Sarah Clarkson's enthusiasm for great children's literature is contagious. Her descriptions can be sentimental and overwrought, but she clearly loves books and the positive effects they can have on young readers. She conveys that love through her own knowledge and memories, and brief synopses of the books she recommends.
She begins with some basics: the art of living and growing in virtue through books, the sad state of American literacy, how to start "living by books," and how to use Read for the Heart. The following chapters are devoted to different genres of children's literature, with a description of the author's personal experience with that genre, a history of the genre itself, and long lists of books organized by author with one-paragraph descriptions of their most important works.
Using the book is easy. Clarkson contrasts living books and textbooks, discusses the importance of moral and literary excellence in the books we give our children, explains the organization of her book lists, talks about audiobooks, and introduces strategies to find the suggested titles. This is a very thorough text—the inexperienced will appreciate it, and veterans can still learn from it.
The book lists themselves are the best part. Parents will find descriptions of the most famous offerings from each author, with lists of their other books at the bottom of each entry. Clarkson goes out of her way to find books that support (or at least, don't attack) a Christian worldview; if there's anything sketchy in a story or collection, she points it out.
Most bases are covered—classic novels, poetry, fairy tales and fantasy, art, music, nature, picture books, etc. Some decisions are eccentric: most of the titles in the "History and Biography" chapter, for instance, are historical fiction. She largely maintains standard boundaries, however.
These aren't books for older readers (though some of Clarkson's favorites, like The Wind in the Willows, are for everyone). Read for the Heart is for pre-K to middle school students, carefully selected for their reading level and critical thinking skills.
Because these books are to be read for personal growth as much as for entertainment, we (and Clarkson) strenuously urge you to discuss each title they read with your children. Even though most of the recommended books are pretty innocuous, there are inherent worldviews in all of them, and some will be at odds (implicitly or explicitly) with a Christian understanding of things.
Apologia is a trusted publisher of tools for Christian parents to educate their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Read for the Heart offers the impetus and wherewithal many parents need to engage their children through books. Great for parents, teachers, and grandparents, this is an important book for anyone who interacts regularly with younger students.
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.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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