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A Good Story

Augustine School Blog

A Good Story

When I joined the faculty of Augustine School in 2006, I was completely on board with a school that affirms an education that helps shape and form wise and virtuous young men and women who are learning to submit all things to the universal lordship of Christ. However, I was an infant in my understanding of how to accomplish this. I knew that classical education engages children in stories. But during my first year of teaching, I was asked by a parent, “What guidelines do you use to decide what is a good story?”

I knew that classical education engages children in stories. But during my first year of teaching, I was asked by a parent, “What guidelines do you use to decide what is a good story?”

I stumbled through a response, referring to the classics I knew and loved at the time. I know that fables, fairy tales, and myths that have stood the test of time expose children to heroes, villains, and moral lessons. I know that when good stories are a part of my classroom environment, my students will learn about goodness, truth, and beauty. Looking back on it, I don’t think I gave this parent an incorrect answer, but honestly, before being asked this question by a parent, I had not given much thought to what makes a story good.

Interesting or Important

According to the American Press Institute, a good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. If this is true, no wonder young boys are attracted to a book series named “Captain Underpants” whose main characters relish in pulling pranks. Interesting and important? To me this is all the more reason to immerse our children in classrooms that introduce students to virtues and a love of truth, goodness, and beauty.

I love to read. I read a lot. I have my favorite books. Yet I often find myself editing as I read, thinking of ways I would have written the story differently. I often wonder why an author includes certain scenes, characters, and language. I only do this because somewhere in my thinking, the particular story I am reading is not good.

The Greatest Story

In order to define what makes a good story, we should not rely upon our own understanding, but rather go to the master Storyteller. God has authored a story for humanity, which is the story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. It is the perfect story with a glorious ending. Every great story will echo it: things were once good, something awful happens, a great battle must be fought, just at the right moment a hero comes to set things right, things are good again. (Eldredge, 2004)

God has authored a story for humanity, which is the story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. It is the perfect story with a glorious ending. Every great story will echo it: things were once good, something awful happens, a great battle must be fought, just at the right moment a hero comes to set things right, things are good again.

Good stories show us the light and the dark. Good stories remind us that evil is real, we are at war, we have a hero, and we have a crucial role to play in the battle. In good stories, there are good characters and evil characters, a good guy and a bad guy, and good triumphs over evil.

Our children need to know that evil is real. Modern literature and movies confuse goodness and badness. Have you ever noticed how dragons and monsters, typically symbols of evil, are now the loveable main characters of modern stories? It is in the stories of old where we find evil dragons, evil monsters, evil trolls, and other creatures that epitomize the things from which we so desperately need rescuing.

Make it Good

Children are like sponges, absorbing the world around them. They will absorb whatever content is around them. They will be entertained by whatever is available. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that just because something is available (or “lawful”) does not make it “helpful.”

Give children good content. Give them good stories with good characters. Give them beautiful language and beautiful words written by poets long ago that they think about and to ponder. Give them stories with evil dragons. Give them stories that allow them to cheer for a hero who is truly good. Expose them to authors who make goodness attractive.

Give children good content. Give them good stories with good characters. Give them beautiful language and beautiful words written by poets long ago that they think about and to ponder.

My second grade students are currently memorizing “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in preparation for our Christmas Recitation. I love the contrast between the cannon and the bells in the poem. Just when it appears that “the black accursed mouth” has won, the bells ring out more loud and deep, proclaiming, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”

The good wins!


1. Eldredge, John. (2004). Epic: The Story God is Telling. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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