Do you remember the scene where Caddie Woodlawn skates out onto the thin ice? Of course, she falls through and a fun adventure turns into an emergency. With no time to call an adult for help, her brother Tom snaps into action and rescues her.
How do we raise children to be proactive in times of need? How can we help them learn to use their own strength, wits and gifts?
I just finished About Average, the new book by Andrew Clements. In line with The School Story and Frindle, Clements presents a main character who doesn't just react to situations. Jordan Johnston thinks about how she wants to live … and then lives it! Because of her daily choice to be proactive, she's ready for action when a big need comes.
Of course, Jordan doesn't think she's doing anything special. Her friends seem to have amazing talents, but she feels very ordinary. The real key for Jordan is that she does not just sit by passively. She tries lots of different activities to see what she enjoys. She soaks up any chance to learn new things. When a classmate starts to pick on her, Jordan chooses to respond with kindness. Without realizing it, Jordan cultivates all sorts of skills and virtues.
And in the end, when a terrifying tornado heads straight for the school, Jordan has already practiced taking charge and stepping up. All of the skills she's learned throughout the book come into play. She uses those skills and ingenuity and ends up saving her classmates.
The ending may be a bit far-fetched, but the message is true: ordinary kids can think about their world and solve problems without waiting for an adult to tell them exactly what to do.
I believe that books like these can inspire our children to live intentionally (under the protection and day-to-day guidance of their parents, of course). Such stories provide models of ordinary, imperfect children who take responsibility for their actions and choose how to live.
That's why I include books in Sonlight Cores programs where kids think, plan and solve problems. Consider My Father's Dragon, Sticks Across the Chimney, Rickshaw Girl, Understood Betsy, Caddie Woodlawn and so many other Sonlight books. They feature strong kids who don't just sit back and let life happen to them.
May these stories inspire our children to do great things!
PS- Can you think of other favorite books (Sonlight or not) that inspire children to be proactive in life? Let me know!