While the historical fiction area of my local library, I notice a woman talking. She was in a little sitting area behind me slouched on a couch. Across from her was this boy about 12 years old deeply involved in a book. I wondered for a moment if I should go save this kid from this crazy lady talking to herself. She then directed her attention on the boy. I stepped in a bit closer just in case I had my opportunity to be a superhero. Turns out the boy just learned the art of ignoring his mother. Finally he retorted with, “I don’t want any stupid educational books!” She replied, “I am going to pick out a book for you and you are going to read it or we will read it together!”
This scene made me very thankful for Miss Charlotte Mason who so wisely taught that books containing twaddle have no place on a child’s bookshelf. You develop a child’s taste for books like you develop his taste for good food. Feed a child a donut every morning, and it will be no surprise that the child will grow to only want a sugary empty breakfast. It’s hard to convince a kid who has been on a sugar diet for years to eat his veggies. Likewise, to bring a kid at 12 years of age to a library and he find a quality book, when twaddle is all he has read, would be a shock to his system. Without guidance and training, he may not be able to pick out a quality book.
I have heard many moms say that any book that gets a child to read is a good book. Although I understand the sentiment, I disagree with the concept. I believe book choice is as important as reading. Filling a child’s head with books that are devoid of imagination, use poor grammar, contain poor imaginary, surface and not mufti-faceted, do not educate or inspire but serve as empty calories in the world of food for thought. Reading can open a world of imagination, fantasy, inspiration, and experience. A book allows you to be places you can only visit in your mind, such as a fantasy world, the past, a key historical moment or even the future. Books can make history personal and real to a student who wonders why he must study Alexander the Great or ancient Egypt. Reading living books will develop a critical mind, enhance writing skills and provoke creative thought.
When we serve empty calories in book form children do not feel inspired or seek knowledge. A parent or homeschooler needs to develop a healthy serving of living books at a very young age. Ambleside Online has books lists for preschoolers up to high school students. I highly recommend beginning there before developing your own booklist. The sooner you start engaging your child in quality books the sooner the child will learn to enjoy the art of literature. This enjoyment will bring a curiosity about life and history which will translate into a love of learning for a lifetime. Learning and education are a lifestyle not a means to an end.
Here is what Charlotte Mason said about reading:
This habit should be begun early; so soon as the child can read at all, he should read for himself, and to himself, history, legends, fairy tales, and other suitable matter. He should be trained from the first to think that one reading of any lesson is enough to enable him to narrate what he has read, and will thus get the habit of slow, careful reading, intelligent even when it is silent, because he reads with an eye to the full meaning of every clause.(Vol. 1 Part VIII–Reading for Older Children, p.227)
Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint.(Vol. 1 Part XVIII.–History, p.295)
The children must enjoy the book. The ideas it holds must each make that sudden, delightful impact upon their minds, must cause that intellectual stir, which mark the inception of an idea.(Vol. 3 Chapter 16 How to Use School-Books, p.178)