As I republish articles of interest from The Parents' Review, which can be found at the Internet Archive, I hope to post my thoughts about each article here on this blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts as well in the comments section below.
My first article, titled "Children's Books" by Mrs. Sophie Bryant, addresses the types of books that might best make up a child's home library. She begins by expressing the absolute importance of providing children with not only books for their library, but books which are of value, setting out her first main condition "that there should be no book in it that has not a good reason for being there" (Bryant). Valueless books may lead to negative results in the formation of a child's character. "Children should be protected from the training of such books until their taste is formed" (Bryant).
She then divides the library into five bookshelves: 1. Fairy Tales and Folk Lore, 2. Heroic Romance, 3. Adventure and Travel, 4. Historical Novels and 5. Stories of Everyday Life, stressing the importance of the first two bookshelves. These former two shelves provides children with at least some introduction to foundational works to which we are all connected, inspiring ideas and nurturing the imagination. The Heroic Romance books transfer virtues and moral values. allowing children to consider and mimic them in the safety of a book and the imagination. She adds Shakespeare, poetry and an illustrated Bible to this shelf as well.
The next shelf consists of books of adventure and travel that will allow children to "see" the world and "can combine this with a training in the spirit of enterprise" (Bryant). She suggests that you add books of real travel such as diaries, journals and primary accounts. The fourth shelf is designated to historical novels such as books by Scott, Stevenson and Besant, adding ballads as well. The last shelf, books which focus on everyday life, consists of fiction books such as Little Women and Christmas Carol that should be most carefully evaluated to avoid the "multitudes of books that ought to be excluded" (Bryant). These books might be in danger of being "over-easy or over-stimulating" (Bryant). She concludes with the sound advice to not separate books for boys from books for girls, suggesting instead that they both be allowed to "have the same range of choice" (Bryant).
The article follows with a book list divided into the same five categories, with many of them being from the same author. I may later attach a separate book list which is divided into the same categories but with updated choices, many of them already included in this curriculum. I expect that the limitations of the book list are partly a reflection of what was available at that time. We are so fortunate to have so many more books from which to choose.
Providing children with a library of books is about providing them with access to our core essence of being human. People of the past, just like people of today, strive to feel connected to one another. Virtues and morals such as courage, love, trust, faith and honesty are all still very much in need now as then. Stories, poems and books are portals in which young people can cross through and experience these people, these virtues, these connections and these adventures. Quality literature not only offers this, but also trains and develops a child's mind, valuable in that it "makes some demand on attention, reflection and imagination..." (Bryant).
The importance of paying careful attention to the books offered to children cannot be understated, but, of course, there should also be books that are read for pure pleasure to provide balance. While children should be nurtured on quality literature, they can also be delighted with more options. Books such as the Magic Treehouse series, Boxcar children series and others play a significant role of their own, giving children more enjoyable opportunities to gain fluency in reading. Many wonderful books have been written since the time of this article, offering just as much in the way of challenge and insightful lessons and ideas, stimulating the imagination just as those included on Mrs. Bryant's book list do. While we keep the core message of this article, we can also expand on it.