The first time* I tried to show my oldest son the movie <i>The Secret of Kells</i>, he was Not Interested. They looked too weird and cartoony (which he Does Not Like**) and, more importantly, I don’t think he understood anything about what was going on.

This week I taught art for my son’s class, and chose a project about illuminated manuscripts. I showed the class images of letters and pages from illuminated ‘scripts, in particular from the Book of Kells. I talked about how, before the printing press was invented, people had to write books <i>by hand</i>, and because it takes so long (some of the kids guessed a month or two) they only made books that they felt were <i>very important</i> — important enough to decorate beautifully like this.

I zoomed into the pictures to show them the complex knots and intricate details, the animals hidden here and there. I pointed out the gold leaf and the many different ways the letters were decorated.

The kids were very quiet and attentive the whole time. When I started them on their project (Pick your favorite number or letter, draw it full size on your paper, and decorate it to make your own “illuminated” letter) they set to, and worked (mostly) quietly for a full hour. I counted it successful.

When my son came home that day, I showed him <i>The Secret of Kells</i>. He was <i>riveted.</i> This time, he knew what the Book of Kells <i>was</i> — at least a little.

It reinforced to me how important knowledge is to understanding.

* Probably a year ago.

** Hence his reaction to a LOT of cartoons kids normally enjoy, like Spongebob. Though his love of Phineas and Ferb seems to go completely against this rule…