A lot of parents understand the bankruptcy of the "read-and-regurgitate" educational method in which kids mostly just learn to hate any subject they have to study via textbook. But, almost as many parents aren't sure where to start instead, being unfamiliar with what many call "living books." Living books are usually written by a single author (as opposed to a board of experts) with a particular enthusiasm for his or her subject who passes that excitement to readers through an accessible narrative style.
The 19th-century British educator Charlotte Mason believed living books were the best way to teach children whatever they couldn't learn through simple observation, and so does Elizabeth Wilson, whose Books Children Love provides a great starting place for the uninitiated as well as an excellent resource for more experienced families. Besides a short introduction and a brief note on the book's organization, Wilson hasn't muddied her waters with explanations, instead opting to present hundreds of books in list form.
Each chapter (there are 25) simply contains a list of books grouped by subject. Subjects include history and geography, celebration days and seasons, talking animal stories, crafts and domestic arts, language, poetry, music, nature, etc. Two chapters at the end offer recommendations for parents with special needs kids, as well as supplemental teaching resources. A comprehensive index including authors and titles at the back helps with easy reference.
In every chapter, books are listed alphabetically by author (except in the "Biography" chapter, where books are listed alphabetically by subject). Wilson offers very helpful descriptions of each title, so you can find books particularly suited to your kids and family. Just about every type of book you'd ever want to read can be found here, and all of them are suited to younger readers—you won't find poorly written books or stories with sketchy content here, just books to expand kids' horizons by imparting a love of the subject and a curiosity to know more.
You also won't find books that controvert a Christian worldview. That's not to say every book listed is explicitly Christian, or written by a Christian author; simply that all these books support a Judeo-Christian values system, point kids to virtue, and help them learn more about God and His world by simply showing rather than telling. Wilson is a Christian and understands the need for kids to be given books that will support rather than challenge their faith, and she's done an excellent job assembling appropriate resources.
We offer a fair number of Wilson's chosen titles, though we want to bring in more; those we currently carry are listed below. Whether you intend to give your kids a Charlotte Mason education, or just want to open them to the world of great reading, Books Children Love deserves an honored place on your bookshelf. These aren't your typical recommended books: these are the sorts of books you need to hear about secondhand because you aren't likely to find many of them on your own. We recommend you let Elizabeth Wilson show you.
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
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