How to Talk to Your Kids About __________: In Defense of Reading Aloud

There is a genre of article I see online often. I saw an article on how to talk to your kids about war after the recent airstrike against an Iranian General. Then, I saw an article on how to talk to your kids about a famous person's death after Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash over the weekend. The descriptions for talking about war with your kids read like a prescription bottle or recipe. It was all facts and details and truth.

Here is my suggestion: read them fairy tales.

G.K. Chesterton argues in chapter 4  of Orthodoxy, "The ethics of elfland," that fairy tales help us understand our world better. In short, by making us step out of our world and see a magical land, we understand comparable things in our world better. The rivers of gold in fairy tales help us realize the wonder that rivers of water truly are. The evil tyrants in fairy tales help us see wicked people more clearly in our world. S.D. Smith introduced me to this chapter by mentioning it several times in interviews, and I have not been able to go past that chapter in Orthodoxy. I have read the chapter twice.

When I saw this new genre of article with it's facts and details and explanations, I thought of G.K. Chesterton and elfland. If we want our kids to understand just war theory, then maybe we should read them stories of battles and the reasons that the knights went to battle. If we want them to understand death and heroes, then maybe we could start with reading them stories with heroes where the stakes are high and death and loss are gut-wrenching.

My wife is much better about reading aloud to our kids than I am. But after the littlest ones go to bed, we regularly read books, often abridged, of adventure and battles and rivers that run with magic.


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