When my crawling infant daughter drew my attention to Honey for a Child’s Heart on a lower bookstore shelf, I was intrigued by the title. Who doesn’t want that for their child? On closer inspection, however, I was skeptical. It was a parent guide with book recommendations for reading to a child. I had worked in children’s publishing for more than 10 years and certain there was nothing new to know about the topic. But I was certainly wrong.
The author Gladys Hunt offered up a vision not just of reading together, but of life together for my new family. She helped me realize the great, unseen benefits of sharing the same words and how a fondness of words is vital for a child’s spiritual development. Her insights include:
- “Reading aloud as a family has bound us together, as sharing an adventure always does. We know the same people. We have gone through emotional crises together as we felt anger, sadness, fear, gladness, and tenderness in the world of the book we were reading.”
- “Something happens to us that is better experienced than described—a kind of enlarging of the heart—when we encounter passages full of grand language and noble thoughts.”
- “Much of our secret family idioms come from the books we have read together. I say ‘secret’ because a specialness surrounds it. You need to have shared the book to know what the phrase means, and when we use it, it’s communication of the heart.”1
Perhaps the best part of the shared reading adventures is that parents still influence what young children read, and so from the get-go parents have a deeper way to influence their children, a way that will be received as part of the fun, and not as a lecturing, teachable moment, which many children learn to tune out when they hear that tone.
Mrs. Hunt notes that “parents who read widely together with their children are going to be those who most influence their children,” and these will be children “who have the largest worldview, who have an uncommon delight in what is good and true and beautiful—and an uncommon commitment to it.”2
We have no other resources of such magnitude at our disposal.
Mrs. Hunt’s prescription for keeping the reading time fun and engaging is variety. She encourages owning a range of prized books that include topics about which your child is passionate. We have a lot of bug books.
“We are inclined to make life heavy and see only what must be done, not what could be done,”3 Mrs. Hunt observes. Reading good books together opens the door to a broader perspective in life, where joy and grief, peace and suffering are encountered and grappled with together. Children might not absorb all the meaning or understand every nuance, but they get much more on a deeper level. And so do grownups. Reading children’s books with children makes me a more expectant, engaged reader.
Mrs. Hunt passed away on July 4, 2010 at 83 years old. She has influenced my family life and fueled inspiration at Graham Blanchard. I thank God for her insights and wisdom that live on through her book, which holds so much more than words. Now that’s fun.
- Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), Fourth Edition, 75.
- Hunt, 99.
- Hunt, 98.
Callie is the founder and president of Graham Blanchard Inc. She also specializes in strategic program design and content development for improving outcomes in corporate philanthropy and education.
Photo and Text Copyright © 2019 Callie Grant