Monday, March 16, 2015

Stoking the moral imagination

Recently my eldest granddaughter and I have been reading chapter books together.  Since she is in southern Arizona and I am in northern New Mexico, we have breakfast dates: she eats her breakfast while I read to her via Hangouts or Skype.  We have completed The Tale of Despereaux, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian this way.  And now we are working on Little House in the Big Woods.

My sweet 4-year-old has never before imagined a world without refrigerators, or where you butchered pigs to get bacon, or where your only doll was a corn husk and you dreamed of a real doll.  She is learning about these things through Laura's eyes in the little log house at the edge of the Big Woods.  And today's lesson included me finding and lighting an oil lamp for her, and telling her that her own Grandma Shirley, my mom, would love a phone call to tell her about plucking chickens when she was a young girl on the farm.  What wonderful family times together!

Stories have such a broadening affect on us: we travel in our mind's eye to distant times and lands, and live in the shoes of others, facing their problems and joys. It is not only about pigs and oil lamps we learn, but about courage and failure, strength and weakness, wisdom and foolishness.  And we exercise the muscles of our moral imagination, as author Vigen Guroian says, We begin to build our copia of ideas from which other ideas, if well-watered and exposed to good light, will sprout.

What a privilege it is to read to my granddaughter, and stuff her full of new ideas, stoking the fire of her moral imagination.  I can't wait till the other grandchildren get old enough to join us!

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