Christianity and Children’s Lit: a Class Preview

Everywhere we go, we encounter stories. Television shows, movies and video games all tell stories. So do commercials, news clips, and the two people sitting one table over at the coffeshop while you are trying to work. Stories, of course, can also be found in books. Since stories permeate our lives, we need to understand what stories do and how they do it, if for no other reason that to be able to pay closer attention to exactly what is being done. Stories not only entertain us, but they shape our attitudes, hone our emotions, change our minds—and sometimes even change our lives.
Because stories play such important roles for each of us, this spring, Urbana Theological Seminary will be holding a class that will look at what stories do and how they do it. Since the stories we encounter in childhood are the ones that shape much about the way we view the world, the class will focus specifically on stories that are given to children, and why they matter. Called “Christianity and Children’s Literature,” this class will begin by focusing on story itself and what recent research show about how stories work to shape the way we think and feel, and will then move into an exploration of the different ways that Christianity has been involved in the history, interpretation, and creation of books for children.
This part of the class will begin by quickly reviewing the history of literature for young people, focusing on the role of Christianity in shaping the genre from its beginning. We will then discuss the many different ways that Christianity is at work in children’s books, developing skills to help parents, teachers and other adults who care about children make wise choices regarding their reading material. This class is also good for adults who simply enjoy reading, and would like to better understand the relationship between Christianity and this particular genre. While the majority of the books we read for class are aimed at children nine and older, the principles that we will be discussing are applicable to books for children of all ages, and will include several recommended reading lists. Books we will read in order to explore these topics include C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Patrica St. John’s Treasures of the Snow, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Scott O’Dell’s The Hawk that Dare not Hunt By Day, and several others! While this is a graduate level course, anyone is welcome to enroll as either a credit, audit student or endorsement student! The class is taught by Dr. Melody Green, Dean of Urbana Theological Seminary, whose PhD is in children’s literature, who has published several articles and given several presentations on topics related to this class, and who used to teach children’s lit at Illinois State University. For more information, contact her at mgreen@urbanaseminary.org.