The Beauty of Books

The Beauty of Books

Do we ever lose the desire to have a short story read to us before bedtime? Especially one with a happy ending? Reading good books to children is a time honored and excellent tradition. Reading a good book to a child fosters the valuable habit of reading. Children benefit tremendously from the practice of reading regularly. The stories found in classic childrens literature teach lessons that imbue a young mind with virtue, character and hope.

There are so many excellent classic childrens stories. Among them: The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), Guess How Much I Love You (Sam McBratney), Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne), The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder), Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), Oh the Places You’ll Go (Dr Seuss), Charlottes Web (E. B. White) and Black Beauty (Anna Sewell).

Great poetry, allegories and life lessons are between the covers of these cherished classics. We could repeatedly read a childrens classic and learn something new, or use it as teachable moments with a child. Some lessons include: appreciate what we have; appreciate the small things; the best things in life are not the most expensive; and even if it is old and worn, but dearly loved, don’t throw it away.

What is Real? asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle? Real isn’t how you are made, said the Skin Horse. Its a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real. Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit. Sometimes, said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, he asked, or bit by bit? It doesn’t happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. (The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams)

Childrens books capture the innocence of life but their themes of love resonate with adults as well. When read as an adult we can gain new insights and a broader understanding of the text. They can also inspire us to a higher form of reading.

Spiritual reading is a beautiful way to grow in Christian holiness. We read the bible for inspiration, guidance and how to live as followers of Jesus. Lives of the saints, writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and other books written for spiritual development are gems of wisdom for us. St. Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that “spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and paradise won.”

We should read holy books regularly. St John of the Cross said, “Seek in reading and you will find in meditation’ knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation.”

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Written by
Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.