Have you ever started reading a book with your children only to discover that it contains content which is objectionable? I’ve started reading several books in which I’ve had to skip over or change an occasional word; however, some books have themes with which we don’t agree – or excessive cursing – or descriptions of suicide – or drug and alcohol abuse – or other things I don’t feel my boys are ready to handle at this point in their lives. If I’m reading the book aloud, I’ve been known to close the book and tell my boys that we aren’t going to finish that one because it has bad stuff in it.
That’s all well and good if you’re reading the book aloud. But how do you know the book is any good when you hand it to your children to read on their own? My boys read enough books on their own, now, that I couldn’t possible preread everything in advance to check for good content.
I rely on several different sources to know whether or not a book is one I feel comfortable handing to my child:
1. Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson – I love this book. Sarah has personally read each of the books she recommends and she includes a short synopsis for each of them. She also identifies any mature themes or issues for which parents should be aware. We have chosen lots of great books using this resource.
2. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt – This book is an oldie but a goodie. Similar to the above book, this book contains recommendations for many quality children’s books.
3. Recommendations from Friends With Similar Convictions – There are so many books out there and many of them aren’t included in either of the above books. Ask other homeschoolers to keep a list of books their family has enjoyed and you can do the same for them. Swap these lists to get some great book recommendations. Be sure the people you ask have similar convictions to yourself or you may be surprised by some of their selections.
4. Classics – Not all classics are appropriate for children. I was going to have my 11-year-old read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury this year and was shocked when I started prereading it. The themes were way too mature for him and the language contained more cursing than I remembered from when I read this book in my school days. Also, if you’ve ever read “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck or “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert, you’ll know that just because it’s considered a classic doesn’t mean you want your child to read it. One of the great things about classics is that you can usually find ample information about these books on the internet. Some of the sites I use for finding out more about these materials are: eNotes, Bookrags, Sparknotes, and Progeny Press.
5. Book Publishers – Find book publishers that you trust and look through their catalogs to find good reading suggestions. I love looking at Veritas Press for book ideas. I do think their suggestions are quite advanced by grade, however, and I usually choose selections which are a grade or two lower than what they suggest. I also love Lamplighter Books.
6. Your Child’s Internal Sensor – Sometimes your child will choose a book that they want to read. You may not be able to do more than read the front and back flap before you have to make a decision. At that point, you need to trust that your child has internalized what you’ve taught them. That if they encounter material which they feel is inappropriate, they will put the book down. We need to make a good effort to present descent, quality material for our children to read. At some point, however, they need to start making these decisions for themselves. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, of course, this is another method for helping them to develop their own ability to discern good reading material.
Reading is an excellent way for our children to learn about the world around them. Once our children begin reading large quantities of books on their own, however, it can be difficult to know whether or not the books they are reading are filled with quality material. Using the above methods will help to ensure that they are not only reading books but that they are choosing good books.
Question: How do you choose good books for you child? Do you have any positive or negative experiences that you’d like to share? Please comment below.