For thanksgiving we visited my parents. On our journey there and back we listened to Madeleine L'Engle read from her work, A Wrinkle In Time. The book was published in 1962 and is a magisterial work. (I am saddened to come so lately to such a wondrous work.)
L'Engle works from a primary premise that children are fully human, if not more than fully human. They are full of wonder and capable of greater wonder than boorish adults.
Her work might be sub-classified as science fiction, but it certainly fits in the metaphysical world. Her breadth of language could almost seem esoteric, except that she writes with a heart full of admiration, at least she reads so, for children. Words and concepts, like that of time travel through the condensing of Energy, Mass and Speed of Light to the fifth power are simply stunning.
While L'Engle has written a masterpiece, I am as much taken by her pre-supposition that is revealed by her content as by the content itself. She occupies rare territory in speaking to children on a fully engaged human and intellectual level. While not expecting children to know all the concepts she raises, she takes some time to do a bit of explaining, she anticipates that they are fully capable of embracing the words, grasping the concepts, and incarnating the story.
Similar to L'Engle is Kathy Stonehouse who serves as a professor of Christian Formation at Asbury Seminary. Her expertise is in the are of childhood faith formation. Her laboratory for many years has been the Wilmore Free Methodist Church. Kathy led and cultivated a children's ministry that honored children as fully human, and avoided labeling children as childish. As L'Engle anticipated her readers embracing her words and concepts, Kathy Stonehouse anticipated children having the capacity to fully embrace Jesus and the fullness of His lordship in a fully human way.
From these wise women and others, I continue to be encouraged never to speak down to children, but to speak them up. Deliver to children a heart filled with treasure and wonder and watch the Spirit create fruitful gardens.
C.S. Lewis said in his Abolition of Man that the teachers task wasn't to tear down old myths but to irrigate deserts.
L'Engle followed his advice and her work is magisterial.