Why I read my children stories

illustration by Pauline Baynes

I stood under my favourite oak trees today and stared upwards, heavy dark branches and deep green leaves reaching into the blue of the sky. For a moment I was far from here, in the Enchanted Wood or Narnia or Middle Earth.1

It was a windy morning. I closed my eyes and listened to the “Wisha-wisha-wisha” of the leaves and almost, for a second, convinced myself that when I opened them I’d see or hear … Something. A white glimmer as Moonface peered around a branch. A faun tripping between the trunks, umbrella raised and arms full of parcels. A lantern’s glow and the far-off singing of the Elves.

I opened my eyes and smiled. Nothing. And yet, everything: the touch of enchantment lingering in the air, the hint of another world, the leaves repeating words on the edge of hearing. I know what they whisper – they speak of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6) – and a childhood filled with story helped me to hear it.

That’s the beauty of stories. They hold the promise that there is something deeper. A wardrobe is not just a wardrobe, but the door to another place. Trees are not just trees, but the outliers of a land we belong to but have never seen. The sound of wind in the trees is not just an accident of air currents moving against the ear drums, but the signature of the King who rules this country.

That’s why I give my children stories. I want their imaginations to grow tough and strong. I want them to long for another place. I want them to sense the beauty of hope and sacrifice. I want them to taste the flavour of God in this world. I want them to aspire to the love that risks all for a friend, the courage to confront dragons, and the perseverance to see this hard journey through to the end.

My children don’t just read the stories I read as a child. This is a new age and it has new stories – ones that I enjoy discovering with my children. But as long as I can read them the good old stories, as long as their own stories speak to them of courage and love and sacrifice, and as long as they know the One True Story, I am glad. I hope that one day, like me, they’ll be grateful for a mother who gave them stories.

  1. This is a reference to Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series, CS Lewis’ Narnia, and JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, for those of you who didn’t grow up with stories.