Read any good books lately? I have. Quite a few, in fact. It all started when I signed up for a graduate class called Motivating Students to Read (for the purposes of maintaining my certification as a teacher in my home state). The two texts for the course, The Book Whisperer and Readicide were actually very enlightening. I say "actually" because I am a homeschooler and the course is, of course, geared towards the public school teacher so I wan't expecting much I could apply to our situation. Instead, to my astonishment, I discovered that there are members of the public school community now who are decrying the common tendency to "teach to the test"
(for the sake of the dreaded standardized tests they push so hard everywhere these days). These two enlightened authors spent their entire books insisting that students would be better readers and better students (and thus get better scores on those "necessary" tests) if teachers would just let them read in class more.
Stop. Wait. Did you hear what I said? They are saying we need to let students (in the public schools) read more and they will be better students. I am trying to decide whether to jump with joy, weep with sadness (that they are just getting this), or laugh hysterically that they think this is a new idea (please do not think that I did not respect these authors...I liked their books very much). We are homeschoolers. Reading is WHAT WE DO. Oh, please don't take that wrong. I don't mean anything bad by it. But it really does seem so sad that those poor kids in the public/private schools have been plodding along all these years deprived of one of the main things that would make them better learners, and maybe even encourage them to really enjoy learning. It makes me think, I am so blessed we are able to homeschool.
If you don't homeschool (or if you do and do not push reading books as a main part of your curriculum), I hope you will take the emerging advice of the new experts to heart and really push reading at home. It is soooo important. Research shows that children from print-rich environments (that means those surrounded by books, newspapers, magazines, and parents who read) are an average of three grade levels above those who do not have regular exposure to books.
If your home lacks in books, there are many ways to increase your personal library without spending a fortune. You can hit the yard sales this summer. Often books will be as cheap as ten cents apiece at those. Then there are library sales, or the "Friends of the Library" shelves. There are used bookstores, thrift stores, homeschool consignment stores, online swap boards, Amazon used books, and e-bay. Even if you don't have room in a small apartment for more than one bookshelf, or a collection of book baskets in every room, if the books are the "right" ones, that's enough. You can supplement your collection, large or small, by borrowing from your local or church library or by hanging out at a local bookstore. Of course, you can't just collect books (though that is a lot of fun). You have to read them, too.
But how do you know what books to check out or purchase? There is so much out there these days, that unless you grew up reading really good books yourself, it can be very daunting to decide what you want to let your sweet little ones (and your adorable older ones!) read. After all, the Bible says, "for out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” Luke 6:45.
In other words, what you put in is what will come out. I know I am very picky about what comes out of my children's mouths, so I need to be equally picky about what goes into their minds and hearts. I have a pretty wide background of reading books, so when my older kids were younger, it was fairly easy for me to regulate what we read. However, it still surprised me from time to time that some books I considered children's classics and remembered loving as a child, seemed a bit, well, snotty to me now, looking at them from the eyes of a conservative adult. As my kids got older, I started reading every book before they read it, and believe me, that practice gets more difficult the more kids you have, and the faster they read. It gets hard to keep up!
So what is a solution that allows you to be discerning, and still make sure that the books you are sharing with your children are fit for their eyes and hearts? One solution I have found is to locate a trusted source who has already evaluated books based on criteria very similar to your own, and see what books they recommend. One good source of book lists for ages 0 and up (in other words, everyone!) is Sarah Clarkson's new book Read for the Heart, published by Apologia Ministries.
I love, love, love this book! Sarah has written four charming and informative introductory chapters relating to the reader her development as a reader (she is the daughter of respected homeschooling authors Clay and Sally Clarkson of WholeHearted Ministries, authors of my all-time favorite book about home education: Educating the WholeHearted Child), literacy in America, developing a book-friendly home, and how to use the book to its best advantage.
Subsequent chapters divide books into groupings by genre or book type (from picture books to fairy tales to biographies to music, art, and nature, to spiritual readings for children, and more.) In fact, you can preview the Table of Contents HERE. You can even preview Chapter Six on the Golden Age Classics HERE. You are going to LOVE it. Sarah includes a whopping six appendices of book lists you will want to check out, as well. This 384 page softcover book is well worth the $17 investment. You will find yourself referring to it throughout the year, over and over, through all of the stages of your children's lives.
My favorite part about this book is that it is not merely a book of lists of books the author likes. You can find dozens of "Must Read Books" lists free on the Internet with very little effort. But that is all they are. Lists. This book tells the story of each book and the reasons Sarah believes these books are good and worthy reads for your child. She also includes a few cautions for books that are good reads, but maybe not suitable for the youngest of your children, and she tells you exactly why this is so. I admire and appreciate that quality.
So, before you plan your curriculum next year, plan to add some living books to your schedule, books with substance that are timeless and uplifting, bearing a worthy message that your children will carry in their hearts into adulthood. Remember that "Pleasant words are a honeycomb; sweet to the soul and healing to the bones..." Proverbs 16:24, and offer your children books filled with the very best, the sweetest, and the most pure words. Words that will challenge and build them up, words of character and integrity. These are the qualities of the books Sarah Clarkson shares with you. Books from the heart of a young lady who read and appreciated these books not so long ago...in a home wholly devoted to Christ, with body, heart, mind, and spirit...and good books.
You can see what others on the Crew thought of this book HERE.
You may purchase this wonderful book (a book I am thrilled to add to my bookshelf!) HERE.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson for the purposes of writing this review. No other compensation was received. The opinions you see here are based on my experiences with the book, and are honest reflections of my impression of it. If you have further questions about anything I said about this book, you may feel free to contact me.