Available in late August, 2014.
Written to explain and illuminate the ideas behind the whole Storyformed project, this exploration of the formative power of story is Sarah’s apologetic for a childhood shaped by story and imagination.
From the back cover:
How can parents cultivate heroic hearts in their children? What is imagination and why is it vital to childhood education? What role do great books play in shaping a child’s perception of self, life, and even God? In Caught Up in a Story, Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent’s best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is true. Drawing on her own storyformed childhood and her long study of children’s literature, Sarah Clarkson celebrates and explores the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.
Excerpt from the Introduction to Caught Up in a Story:
I have written this book, Caught Up in a Story, because I believe that every child should grow up to ask that question and I think that great stories lead them to it. Stories challenge us to see our lives as the narrative in which we have the chance to live all the beauty and bravery we can imagine. What hero will I become? What great thing have I been created to accomplish? I believe those questions of heroism are the driving force behind a life of virtue, creativity, and purpose. The great historical leaders, artists, teachers, inventors, and even martyrs, lived in fidelity to a cause larger than themselves. Search deeply enough into the history of any real life hero and I am convinced that you will find a story, imagined or actual, on which that hero’s life is largely based, a narrative that opened their eyes to the part they were called to play in the story of the world.
Great stories teach us that we are called to live a great life story.
Stories are a powerfully formative force. They furnish children with rich vocabulary, broad imagination, and the spirit of possibility necessary to purposeful living or heroic action. The great tales of literature both inspire heroism and demonstrate what actions must be taken if the world is to be conquered or creation accomplished. Great books are richly stocked with the characters, scenes, countries, and crafts that form an expectation of what is possible in a child’s imagination. Stories are rich in the kind of description that teaches a child to see, and to wonder at the artistry of the world. They shimmer with song and firelight, castles and dragons, inventions and quests, kings and queens all stocking the heart of a child with dreams.
But I have also written this book because I know that a storyformed life is a gift, one that rests in the hands of inspired parents. A childhood filled with great books is something that only a parent can provide. Parents are the storytellers who narrate the opening of their children’s lives, choosing the books, images, and ideas that will outfit their minds. They are also the story-givers who create the rhythms of home life in which great books can be read again and again. I am convinced that the storyformed childhood my parents gave me was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, and this book has come from my deep commitment to help other parents give that mighty gift to their own children. But before they can offer that gift, I think many parents today need a fresh understanding of the formative value of stories.
Exposure to the great tales of literature or even Scripture as a story itself is rarely listed as of primary importance when childhood training, formation, or education is discussed. Rather, parents today are often presented with a list of facts and skills they must pound into their children’s heads. Childhood formation, according to many models, seems to be about the filling of a mental bucket rather than the forming of a whole, vibrant soul ready to act justly, love beauty, and bring goodness to the world. We tend to think of childhood in terms of data acquisition; what children need to know, and what they must be able to do by the time they reach adulthood. I think this is a deadening view of childhood. While knowledge and skill are, of course, vital, they are only the skeleton structure of a great life. They will remain inanimate until the child who possesses them is kindled to passion and movement by a vision bigger than a list of accomplishments.
Stories are the lifeblood of existence. They are the heartbeat that pumps vision into a child’s developing imagination and hope into his or her soul. A storyformed child views life as an epic tale in which he or she must live as hero or villain. Storyformed children grow to adulthood understanding that they have been specially formed by a loving God, destined for his kingdom, specially crafted to love, create, and conquer. They have reason to respond to their parents’ training, to work and learn, hope and know, because stories assure them that right choices and brave actions are the force behind happy endings. A storyformed child understands exactly why hard work must be done and goodness attained, why beauty is a prize to be sought and love is a treasure worth the cost of their whole lives.
(Copyright, Sarah Clarkson, 2014, please do not use without permission.)