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Choosing Books for Your Kids
One of our favourite places to go as a family has always been to the library.

When the girls were really small we lived in downtown Toronto and didn't own a car. And our apartment was small. Very small. You couldn't walk anywhere without tripping over toys.

I went stir crazy if I stayed indoors all day, so everyday we went on an outing. Sometimes to the YMCA, sometimes to the museum, to playgroup, or to a little petting farm in the heart of the city.

But twice a week we ventured to the library, and we read books. Well, I read them. The girls knocked them off of the shelves. But at least they interacted with them!

Choosing kids' books when the kids are toddlers is easy. The books aren't that long.

But when your children graduate to chapter books, things get trickier. How do you know if a book shares your value system? And there aren't that many Christian books around. Eventually kids read through them.

We also try to find books to coincide with whatever we're studying in our homeschool, and that's even trickier, because history can often be distorted for political gain today. So how do you find something you trust?

I'm really not sure. I've tried a variety of book lists, at homeschooling sites. And I've tried librarians' advice. But I don't always trust it.

For instance, I loved Sarah, Plan and Tall, so I assumed that I would approve of all of her books. But some of them deal with weird life after death themes, so we had to steer away from them.

Or a book may have won an award, but does that mean it's good? Many of today's books try to bond with their readers by trashing parents. If we can talk about how awful school is and how awful life is and how awful parents are for having rules, the thought goes, kids will realize that we understand what it means to be a kid!

I don't mind some of that, when it's cleverly done or intrinsic to the plot, but often it just seems like the author is trying to be "cool" and trash talk adults to appeal to kids. And quite frankly I don't want my children reading that.

Even Christians have suggested books that I don't think are great because their kids are reading them in school, or because they're bestsellers. But then I take a look and it has mature themes, or fourth-graders dating, and stuff like that. It may be "real" in the youth culture, but that's a culture I want my kids to emulate.

And, quite frankly, it doesn't make for good literature. C.S. Lewis famously said that a book that is worth reading at 10 is worth reading at 50, and too many modern books (and remember, he was writing fifty years ago) try to bond with a child by being about modern social issues rather than about a story. So a book will be "about divorce" or "about bullying", rather than a beautiful, poignant story which may have those themes. Do you see the difference? So often people today write a book about bullying, and kids know they're being lectured to. The moral has to come out of the plot; it can't be something that the author is trying to force. And many books today try to force themes or morals, or they try to force youth culture. And both extremes aren't good.

So I'm now having a hard time choosing books, because you can't always judge a book by its cover! Sometimes it's only been by reading into it that I've seen what is wrong. I once bought my daughter a Philip Pullman mystery series when she was younger because it was highly recommended by the bookstore owner, only to find out that Pullman considers himself an atheist evangelist who tries to trash God whenever he can, and wrote in this case about glorified teenage pregnancy.

Boy did I feel stupid.

What do you do? I'd really like to know, because my daughter reads voraciously, and I can't pre-read every book she gets out of the library. At this point she's mature enough to deal with the Pullmans and the crap, but it's not just that. It's not that I want to censor the books, exactly; it's that I want to find a way to identify the gems! So if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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At 11:59 PM , Blogger Kathy said…

When I was 10 (only 12 years ago!) I was reading classics like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, What Katy Did. They are all wonderful books that I still love to read! And the best thing? They are all series in which the protagonist grows up, and I love it when they eventually get married, or when Katy goes to school. Jane Austen books are also great, though I honestly find them a little harder to read. When I was 12 or 13 I also began reading books by Georgette Heyer, who writes historical romances. Oh, and the Little House on the Prairie books! And the Secret Garden (a 100 times better than the movie).

Christian authors that I enjoy are Janette Oke (she's Canadian!) and Francine Rivers. Frank Perreti has also written a couple of books for teens, which are simply fantastic. I don't like Lori Wick books, they sort of seem fake and contrived.

May I suggest this site:
I don't know if it dilivers to Cananda (but I don't see why not, but it is a Christian bookstore, and many of the books can be found on Amazon anyway.

Hope that was helpful!!


At 1:22 AM , Blogger Julie said…

I'm loving "Honey For A Child's Heart", by Gladys Hunt (I think!) She has recommendations by age, and tells a bit about a book. And she's a Christian. She also has "Honey for a Woman's Heart" - haven't spent enough time with that one yet :0)


At 4:01 PM , Blogger Sherry said…

I also love Honey for a Child's Heart and Woman's Heart. There is also one called Honey for a Teen's Heart, too. :D


At 4:27 PM , Anonymous Lisa said…

This is a topic I feel passionate about as one who holds books and literature close to the heart and has always been an avid reader. I used to get annoyed by people who "censored" the books their children read. However, as a mom now myself, my perspective has changed somewhat. I still believe that developing personal discernment regarding the content of a novel (e.g. the highly controversial Harry Potter series) is an important part of becoming an informed and "well read" person. I'm not saying that a degree of monitoring isn't warranted, I'm just saying that for me, if my parents kept me from reading some of the novels that I used to read on our front porch during the summer holidays, I wouldn't have developed my appreciation for other worldviews and beliefs nor would I have been able to experience the magic of being transported through the pages of a book. I used to love reading science fiction/fantasy type books - my favorites being The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper and the O.R. Melling books. I don't believe that they negatively influenced my Christian perspective but they did provide a great escape!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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