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Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children

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What is imagination, and why is it vital to childhood education? What role do great books play in shaping a child's perception of self, life, and even God? In "Caught Up in a Story," Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent's best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is tr What is imagination, and why is it vital to childhood education? What role do great books play in shaping a child's perception of self, life, and even God? In "Caught Up in a Story," Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent's best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is true. Drawing on her own storyformed childhood and her long study of children's literature, Sarah Clarkson explores and celebrates the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.


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What is imagination, and why is it vital to childhood education? What role do great books play in shaping a child's perception of self, life, and even God? In "Caught Up in a Story," Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent's best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is tr What is imagination, and why is it vital to childhood education? What role do great books play in shaping a child's perception of self, life, and even God? In "Caught Up in a Story," Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent's best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is true. Drawing on her own storyformed childhood and her long study of children's literature, Sarah Clarkson explores and celebrates the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.

30 review for Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    I was incredibly touched by this book. It filled me in a way I didn't even realize I was thirsty for until I read it. Although its ostensible purpose is to advocate for a "storyformed" childhood (and it does a fine job of that), this book is so much more. It is a "reader's memoir," full of stories about meaningful books the author grew up with. It plunged me back into my own childhood and made me remember stories I hadn't even realized had shaped me so profoundly. Even more than a walk down memo I was incredibly touched by this book. It filled me in a way I didn't even realize I was thirsty for until I read it. Although its ostensible purpose is to advocate for a "storyformed" childhood (and it does a fine job of that), this book is so much more. It is a "reader's memoir," full of stories about meaningful books the author grew up with. It plunged me back into my own childhood and made me remember stories I hadn't even realized had shaped me so profoundly. Even more than a walk down memory lane, though, it was an incredible validation to me, as an author, about why I do what I do. It speaks to the Christian walk powerfully and with much encouragement. It's a quiet, unobstrusive book. But epochal for all that. Honestly, I think it just changed my life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    When I was a child I cried my eyes dry when The Little Match Girl struck her last match to keep warm and found her grandmother. When The Little Mermaid turned into foam on the waves of the sea, I was moved to deep pity. It was so important to me that The Velveteen Rabbit not be burned with the garbage that even to this day I sleep with the rag doll my mama made me when I was two months old, just to be sure that she stays "real." I once stunned my mother by eagerly eating my green beans at dinner When I was a child I cried my eyes dry when The Little Match Girl struck her last match to keep warm and found her grandmother. When The Little Mermaid turned into foam on the waves of the sea, I was moved to deep pity. It was so important to me that The Velveteen Rabbit not be burned with the garbage that even to this day I sleep with the rag doll my mama made me when I was two months old, just to be sure that she stays "real." I once stunned my mother by eagerly eating my green beans at dinner. . .a side dish I normally loathed, despised and abominated. . .and all because I had just finished The Long Winter. Reading the right stories as a child made me want to be a good, kind, grateful, obedient-- and maybe just a little bit magical--little girl. As a mother (and now as Marmee) I have wanted to put the right kind of stories in my children's imaginations so that they will aspire to noble things and have a vibrant life of the mind. I strongly believe (and my observations have affirmed) that putting the WRONG kinds of stories into our children's hands makes them more base in their expectation, crude in their demeanor and limited in their interpersonal interactions. Caught Up in a Story is a short, but potent, rallying call to the heart of parents regarding how and why to invest the time to purposefully craft a child's worldview through great literature.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Bryant

