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:
- What books do you consider the best in your family? (besides the scriptures)
- What have been your favorite read-a-louds together?
- How do you decide what church/doctrinal books to keep?
- 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).