Every child ought to know the pleasure of words so well chosen that they awaken sensibility, great emotions and understanding of truth. This is the magic of words- a touch of the supernatural, communication that minister to the spirit, a true gift.
Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart
Summer is almost here. The season for gardening, outdoor activities, and (my personal favorite) time to read just for the sheer pleasure of it. As you head off to the library or book store, remember to choose literature which feeds the mind and heart of each family member. One of my favorite Charlotte Mason quotes reads, “We owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” Not all available reading material is created equal. Much is inspirational, educational, and worthy of emulation; some is depressing, dark and without morals or direction. Some uses the intricacies of the English language will skill and precision; some caters to a desire to read quickly, think minimally, and finish hurriedly. Don’t give in to desire to feed on junk food for the mind!
Mom, be aware of those books that introduce twaddle to you and your family. Twaddle encourages the habits of limited attention to reading, small vocabulary development and a need for short sentence structure; these habits will be very difficult to supplant and precious learning time can be lost. (Not sure what twaddle is? If the language talks down to your children, feels more like mental drivel than food for the soul, or is just dull, it is most likely twaddle.) My eldest became hooked on twaddle as a child. She read voraciously, and I thought she was fine as long as she was reading. WRONG! Weaning her off twaddle as a tween, and introducing better choices was painful! She got there, but the transition was so hard. Now she watches her own children like a hawk!
Allowing questionable content in the name of a child’s freedom of choice can come back to haunt you later. As parents, we have the opportunity to teach and protect. Sometimes that means we are the bad guy. Look for those books which encourage belief in a higher law, individualism, logical thinking, hard work, optimism; loyalty to family, God and country; respect for life. Books that contain relativism, negativity, false principles, or focus on dark topics are generally to be avoided.
It is also good to keep in mind no book is loved by everyone. There is no magic list of MUST reads, simply lists of good places to begin. If you are reading something as a family and no one is enjoying it, put it away. The timing may be wrong or it may simply be a book in which your family is not going to take pleasure. That’s alright. There is more wonderful literature in this world than any of us could read in our lifetime. Move on; try something else.
This summer read something you always meant to get around to reading. Or read a favorite piece again and joy in the pleasure of familiar language and images. Introduce your children to those “friends” you loved as a child. Go find some new ones. See you at the library!