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How to Choose a Good Book (02/22/2010) To Publications / Articles - How to Choose a Good Book (02/22/2010)

Posted 7/16/14
Laura Hazelip

All Children, regardless of their age, enjoy and prefer reading living books to any other kind of book. According to Charlotte Mason, living books are books that are written by someone in the field or someone who has a passion for the subject being written about. They are books written in a narrative, conversational style. These books draw you in to the book, making remembering the details and facts easy. These living books are well-written, fun and   engaging for the reader. They absorb and include the reader because the narrative and the characters “come alive.” When we, as parents, make reading a chore for our child, or give them books they dread to read, we are taking away not just the pleasure aspect, but the learning and remembering that makes the book worth reading and them want to read it.

“I don‘t care what they read as long as they are reading, “ is the mantra I have heard from many parents. But wouldn’t it be so much better to read great literature that sets a good example, with godly characteristics and morals? Reading well-written literature will inspire children to be good writers and good citizens. Good literature causes us to become better than we are, cautions us to the falls of bad character and regards the high morals we want to emulate. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) 

Just because a book is on a library shelf does not mean it is great literature, and the age old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover“ is all to true. Too many mediocre, poor quality, morally questionable books have been written and then marketed to children. We are the gatekeepers of their hearts and it is our responsibility to make sure they are reading books that will edify and cause them to think on moral issues. I am not saying never to read books that have less than stellar characters. But don’t let that be all they read and make sure you are talking about the themes and characteristics in the books with your children. Just like we wouldn’t let our children dine on junk food for the body we must make sure we do not let them dine on junk food for the mind. Twaddle is what Charlotte Mason called  "dumbed down" literature. It is serving your children intellectual junk food, rather than healthy, substantive mind- and soul-building foods. Charlotte Mason advocated avoiding twaddle and feasting children's hearts and minds on the best literary works available.

When well written books are read by children they are able to incorporate the new vocabulary that is learned, grammar and usage and the new sentence structure it into their own writings. These things becomes familiar and will become part of their own personality and writing style. Reading, spelling and writing just naturally flow from one to the other.

So how do you decide which children’s books are good and which ones are not? Try making a list of aspects that are important to you as a reader and parent. Remember to keep in mind things that turned you away from reading when you were younger. 

The following ideas can be used to help you find books to motivate your readers while guarding their hearts. 
  • Does the book cause the child to think?
  • Does the book appeal to your children?
  • Does the book have value and a purpose?
  • Does the book appeal to all ages in your home?
  • Does the book dumb down the subject matter?
  • Does the book have a meaningful theme?
  • Does the book have a good plot and believable characters?
  • Does the book emphasize a Biblical worldview or encourage the values you hold dear?
  • Does the book convey a truth or teach a moral lesson?
  • Does the book nourish the intellect?
  • Does the book inspire the imagination?
  • Does the book provide clear standards of right and wrong?
  • Does the text stand alone, regardless of illustrations?
  • Does the illustrations in the book add to or detract from the story?
  • Does the book demonstrate godly examples?
  • Does the author use language and dialogue that is suitable for the subject?
  • Does the author use language and dialogue that is suitable for the child’s maturity?
  • Does the book contribute to a child’s appreciation of beauty?
  • Does the book exemplify love, kindness, courage, or other characteristics and values your family deems worthy?

I hope this list helps you begin to think and pray about the literature you are bringing into you home and into your children’s hearts. Happy reading!