    Having grown up “storyformed,” I knew reading was powerful … but I didn’t fully realize how powerful until I read Caught Up in a Story. “Storyformed” is a word Ms. Clarkson appears to have coined (it’s the name of her website, too) that means that a person’s understanding of life has been formed by the great stories they have read. Fiction (and narrative biography), because it immerses you in another life, another world, can teach and transform you like no nonfiction and reference books can. Rea Having grown up “storyformed,” I knew reading was powerful … but I didn’t fully realize how powerful until I read Caught Up in a Story. “Storyformed” is a word Ms. Clarkson appears to have coined (it’s the name of her website, too) that means that a person’s understanding of life has been formed by the great stories they have read. Fiction (and narrative biography), because it immerses you in another life, another world, can teach and transform you like no nonfiction and reference books can. Reading great books grows your spiritual life, interests you in new pursuits, enriches your vocabulary (and by extension your understanding of the world), teaches you how to live life heroically, and gives you hope for the ultimate Happy Ending. Instead of distracting you from life, reading story is essential to keeping you focused on God’s ideal for life. I could go on and on about the benefits of story, which Ms. Clarkson outlines so poetically in her book. But I should delve into the other facets. I loved the way she organized it: associating a point in the classic “dramatic arc” (exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action, denouement), to a particular stage of childhood development, and then explaining the association and capping off each with ten appropriate books. Because she is so well read, I’ve added most of the books I have not yet read to my to-read list. She advocates fantasy (at least fantasy based on Christian values, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings) because it helps children grasp the epic nature of life. I personally thinks she makes a good point about it (though I’ll never feel comfortable reading or recommending Harry Potter, which she mentions), but if you’re not okay with fantasy, bear this in mind. You will probably still get a lot out of the parts that just talk about general fiction and classics. Her writing is elegant and welcoming, and she illustrates her reasoning with personal anecdotes. The book is addressed to parents, since they are charged with shaping their children’s moral worldview, but anyone who values reading will find an exciting treasury of insights.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A couple of days ago I read Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children by Sarah Clarkson. It's very short, but would make a good gift for young parents. For decades one of my go-to baby shower gifts has been a selection of picture books and one or two classic books for older children (e.g., The Wizard of Oz, The Box Car Children, The Secret Garden, etc.) and - when I remember it - a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Sarah Clar A couple of days ago I read Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children by Sarah Clarkson. It's very short, but would make a good gift for young parents. For decades one of my go-to baby shower gifts has been a selection of picture books and one or two classic books for older children (e.g., The Wizard of Oz, The Box Car Children, The Secret Garden, etc.) and - when I remember it - a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Sarah Clarkson's book would be another one I would include in that mix. If you are older, like me, you may be familiar with Annis Duff's lovely books on books and reading aloud: "Bequest of Wings" and "Longer Flight." This book pales in comparison to those, but as they are out of print and this is new (and well-written), it's a satisfactory substitute.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a fantastic easy and extremely profitable read. I'm very glad that I read it. I personally found the author's writing style very articulate, comprehensible and sometimes amusing. It was a very informative and easy read. The message of the book was clear and her reasoning was sound. I will be reading more by Sarah Clarkson in the future. This was a fantastic easy and extremely profitable read. I'm very glad that I read it. I personally found the author's writing style very articulate, comprehensible and sometimes amusing. It was a very informative and easy read. The message of the book was clear and her reasoning was sound. I will be reading more by Sarah Clarkson in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I enjoyed reading the perspective of a homeschool graduate, telling tales of how her life was formed by stories. Overall the book was very encouraging--with excellent book recommendations strewn throughout. There were two slight and minor drawbacks, however--although no fault of the author's. For one, the book is (of course) heavily swayed toward the feminine experience of growing up "storyformed." It left me yearning for Sarah's brother to pen a similar account. As a mother of all sons, I would I enjoyed reading the perspective of a homeschool graduate, telling tales of how her life was formed by stories. Overall the book was very encouraging--with excellent book recommendations strewn throughout. There were two slight and minor drawbacks, however--although no fault of the author's. For one, the book is (of course) heavily swayed toward the feminine experience of growing up "storyformed." It left me yearning for Sarah's brother to pen a similar account. As a mother of all sons, I would love to hear the inner workings of a boyhood shaped by stories. The book does touch on her storyformed adventures alongside her brothers while growing up--but missing the first-person insight from a boy's mind and heart. Nevertheless, this book still was a great motivational push for me...a push to keep reading aloud to my boys...knowing that by doing so I am shaping their very foundations. The book's overarching theme to read, read, read quality literature to children is applicable to young/old and both genders. The second drawback is the author's age--Sarah Clarkson is a college student. There is a subtle hint of naivety woven throughout the book....as she has never been a parent herself but has, in essence, directed her book as a manual to: parents. The book is broken up into the different phases of childhood development, giving suggestions to parents on how to use literature to assist the child's formative stages. I appreciated this concise organization and found it insightful on many levels. However, it's one thing to have lived as a storyformed child, but quite another task to teach parents how-it-is-done.... without ever having....done it. It lacked the tried-and-true "here's how I transferred my storyformed methodology in real life, to real children." Instead she paves a path for us based on her own memories of what her parents did for her--and memories are often rosy and lacking the bumps and grit. I would much more have loved her book to simply be an autobiography--because her story is truly inspiring. I loved her philosophy and the insight into her childhood shaped by books, but I struggled to connect with her as a parent in the trenches. Overall this book was well worth the read, and most of my copy is highlighted. I plan to reference this book often for book recommendations in the various childhood stages.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This book paints a beautiful picture of raising children who are "story-formed," which means giving them a solid foundation in truth, beauty, and goodness through story so that they are inspired to hope, to persevere through hardship, and to lead heroic lives. This book blew up my "want to read" list, both for myself and with my children, and offers such a beautiful and practical way of equipping our children to face the inevitable hardships of this world. Not exactly a "parenting book," but a w This book paints a beautiful picture of raising children who are "story-formed," which means giving them a solid foundation in truth, beauty, and goodness through story so that they are inspired to hope, to persevere through hardship, and to lead heroic lives. This book blew up my "want to read" list, both for myself and with my children, and offers such a beautiful and practical way of equipping our children to face the inevitable hardships of this world. Not exactly a "parenting book," but a wonderful parenting resource nonetheless.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Sarah Clarkson has written a book that sums up my educational philosophy on reading and on life: the storyformed soul...that this life is an epic tale created by the Greatest Storyteller and "each of us has but one tale to live as valiantly" or as vile as we can. There are "soul forming, self-shaping" influences in the stories we read. Favorite quote: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." Chesterton (62) Sarah Clarkson has written a book that sums up my educational philosophy on reading and on life: the storyformed soul...that this life is an epic tale created by the Greatest Storyteller and "each of us has but one tale to live as valiantly" or as vile as we can. There are "soul forming, self-shaping" influences in the stories we read. Favorite quote: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." Chesterton (62)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bambi Moore

