good children's story in the slightest.”
- C.S. Lewis
I have always considered myself a conscientious mother. I used to be of the mindset that if a book reinforced an educational concept (ABC's, math), if it had any Biblical themes (Noah's Ark or kindness), or if it had bright colorful new-looking illustrations to catch kids' eyes (the more the better), and if it didn't have evil characters (witches, trolls or magic spells) in it then it was worthwhile to read to my little ones. Even before my firstborn was age 2, I started to realize what an overwhelming amount of books fit into that criteria. The library seemed filled to the brim with choices, department stores had shelves of them and on and on. I felt bombarded, and still not very sure how to pick the best/right ones out of all these choices. I also never really felt satisfied with what we already owned. There were a few favorites, but the rest all seemed the same, just ok.
I am well on my way to distinguishing between "twaddle" books (like junk-food for the brain) and those that are rich and alive with ideas, the essential ingredient to learning. My criteria has changed, and my options have narrowed to a much more manageable amount. It is quite refreshing! Knowing this and getting rid of the 'twaddle' in our home has greatly changed its atmosphere. I love seeing my child's imagination soaring to new heights.
- firsthand sources, unabridged classics, books that display imagination, originality, and tales that are well told and contain inspiring ideas and pictures of life. The ideas of the book are sparks of living truth passed from a great thinker to another mind. The vocabulary might stretch me/us but that is how we grow! And I love hearing my 5 year old use big words in daily life and knowing which book he got that one out of. (quotations from Ambleside Online)
- most often these books are in story/narrative form as that is how our brains best retain information- no dry fact blurbs all around the page.
- copyright before the 1970's, which I learned from the Living Books Library ladies, is when a bill was passed to give more $ to education. This increased the number of books being published per year, meaning that publishers no longer have to search out and publish only the very best. I found that interesting. On the other hand not all old books are living, and not all newer books are twaddle.
- if the book can be narrated well (told back), then it is most likely living.
Reading through booklists such as Ambleside Online, and getting these titles from the library has helped me begin learning what is good quality, and makes these books easier to recognize at book sales etc. I aim to have a large variety of books in our home, art books with few words and large colored pictures, historical biographies, atlas, field guides, poetry, well-written classic picture books and many more.
I also really enjoy seasonal/holiday books. Some particular favorites during Christmas time, are ones that tell the stories behind the Christmas songs that we sing. Here and here are a two we enjoy.