In the late seventies, early eighties, I was teaching Language Arts to sixth graders in an elementary school. It was here that I first encountered The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. The end of the school year was looming, and the endless hours filling in and averaging grades for each student’s permanent record lay ahead. This all had to be done at school, for teachers were not allowed to take such documents home. Patty, the teacher next door, a friend from AAUW, and who had taught with My Better Half at the high school, was trying to make the excessive, hand-done paperwork required at the elementary level a bit easier. She suggested that we record on her personal Beta-max (google it!) C.S. Lewis’ classic which would be on public television(PBS) the following Sunday, then show it to our two classes together while one of us watched the two classes, and the other could retire to the library to work on permanent folders in peace and quiet. It was a good plan, and it worked well.
What astonished me was the kids’ reaction to the story. After the two-hour presentation, I took my class back to my room and held an impromptu discussion of the story they’d seen. I had caught the symbolism and allegory presented in the classic tale, but did not expect eleven and twelve year-olds to do so. “What is this story about?” I asked. “Easter!” two of the students shouted. What followed was a sixth-grade explanation of allegory, symbol, and What makes a “classic”, a “classic”? I enjoyed the film so much that I read it and then completed the six volumes that followed in the series.
Imagine my surprise when after seven years of sixth grade language arts, and enrolling in graduate school, I discovered C.S. Lewis as a renowned literature critic, and as I read his remarks on books I was using in my papers, I also began to read more and more about him, his friendship with Tolkien and their elite circle of literary friends at Oxford.
I began teaching a Sunday School class about the time I started graduate school, and in researching my lessons, ran into Lewis again as a religious writer. My couples class, which was labeled “seventy to heaven” as its age group, loved hearing readings from The Screwtape Letters and especially some of the more serious essays, and we had some delightful discussions prompted by them.
One last encounter with Lewis came when I found a copy of his biography, The Narnian by Alan Jacob at Half Price Books (in hardback). It was an insightful read and a thorough biography, which also included a discussion of his best known series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
This essay fulfills my attempt to participate in the August Children’s Book Marathon, hosted by Jay, at “This Is My Truth Now.” Check out his delightful blog and enjoy his fine novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure. Both are reviewed on PWR. Just type in the title and read how much I enjoyed reading them.