    If you need reaffirmation of the value of reading to your children and providing them with the best literature to read for themselves, this is your book! Some will remember the book Honey for a Child’s Heart and this book at times reminded me of it. Great insights on the role, value and spiritual need of imagination that is shaped by good books. I also think that many young adult ladies (and their parents) would also benefit from Sarah’s reflections, scattered here and there, on the temptations If you need reaffirmation of the value of reading to your children and providing them with the best literature to read for themselves, this is your book! Some will remember the book Honey for a Child’s Heart and this book at times reminded me of it. Great insights on the role, value and spiritual need of imagination that is shaped by good books. I also think that many young adult ladies (and their parents) would also benefit from Sarah’s reflections, scattered here and there, on the temptations and doubts of the teen and young adult years.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    Clarkson shares her enthusiasm for the wonderful books that formed her as a child and makes many suggestions for reading. The only reason I didn't give it more stars is because I dislike books that seem to say, "Just read this or do this and your kids will turn out amazing." It's not that simple. Clarkson shares her enthusiasm for the wonderful books that formed her as a child and makes many suggestions for reading. The only reason I didn't give it more stars is because I dislike books that seem to say, "Just read this or do this and your kids will turn out amazing." It's not that simple.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book is so rich. It is abundant in encouragement and filled with Truth. It deserves a slow, quiet read that I did not give it, but hope to in the future. It has warmed me and validated things I understood in the periphery of my mind but did not have the words to express. Thanks, Sarah.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    This is probably one of the most important and encouraging books I've read in a few years. It expounded and clarified the vague sense I've carried since childhood that reading and stories were important and part of my identity. We can truly be changed by what we read, so what we choose to read ourselves and to our children holds eternal weight. Less This is probably one of the most important and encouraging books I've read in a few years. It expounded and clarified the vague sense I've carried since childhood that reading and stories were important and part of my identity. We can truly be changed by what we read, so what we choose to read ourselves and to our children holds eternal weight. Less

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Absolutely breathtaking read. This author is so wise and I'm sold on anything she writes. I have always been a fan of story and reading to my children...but this took it to a whole new level. Clarkson really understands how story and really good books affect children. Her book suggestions are amazing and I'm just completely sold in this amazing author. Absolutely breathtaking read. This author is so wise and I'm sold on anything she writes. I have always been a fan of story and reading to my children...but this took it to a whole new level. Clarkson really understands how story and really good books affect children. Her book suggestions are amazing and I'm just completely sold in this amazing author.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shiloah

    Sarah is an excellent writer. I enjoyed her stories of healing through books. She filled up my Amazon cart, though I have read many she recommended as well. I especially appreciated her well-thought out argument for the Harry Potter books for Christian families.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    I can think of no higher compliment than to say that Ms. Clarkson's prose reminds me of C.S. Lewis's writing, but more female, in a very good way. I can think of no higher compliment than to say that Ms. Clarkson's prose reminds me of C.S. Lewis's writing, but more female, in a very good way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    An argument for story-formed living living that shapes our family life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carla Freeman

