Student reading "Johnny Tremain"“What was the worst thing that happened at school today?” Jen’s question revealed her fear that she had sacrificed too much to have her daughter enrolled in a start-up school, with a start-up staff, and a brand-new principal. Without hesitation nine-year-old Erin responded with fervor, “Johnny hit Celia!” Caught off guard for a moment, Jen paused and then smiled. Erin was right. This type of behavior between friends is unacceptable, and Erin should have been shocked by it.

So why the smile? The mother recognized Johnny and Celia as characters in Esther Forbes’s 1944 Newberry Award winning book, Johnny Tremain. In gripping prose, Forbes vividly portrays true friendship to 4th graders in the 21st century. Real-life, lunchroom drama pales in comparison to the power of a story to grip a student’s heart. The literature that fills the curriculum of Erin’s classical school is not chosen because of its entertainment value, or as a clever way to teach history, though it does both delightfully. These time-tested stories train student’s imagination in virtue. Erin was learning to recognize brokenness and to long for the beautiful and the good.

Mom relaxed. The rewards were worth the risk.

*This is a true story shared by an LCA family. The names have been changed.