How Books Will Define My Middle Schooler
Perhaps unlike most women in their twenties, I hope to be a mother some day soon.
And if I do become a mother one day, that means that, at some point, I will be dealing with a middle school child. And you can bet your shiny iPhone 6s that I will be bribing the heck out of that kid to read pages rather than screens, because the stories children internalize are the stories that shape their character -- especially in middle school.
When I was in fifth grade, I really started to take charge of what I read. I knew specific authors and series that I loved. Redwall was my jam; I devoured those books. I also adored the Dealing with Dragons series by Patricia C. Wrede. I read classics from the summer reading list like The Black Stallion, and then The Black Stallion Returns. The Secret Garden was very high on my list, along with all the Anne of Green Gables books (Anne of the Island especially). The Chronicles of Narnia changed my life FOREVER (Voyage of the Dawntreader all the way). I read The Scarlet Pimpernel at the request of my elder sister -- the most hopeless of romantics -- and I can't tell you how elated I was in college to find out that there were SEQUELS to that one. Eventually, of course, a friend turned me on to the Harry Potter series, which will forever define my generation.
Don't you feel like you have a sense of what I am like, even though I was so young when I read these books? Let's see ...
1) I am a nerd (#didntpeakinhighschool).
2) I would only marry a Gilbert Blythe (#forthewin).
3) I am Christian, but not the kind that thinks fairy tales are satanic (#nooffense #butseriously).
4) I'm a bit of a dreamer (#ENFJ).
Could you make a similar assessment of middle schoolers today? If you do not teach or have a middle schooler of your own, you may be surprised to know what they're reading. I invite you to stroll over the the Teen section the next time you are in a B&N. The books you will find there are a direct reflection of the problems today's teens are facing -- bullying, isolation, unprecedented violence, self-indulgence, unrealistic expectations of the future, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, etc.
But my middle schooler will have one advantage -- a mother who understands the joy of stories and the power of their influence. My child does not have to be a nerd, or a romantic, nor even does he/she have to like Harry Potter (don't hold me to that last one).
But I can tell you one thing: no matter what books my child requests, I will do my homework.
The books in my child's hands can be as fictional and fantastical as you like, but there had better be a glimmer of hope in there somewhere. In my view, hopelessness is the single most fatal disease among our youth, and it bleeds over well into our adult years. I intend to vaccinate my children with stories that not only stimulate their imaginations, but also remind them of their own destiny toward spiritual triumph. My dream is that every young person, upon finishing a splendid book, will close its pages and think, "The satisfaction I feel now is just a shadow compared to the happiness I will find at the end of my own Book of Life."
Until next week!
P.S. Remember that short story contest I entered? My story made it onto the short list as one of the judges' favorites! As a reminder, it's called "The Cowbird Egg". Woohoo! First short story I ever wrote!