Once Upon a Time

So, remember the lady in my previous post? The one who said, “Well, they may have made it home safe, but I’m sure they didn’t read to their children. Families are falling apart nowadays.”

She was both right and wrong at the same time.

Are families struggling? Yes. Are there divorces, abuses, neglect and a host of other things that negatively affect both adults and children? Yes, unfortunately. But according to Philippians 4:8, is that how and where we’re supposed to focus our minds? Was it good, right and lovely? No. So the problem is not that it wasn’t true. The problem is that it wasn’t helpful.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Dwelling on the negative and discouraging doesn’t benefit anyone. And it plays right into the enemy’s hand. His goal is to magnify the problems and shrink the very God who can handle those problems—keeping us disillusioned and stuck.

The truth is, God is not small. He is more than capable of handling hurting families. He longs to. But He also loves us too much to force His way. So, He gives us the time and space to finally figure out that He’s the only way.

And until that happens, He asks us to dwell on the encouraging parts—like the part the lady got wrong. Because in spite of imperfect families, the truth is, all across our land, children are being read to.

The children’s book industry is a two-billion-dollar business. And figuring that books are seen as a discretionary expenditure, not a necessity, that’s a whole a lot of discretion going on. And it’s growing. Not only are children’s book sales growing, but more and more “brick and mortars” are opening and flourishing around the country (despite the discouragement, “But you can’t compete with Amazon!”) promising even more growth.

And that’s not even considering the books being checked out at the library. I wonder what that would amount to in dollars? But we can safely assume that parents or anyone else buying two billion dollars’ worth of books or schlepping them back and forth from the library, are not letting them sit idle. Someone out there is reading to children.

And some people are even getting creative when they can’t be there personally.

I know of one mom who (because of a divorce situation and her husband being granted custody) Skyped with her children every evening to read aloud to them. She can’t be the only one.

At Christmas several years ago, one of the gifts our grandchildren received, who live a thousand miles away from us, was a book and a special video of us reading it aloud to them. We even rang a bell so they would know when to turn the page! We can’t be the only ones.

My son handles the bedtime reading in his family. He flops down on the bed after a long day’s work and reads a chapter or two to his three growing daughters. They’ve read through The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Indian in the Cupboard series and many others. He can’t be the only tired dad who finds enjoyment sharing literature with his kids.

I happened to grow up in a dysfunctional family. Divorce, several stepfathers, anger, yelling and the other unpleasantness that often accompanies uncontrolled emotion, would accurately describe my growing up years. But I still remember after our baths and jammies, how we sat in a row in front of our mom as she read us adventure stories. Even families that are much less than ideal, still read stories. And I’m sure we weren’t the only ones.

I just read an article, “We’ve Been Saying Goodnight to That Moon for 70 Years.” I said goodnight to that moon many times with my kids. As of 2017, 48 million copies of Goodnight Moon have been sold. Do you realize how many evening story times that represents? And that’s just one bedtime story. Also, Goodnight Moon has been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Catalan, Hebrew, Brazilian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Korean, Hmong, and German. So, kids all over the world are saying goodnight to that moon too!

The Jewish couple and authors of Curious George, escaped occupied France in 1940 on self-made bicycles, clutching the precious monkey manuscript. It was published in 1941. Each book in the original series of seven has been in continuous print ever since publication. Continuous print for almost 80 years. That’s huge. Someone out there is reading to children.

You can even find good-natured “roasts” of both Goodnight Moon and Curious George on the internet. “Someone please tell me why there is an unscreened fire burning in a child’s bedroom?” Or “Why on earth is a little monkey allowed to smoke a pipe?” So, why would adults want to joke and tease about the inconsistencies or “politically incorrect” things they’ve noticed in stories that they are not reading to their children? Why would they bother or care?

In Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, she says of her daughter Emma’s home, “Books are stacked, strewn, and stored everywhere in her house—on the side tables, in the bathroom, by the bed, in the kitchen—ready for every opportunity to indulge in family reading time.”

With five young children, that exactly describes my son’s home in Pennsylvania. It described my home when my children were young. At some point in time, many of us have been in the homes of those with young children and we can attest that books are usually everywhere. Why? Because people across our land—average, ordinary, imperfect people (are there any other kind?)—are reading to children, to the tune of two billion dollars’ worth.

And that’s just plain good.

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