Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ambition's Not An Awful Word

Ambition’s Not An Awful Word
Written by Zack Zage, Illustrated by Adam Watkins
(Ivy Court Press, 2012), hb., 32 pp.

This book’s title and look are catchy. Ambition is something our children need a proper sense of but also something which can involve sinful attitudes as well. So I was intrigued by the book.

The book is cute and the illustrations are funny. The text is sort of funny, too, but is actually hard to follow. The look and style of the book suggests it is for young children but references scattered throughout to Julia Child, “New York’s MOMA,” Pollack, Perry Mason and others make it seem like it is aimed at an older audience. We found the text obscure and hard to follow. It wasn't clear to me all the way through how the funny examples fit or advanced the theme, “It’s OK to dream.”

The book seems to encourage ambition from the “you’re the center of the world” perspective which is so common today. When the dreamer is rebuked for exaggerating what he can or will do and for making himself “the brightest and the most”, this critique is dismissed. Instead, “In your own imagination you’re supposed to reign supreme.” I want my children to dream and have aspirations, but I don’t want them to imagine that they are the best at everything. I want them to recognize that they are gifted by God in certain ways and that in using those gifts they can enjoy life, help others, glorify God and advance His kingdom. I did not expect such a full theological vision in this book, but I did hope for more than simply, “It’s good for you to think you can do everything and to imagine yourself as the center of the universe.”

I think what is most useful for inspiring children is not books about themselves but grand stories which introduce them to noble characters and themes greater than themselves, giving them people to admire and stories to live up to. In the end we cannot recommend this book.

The Value of Reading Aloud With Your Children

Martin Cothran has written a nice essay on the value of reading aloud with you family titled, “Once Upon a Time at Home: Why you should read aloud to your children.” In telling the story of his family he makes the case that reading aloud together creates community, introduces enchantment into everyday life and teaches children to listen. It is well worth reading.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Children Doing Theology

This evening at bath time Abigail was chatting along as usual. She asked again about how old her mom and I were when we got married and how long it would be until her oldest brother, Nathan, would be that age. She is clearly interested in this point! Along the way her younger brother said something about the stars and creation which prompted her into a discourse about how God created all things. It had to do with a finer point in Timothy’s question about how quickly/easily God created. I didn’t understand all the words (they did!), but I reflected on the point that children are regularly ‘theologizing’ because they observe, wonder and ask. If we parents will simply listen there will be plenty of opportunities to join in and guide. It is important to have set teaching times, of course, but it is also important to catch these times when they themselves are wondering and asking about things we want them to know.

One of the most encouraging things I have read on capturing these moments is James Speigel’s book, Gum, Geckos and God, which I’ve previously recommended here (including a helpful answer from Jim). This book recounts various situations where conversations on a wide range of kid topics were connected to truths about God.  Formal teaching times set up these informal times by placing the truths about God in the conversation.

This evening was just a little reminder to me to listen well, enjoy and engage.