Admiral James Stockdale: “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Posted January 28, 2008

What does it mean to read with a child? How, as materialists, do we talk with our kids?


Lucretia picked up an adaptation of the first Narnia book, really the first chapter. It took about a half hour to read the following passage:

“Meanwhile,” said Mr. Tumnus, “it is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long. We shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Lucy, Daughter of Eve, from the fair city of War Drobe, in the far land of Spare Oom, will you come and have tea with me?”

Once Lucretia recognized the joke of Tumnus’s misunderstanding, she giggled and repeatedly read it, to anyone who would listen. She’s sounding things out regularly now, still easily frustrated. But finding the right book, in the zone of proximal development, and she is happy. I remember Ken Peterson saying that learners need a success rate of about 80%, and she reaches that with such important books as Go Dog Go and Dick and Jane.

We started talking about why Tumnus calls her Daughter of Eve. She didn’t know, although she’s heard the evangelist neighbors talking about Jesus. She asked what Eve is about.

I said, “Long ago, we didn’t really understand how people came to be in the world. It was a big mystery. And we still have lots of questions. We know now that we come from a special kind of ape.”

Lucretia: “We don’t have tails. But our hair is like our fur.” Rubbing her head.

Me: “Sure. Only monkeys have tails; all the apes, like chimpanzees and us, don’t have tails. We have found lots of bones of our ancestors, and the older the bones, the more they look like apes we see today. In fact, one of the earliest people we know about has been named Lucy!

“But people didn’t know about that a long time ago. And so all over the world, people made up stories about how the first people came into the world. One of my favorites is when Coyote was very, very hungry, so hungry that he ate a dead skunk he found. It smelled horrible, tasted awful. As soon as he ate it, his stomach was killing him. So he leaned against a cedar tree, and made a huge, nasty poop. Then Coyote walked away. The poop sat there in the sun, baking, getting hot and stinky. Until after awhile, it broke open, and the first people came out.”

Lucretia squealed, “Ewwww.”

Me: “So there’s so many stories about people coming into the world. Hundreds and thousands. And in one story, which is very famous, in the Bible, says that Eve is the name of the first woman who ever lived. So that’s why Tumnus calls Lucy ‘Daughter of Eve,’ — he knows that story.”

I love Lucretia.