prayer, a library of learning and a legacy of love.

I really believe that. And so I don't purge my books at all really. I think I will go through the children's picture books sometime soon and get rid of a few bad quality ones that have been given as gifts to our children in the past. We are blessed to have enough room to add many more bookcases if I needed to. I think that when I am finished with a book, then my husband can read it, all 5 of my children can read it, my friends and extended family can read it and then my grandchildren can read them when the time comes. I think home libraries should be something of a legacy, passed down to the next generations. I also have something of a goal for our home library that if we ever wanted to know something, we could find at least the beginning of the answer on our very own bookshelves. That should answer question 3 and 4. lol

As for questions 1 and 2.... my favourites have not necessarily been my children's favourites. Two books they really seemed to love me reading out loud to them were Island of the Blue Dolphins and I am David.

As for what I consider to be our best books....oh that is too hard, there are so many different reasons why they could be considered best. My 11 year old daughter is currently reading the Work and the Glory series and absolutely loving it. I like that she likes them because it is teaching her the history of the church.

I love the value tales series. I loved them as a child myself and I was so excited when I first found some in second hand bookstores. I have managed to collect most of them now and my children have loved reading them too. Each book is a story based upon true events in a famous person's life and highlights a particular value. For instance there is a book called The value of Honesty, a story about Abraham Lincoln. I think they have begun publishing them again but I can't find the link but here is some info about them on wikipedia...

I have also appreciated the Usborne Famous Lives books because my children also loved them a lot and they seemed to provide a wonderful introduction to great people at an age appropriate level. My 11yo daughter knows more about historical people than I do!

There are also other great series for children that teach about historical figures, like the 'Lives of the writers' and the 'Lives of the painters' etc. There is also the series by Mike Venezia which my children have loved for the zany pictures and fun information.

There are also many others that are just single books on their own but are too many to mention. With books like The wind in the willows or The chronicles of Narnia etc, they often have beautiful versions for sale - hardcovers, glossy pages, gorgeous illustrations etc - I like to buy those to keep as special books.

I was raised to treat books respectfully and to this day, I love the look and smell and feel of a book. I get a thrill from book buying like other women might get from buying a new pair of shoes. I am always telling my husband to stop folding the corner down and don't leave it open flat etc. My kids need to learn those lessons too!

We all enjoy the fact that when we have finished our current book, we can go to the bookshelves and have the choice of many new and interesting books to read. I hope the day never comes where I can say I have read every book on my shelves.

Sarah said...

Thanks for your post. I have been pondering this confusion of stories for awhile and how I can teach my daughters to have a love for motherhood. My oldest in only 2 but am planning on homeschooling and very excited for that opportunity to teach her on a daily basis true gospel principles without anyone else trying to confuse her.

I love the Anne of Green Gables series and sometimes read aloud to my kids even if they don't understand it all now my daughter still loves me to read to her and she practices some of the words as I say them. Good books are so very important!

Ranee said...

I just thought of another book my kids LOVED me reading aloud to them...Caddie Woodlawn! :0)

Nicole said...

I have found that I purge my books to fit my standards. My standards have gotten higher as I've come to understand some things and as I've had children.
There are some books that I will donate, but if I feel that the book is unwholesome I just toss it, regardless of cost.
Our favorite stories (this year) have been: the secret garden, a little princess, the little house books, the little britches series, little women, little men, and the great brain series, as well as Beatrix Potter's books.
My all-time favorites are: the little house and anne of green gables series, laddie, jane eyre, the chronicles of narnia, and jane austen's books--I am working on learning some more boyish classic stories for my sons. ;-)
My favorite doctrinal books are: Jesus the Christ, Benson's God-Family-Country, the Discourses of Brigham Young,and auto/biographies of our prophets and eary church history. I recently acquired The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt and have yet to read as my husband took it.

meggem12 said...

Don't forget the Little Britches series! My older son has plowed through these since Christmas and I couldn't be happier.

My son read L'amour's Bendigo Shafter a few years ago. I asked him what he learned from it, "How to be a man and stuff like that."

We are currently reading Little Men and loving it - so much annotating going on!

I haven't read The Virginian but recently saw a young man post on Facebook that he had finished it. He commented, "I just finished The Virginian and I don't know what girls today are going to do for a husband. Guys, we need to step it up." (Paraphrasing)

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

One aspect of stories that I didn't add to this blog post was the tremendous aspect our family history stories can have in our families. Learning about courage and hardship faced by our great greats would add power to a leadership education.

Favorite Reads: The Hiding Place and The Red Scarf Girl. Also close favorites have been Louis L'Amour books, Little House series, A Wrinkle in Time Series and the Narnia series.

My children also loved the year we spent on old-fashioned fairy tales and Greek myths. We just ate up the stories of courage and heroism in them.

Kimberly said...

I love the little house books, as well as all the Anne books-there's an Anne for every stage of becoming a woman. Another great book is The Bronze Bow. It's fantastic. We also have all the Jane Austens. I loved both The Work and the Glory series and the Children of the Promise series-I need to save up so I can add them to our library.

Mrs. Small House said...

I just want to second the value tales Shanny mentioned. My mom gave me our family's collection and my son has LOVED reading them. It's a great way to introduce historical figures while teaching some good lessons too.

Jennifer said...

Laddie is one of my all-time favorites. I love Anne of Green Gables, too. Jane Austen, of course. My oldest son read Farmer Boy when he was 9, same age as Almanzo in the book, and it was critical for him at that time. We're reading Pollyanna right now.
My 8 yr old daughter especially loves family history stories. She loves to hear about when Mommy and Daddy were kids, even things we did wrong and learned from the experience.

The Lazy Organizer said...

Most of our favorites have already been mentioned. We also love papa's wife by thyra ferre bjorn along with her other books. They were so good that I bought all of them in hardback and I don't normally splurge like that.

I have bought 95% of our books from the DI so I don't feel as bad about getting rid of those that don't meet my new standards but it still hurts as I toss hundreds of books! I got rid of the worst ones a year and a half ago but I haven't had the energy to do a bigger purge so they are all still sitting on my bookshelves. I just don't let my children read a book unless I know for sure that it meets our standards. I can usually tell just by reading the first page to see if it has high enough language.

Anonymous said...

One the subject of classics, one book that never gets the attention it deserves is Pinocchio. We just finished reading this for the first time, and this is now one of my top five all time favorite books. This book has tons of symbolism, good always wins, the consequences are obvious, and yet it doesn't seem overly moralizing. It is a quick moving story, with every chapter ending on a cliff hanger!
I got this recommendation from the book "Tending to the Heart of Virtue". It recommends good, solid books, both for children and books for educating adults in the art if what makes an uplifting, character improving book.

Love your blog! Read often...comment rarely
Tanya B