Recently I attended some out-of-town meetings on parochial education. As I left my hotel room to face the long day ahead of me, prepared but a little hesitant to begin the extended and mind-intensive work, I gathered my name tag and folder. I scanned the hotel room one last time to see if I had forgotten anything, and my eyes rested on the nightstand where I saw the novel I was reading. I smiled. I was enjoying that book. No matter what happens today, my book will be here when I return.
Many of us whose children struggle with complex needs wait until everyone’s last morsel has been swallowed, the last dish cleared, the last tooth brushed, the last prayer said, and the last lingering hug received before we rest. Whether we then escape to the deck, a favorite chair, or simply hide away in the bathtub, at last we have a moment to wrap ourselves in someone else’s thoughts, experiences, and insights to be soothed, amused, or informed. If we capture such moments, we begin to find perspective renewed, thoughts untangled, and rest restored.
As homeschoolers or classroom teachers, we seek to teach our children to read well. We want them to read for meaning and to be discerning when selecting reading material. Amid our children’s fears or distractions, failures or disappointments, duties or trials, a good story can bring cheer to their minds and hope to their hearts. We know that a good thought, especially at bedtime, can resound within our souls with enough comfort to allow us to rest for the night.
Whether for teaching or for reading ourselves, we need not always reach for the thickest Tolstoy volume or the most complex Shakespeare play. If only a moment remains at the end of the day, The Little Engine That Could reminds us to seek help from a cheerful friend and keep chugging along. The Trumpet of the Swan bespeaks appreciation for our children’s struggles and reminds us to handle our children’s differences with care. The Magician’s Nephew opens our eyes to the majestically artistic power of our Creator in ways far beyond what we imagined before reading. A good book takes us outside ourselves while renewing us from within.
Later that night in the hotel room, my mind was still spinning with conversations, ideas, and plans from the day. I closed the heavy door behind me, shed the weight of my tote bag, removed my name tag, and set aside my folder. As I prepared for bed, I glimpsed my literary companion, something to look forward to.
Crawling under the plump covers, I opened the novel and began reading. Cares dissolved as I resumed the story. Before sleep came, as I often do at night, I then reached for my leather-bound Bible and turned to my bookmarked page. For more than a week I had been reading Isaiah after reading my novel. Nothing compares in all of literature to such words: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29). Yes, He does.
No matter what happens in our lives, at the end of the day we have a book. If we teach our children nothing more than this, we will do much.