Off the Pulpit: The right to be enchanted


A sharp statement that I believe was made by the children’s writer Joan Aiken: “Anyone who does not read to their children doesn’t deserve to have them.”

She may be overstating the point, but not by much. One of the most beautiful and binding experience one can have with a child is to read to her or to him, especially at bedtime. It is a sacred moment, without phones or screens, just the sound of a voice telling a story.

Bedtime stories, like bedtime prayers, spur the soul. They enrich the child’s imagination and remind them not only of the lives others have lived, but of newly imagined possibilities for their own lives. Lodged deep inside of us, throughout the years the stories we heard return as encouragement and renewal.

Author Philip Pullman said, “Thou shalt not’ might reach the head but it takes ‘Once upon a time’ to reach the heart.” Each child should hear those magic words and to be carried off into the realm of stories. Fairy tales and fantasies, heroism and daring – these are the very stuff of enchantment. And every child has a right to be enchanted.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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