This month’s read aloud, BRAVE IRENE, by William Steig gives us much to pause and ponder around the whole notion of what it means to be brave.

The dictionary definition tells us that brave means:

Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

Again and again, when I talk to children about the importance of reading good books, I tell them, that when we read good books or when someone reads a good book aloud to us, then we are feeding our hearts. The French word for heart is La Coeur – which means courage. Good stories are filled with beauty and truth and hope and joy and goodness – all that we need to make our hearts strong – all that we need to give us courage.

In the story of Brave Irene, our plucky little heroine finds the courage to face the danger of a fierce blizzard because of the love she feels for her beloved mother, Mrs. Bobbin – perfect illustration of how true love can help us conquer our fears. Many a parent can attest to times when he or she has summoned unknown reserves of strength out of love for his or her child – like the time my car engine “died” one dark night, in the middle of a country road in England, and I immediately grabbed my infant daughter, and braved the wind and rain and dark, to find refuge.

Growing up in Scotland, all of us were encouraged to learn many poems “by heart,” not just as an intellectual exercise, but also, as a spiritual exercise. When we learn a poem (or a song or a prayer) by heart, it becomes an integral part of us – it lodges deep, deep in our inner core. In troubled times and dark days, when we need to draw on an inner strength, we can pluck out those words, and make them our mantra – a way of finding strength to endure the danger or the pain.

A couple of my favorite mantras:

“All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Julian of Norwich.

“In the muck and scum of things, something always, always sings.” Emerson

Friends can make us feel brave too…




More Brave words –