If there's a one-world government, it's television. King of the Technological Age, he sits enthroned in homes around the world, a little box of images and sound emitting edicts to his unified followers from his electrical shrine. That description may be a bit overwrought, but the fact remains: more people these days would prefer to watch TV than read a good book.
Many parents are desperate to expose their kids to quality literature, whether it's a classic like Anne of Green Gables, a more recent novel like Mimus, or simply something other than the TV Guide. In response, a number of literature-based curricula have been developed, and in turn have become increasingly popular among both homeschool families and school educators.
As great and noble as this effort has been, there are a couple problems we see with the literature-curriculum approach: 1) literature is treated as curriculum, and 2) children aren't exposed to the depth and variety available because reading is limited to the curriculum suggestions. Consequently, a lot of children grow to dislike reading, associating it as they do with schoolwork and not having a good time.
We've accumulated many of the titles used by the major literature-based curriculum lines, and those products are among our best sellers. We're also not entirely opposed to the literature approach, but we also want to offer a much broader selection of literature, titles that don't find their way into the program guides but are nevertheless worth reading.
Numerous book lists, catalogues, and publishers (including many dedicated to reprinting the more obscure classic titles) have guided us in the construction of our fiction and literature sections. (Employees have also been an important factor in this process, and you can read about their favorites here.) Doorways to Great Reading collects the best of these lists in one place.
Discovering classic literature is more than just checking off titles from a master list, however. Though books like Honey for a Child's Heart, The Well-Educated Mind, and The Book Tree are great places to start and offer excellent guidelines, they are still jumping-off places. Developing the skills to find good books on your own (and imparting those skills to your children) is the end these books are supposed to help you achieve.
When Lucy Pevensie opened the wardrobe and found Narnia, her first experience with a snowbound landscape gave her little indication of the adventure and wonder she'd find there. Great books are the same way: the more you read, the more you realize how many are really out there, and the better you get at finding them.
If your adventure in the realms of literature hasn't started, or is still in its beginning stages, use the booklists you'll find here as maps of sorts, there to help you navigate but not to make the journey on your behalf. The travel is up to you, and whether you decide to explore Ben-Hur or The Wind in the Willows, it's travel that will take you far from your front door and back many times over.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.