coming of age

Over at Religious Affections, Jason Parker recommends reading books to children, especially books like Winnie the Pooh. I couldn’t agree more, and have a lot of affection for the fluff-stuffed bear. (The original Winnie was a bear from Canada, by the way – my Canadian insecurities compel me to get that info into the story.)

When we came to the last story of Pooh, where Christopher Robin is growing up and Pooh is destined for the toyshelf, I couldn’t make it through the story. I still am moved emotionally as I recall the experience. My wife asked what was wrong as I struggled to proceed. “It’s a coming of age story,” I replied. She offered to read it herself. As she read and thought of what I said, she, too, was strongly moved. So that reading became a tag-team affair. We each took turns reading as we were overcome by the emotion of the story and our crowd of little ones gathered around us. They, too, were growing up (and are now fully grown, alas!). They looked on at us in amazement.

Good literature has the power to affect us in that way and the story of Pooh is a real classic of our times. Apparently Christopher Robin grew up not particularly close to his father. Perhaps A. A. Milne was not quite the father he could have been. All human fathers are flawed in some way. Yet he expressed in his stories something of a true father’s heart for his child.

I highly recommend reading to one’s children, though perhaps not exactly for the reasons Jason Parker mentions in his article linked above. One of the reasons I read to my children was to instill in them a love of reading. I suppose I succeeded with some of them. I also wanted to share in an experience with them that cannot be gained through play or in watching movies. There is something about reading aloud and sharing imagination together that makes for a memorable experience.

In addition to the reading of good literature, I recommend the reading of Christian biography. The best of these that we read was To the Golden Shore, the story of Adoniram Judson. We also read of John and Betty Stam and others.

To close this piece, I’d like to turn to one of the other most memorable reading occasions our family experienced. We were camping in the interior of BC, four out of our five and myself. My wife and eldest had to stay behind for some reason. The place we pitched our tent was called the “Whispering Spruce” campground and our tent was pitched amid a stand of tall firs (or maybe they really were spruce trees, after all – but they appeared to look like the tall Douglas firs of BC). We would read each night before turning out the lights and falling to sleep.

On this occasion, perched on the side of a high valley, illuminated by a small camp lantern (electric), the wind picked up and moaned through the tops of our trees. Fitful rain fell on our tent as a bit of a blustery storm blew through.

And we were reading The Lord of the Rings, the part where Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, the great “tree person” of the Ents. The setting was perfect! As I read, I could look across the sleeping bags at the wide eyes of my youngsters, intent on every word. It is a memory I am sure that none of us will ever forget. We were camped among the Ents as we read of the meeting and their ponderous march towards Isengard. Unforgettable! Better than a movie!

Read to your kids. You will have occasions just like this, a shared treasure to remember with your children as you go on to through the years.



  1. Rory says:

    Yes, that passage in the Lord of the Rings is truly unforgettable to me, and I agree, there is a special bond a family has over books that they have read together. Recently my wife and I have finished reading all seven of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. They are truly fascinating stories with a level of meaning for children as well as higher level noticed by adults. I definitely plan to follow in your footsteps in this regard… :-)

    Thanks for reading to us over the years, Dad!