    "How will you respond to a broken world? Will you take every bit of goodness and love you have ever known and use it to fight the darkness and win your way back to light? Or will you give in; will you let the darkness turn you into a villain? Hero or villain. Courage or fear. Hope or despair. The first crisis of struggle in a child's life are a series of small climax points on which their stories turn. Those are moments in which the direction of their story is formed. In the midst of those crisi "How will you respond to a broken world? Will you take every bit of goodness and love you have ever known and use it to fight the darkness and win your way back to light? Or will you give in; will you let the darkness turn you into a villain? Hero or villain. Courage or fear. Hope or despair. The first crisis of struggle in a child's life are a series of small climax points on which their stories turn. Those are moments in which the direction of their story is formed. In the midst of those crisis times, when loneliness or fear are a heavy fog blotting out hope, great stories come as a mighty wind blowing grace and courage into a child's heart. The hero tales, the epic myths, the tales of quests and dragons, knights and journeys can enter the pain and confusion of a child's mind with a healing clarity. As Chesteron said, "fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." I love Sarah Clarkson and her book. It is a quick read with a valuable, manageable reading list for various stages of childhood and young adulthood (I found new ones to read, too). She has given us a treasure of a book with an extremely articulate and beautifully written defense of the spiritual value of great stories for our kids and our own souls. A great companion to Honey for a Child's Heart and other such books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Inspiring book. Unique point of view. I already love reading aloud to my kids and discussing books but this got me excited about how I might be forming my children's worldview and faith even more. Quotes: "How will you respond to a broken world? Will you take every bit of goodness and love you have ever known and use it to fight the darkness and win your way back to light? Or will you give in; will you let the darkness turn you into a villain? Hero or villain. Courage or fear. Hope or despair. Th Inspiring book. Unique point of view. I already love reading aloud to my kids and discussing books but this got me excited about how I might be forming my children's worldview and faith even more. Quotes: "How will you respond to a broken world? Will you take every bit of goodness and love you have ever known and use it to fight the darkness and win your way back to light? Or will you give in; will you let the darkness turn you into a villain? Hero or villain. Courage or fear. Hope or despair. The first crises of struggle in a child's life are a series of small climax points on which their stories turn. Those are the moments in which the direction of their story is formed. In the midst of those crisis times, when loneliness or fear are a heavy fog blotting out hope, great stories come as a mighty wind blowing grace and courage into a child's heart." "To be truly faithful isn't merely to endure; it is also to create. The kind of faithfulness that Stella and my other heroines possessed was the kind that comes with the choice to fix our eyes on the beauty promised and already present in Christ, and to let that drive our actions rather than despair...Faithfulness to live in such fidelity to our hope that what we hope becomes visible, enfleshed in the words and actions with which we meet the darkness."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I'm in the minority here, but I did not love this book. I love reading to my kids and having a family culture in which books play a main role, but I found this book a slog to get through. It either felt like she was telling me things I already knew, or she was engaging is lengthy (and charming) descriptions of her literary-rich childhood (I actually enjoyed her moments of nostalgia, but I didn't really learn much from them except that I wish we lived in the forest and my kids were older so we co I'm in the minority here, but I did not love this book. I love reading to my kids and having a family culture in which books play a main role, but I found this book a slog to get through. It either felt like she was telling me things I already knew, or she was engaging is lengthy (and charming) descriptions of her literary-rich childhood (I actually enjoyed her moments of nostalgia, but I didn't really learn much from them except that I wish we lived in the forest and my kids were older so we could read more). The book is fine, I just didn't love it, personally. I can see how others might, though. I did appreciate some of her book recommendations (though they're pretty standard). The book pairs nicely with a website I've been browsing called the Read-Aloud Revival, that also has book recommendation lists for children of various ages, with an emphasis on books that are great for reading aloud.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Dorminy

    I’ve been listening and reading various things from Sarah about the storyformed concept, so while a lot of the information was repetitive from reading it a second time, it was refreshing to have everything in one book. While I believe her biblical worldview is lacking (weak on God’s sovereignty) and she seems to shy away from distinctly Christian terms (heroic vs faithful/obedient), her argument of our narratives being a part of the greater narrative of God is spot on. She explains the concept o I’ve been listening and reading various things from Sarah about the storyformed concept, so while a lot of the information was repetitive from reading it a second time, it was refreshing to have everything in one book. While I believe her biblical worldview is lacking (weak on God’s sovereignty) and she seems to shy away from distinctly Christian terms (heroic vs faithful/obedient), her argument of our narratives being a part of the greater narrative of God is spot on. She explains the concept of “holy imagination” in a beautiful way. I greatly appreciated her information on Lewis and Tolkien. I believe she may have convinced me to read TLTR Trilogy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Renée Parks

