Friday, March 28, 2008

And then there's story

The saga continues . . . tv is a source of story. Books are a source of story. For generations and generations older members of families and communities were primary sources of story.

After reading all those lists that are supposed to reflect the TV preferences of children in 3 countries (there's one for New Zealand, too, by the way). I googled Christian+kids+marketing. I don't know what I was expecting but I found lots of links to people in the Christian marketing business. I also found this article in USA Today. (December '07).

It's interesting because it briefly highlights some of the ways we wrestle over choosing Bible storybooks for kids and the different qualities that matter to different people. It reflects some of the changes in the way young parents are thinking. It also briefly mentions the perspective of children. It's interesting.

Grown-ups and older siblings generally control the TV. Parents and grandparents buy most of the books read to and by children. They are the people who read those books over and over and over ... so writers, publishers, and television producers market children's books to adults not just children.

If you're selling a story, you want kids to want to hear that story over and over and over. If it's a series, you want them to get attached to the character. You want them to keep coming back for more. The story has to mean something to a child personally. If it does, a child will carry it around in his/her heart getting up, going to bed, or walking along the way. . . even when they're 20, 40, 60, 80 years old. I don't think I'm taking that scripture too far out of context.

Watch and listen to your children when they're playing and pretending. Notice how those stories affect a child's choices and behavior even at a very young age. Notice the stories, characters, and situations that they keep playing with over and over again, the ones they not only remember but the ones they carry with them in their hearts, in their heads, in their imaginations. I heard a children's author once describe children's play as a way of editing story. You play it one way, you change something, you play it again always keeping the elements that matter most to you and the things that work - changing the things that don't work, trying to make them work, trying to make them better.

Stories we hear affect us - heart and mind. When the stories and characters in a story become our friends we carry them with us for a lifetime -TV stories, story books, family stories, Bible stories. There are stories that are good for us and stories that aren't. How do you decide?

Think about your own relationships with stories. Think about the people, the story characters, places, situations that you've carried with you over the years. God watches over His own word to accomplish all that He intends it to accomplish. I do believe that story started with God "in the beginning..." but I digress. Think about the stories from your childhood that had the greatest affect on you. Why do you think they left such an impression?

I think we have to carefully monitor the story diet of young children, less and less as children grow older and they've learned to choose and cultivated their own tastes and preferences. Even when children are small you can give them lots of practice choosing. Pick two books, two desserts, two TV shows, either or which is acceptable to you and let them choose without any prompting. Then respect the choice they make.

Think about your food preferences. How did your parent's preferences affect you? Apply that to your story preferences and the stories you grew up with. Which stories were the stories you loved? Which ones scared you? What relationships do you see?

Our personal and family preferences tell us something about ourselves as individuals, as part of a family, as part of a community. Polls and surveys are intended to tell us something about our larger culture. Consider that the stories that climb to the top of the polls are the stories most influencing our children, most influential in our culture.

It's not even the good or bad of it so much as what's the draw? What is it that's leaving it's mark? What is it that children are carrying around in their hearts? Oh yeah! What does it have to do with Jesus?

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