    This book is beautifully written and inspiring. We are very much a bookish family and books/reading out loud is a huge part of our family culture. It brings such joy to our daily life! Even though we are well established book lovers I’ve still gotten a lot out this thought-provoking work. There is also some excellent book recommendations peppered throughout it and it inspires me to continue my goal of giving my children a story formed childhood! I also intend to purchase extra copies to give as This book is beautifully written and inspiring. We are very much a bookish family and books/reading out loud is a huge part of our family culture. It brings such joy to our daily life! Even though we are well established book lovers I’ve still gotten a lot out this thought-provoking work. There is also some excellent book recommendations peppered throughout it and it inspires me to continue my goal of giving my children a story formed childhood! I also intend to purchase extra copies to give as gifts as I think every parent could benefit from this book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anjanette Barr

    I really, really enjoyed this slim book. It's a bit dense in places, but I marked a dozen quotes to copy to my commonplace book, and half a dozen books to add to my read-aloud queue. There were many more books recommended within, but this is nowhere close to the first book I've read on the subject, and I'm a bit fanatic about book lists. Six new books to add is pretty great. I was also happy to see many of my favorites on her lists, and I'm happy to recommend this to fellow parents. I really, really enjoyed this slim book. It's a bit dense in places, but I marked a dozen quotes to copy to my commonplace book, and half a dozen books to add to my read-aloud queue. There were many more books recommended within, but this is nowhere close to the first book I've read on the subject, and I'm a bit fanatic about book lists. Six new books to add is pretty great. I was also happy to see many of my favorites on her lists, and I'm happy to recommend this to fellow parents.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I enjoyed this book a lot. It mirrored my own childhood, full of books and imagination. The case made for fantasy here is weak and does not address the biblical bases that is the foundation for many people of their trepidation. I doubt this book will make anyone change their mind. However, for most of the book, I wholeheartedly agreed with Clarkson's analysis on the power of books in shaping our lives. I enjoyed this book a lot. It mirrored my own childhood, full of books and imagination. The case made for fantasy here is weak and does not address the biblical bases that is the foundation for many people of their trepidation. I doubt this book will make anyone change their mind. However, for most of the book, I wholeheartedly agreed with Clarkson's analysis on the power of books in shaping our lives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    This book was enjoyable. Sarah Clarkson's writing style is very gripping. While I don't agree with everything she said, I did enjoy how she was endeavoring to point out ways in which stories are to be written and read to the glory of God. I definitely enjoyed reading about the various book recommendations that she listed. 3.0-3.5 stars This book was enjoyable. Sarah Clarkson's writing style is very gripping. While I don't agree with everything she said, I did enjoy how she was endeavoring to point out ways in which stories are to be written and read to the glory of God. I definitely enjoyed reading about the various book recommendations that she listed. 3.0-3.5 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Much of this information I already knew, but this didn't surprise me due to my background. I would recommend this to parents whose own history did not include a story formed childhood. She includes great book recommendations in each chapter as well. Much of this information I already knew, but this didn't surprise me due to my background. I would recommend this to parents whose own history did not include a story formed childhood. She includes great book recommendations in each chapter as well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Everything you’d want to know about the benefits of reading to children and encouraging children to read good books on their own. I did not read this straight through, but it will definitely be a book I’ll return to over and over. Good for parents and teachers and bibliophiles.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    I didn't think this was going to be a 5 star book, but Sarah wooed me with her words and images. I want to read every book she mentioned and I want to reread it all over again. I didn't think this was going to be a 5 star book, but Sarah wooed me with her words and images. I want to read every book she mentioned and I want to reread it all over again.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I love the beginning of this book, but the last few chapters left me feeling flat.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Pfeiffenberger Reinholz

    This book was so inspiring. We read a lot at our house but this has sparked something in me to motivate me to read more and more intentionally with my kids and for myself.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristen clifton

    This book is FANTASTIC! Whether you were a book lover as a child or you want your children to be but don’t know where to start this is a great resource. So thankful I bought this one!

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