There are as many schools of thought as to how best choose children's books as there are schools. The two that come to mind first are these:
- Children should read only the best authors writing the best works.
- Well, as long as they're reading something!
Both of these ideas are beneficial, but there are many benefits to ensuring your homeschooled child is reading the best that he can. What your child is reading is inevitably going to come out of his mouth or his pencil. What do you want to get back from him? What does his future employers want to see? Remember, we're educating tomorrow's adults.
For instance, a book from a series aimed at second-graders, called "Junie B. Jones" -it has sentences starting with conjunctions all over the place. It has fragments on every page. It has adjectives like "bestest." It frequently says "me and her" etc. It says dumb, stupid, darn it, meanie, what the heck, etc. which I personally think should not be encouraged in second-graders.
By comparison, classical literature for this age group includes the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The first five sentences in The Velveteen Rabbit had an average of 29.2 words in each sentence. The first five sentences of Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth had an average of 5.4 words per sentence.
An example of one of the more complex sentences which I found in JBJ & her Big Fat Mouth was "Eating things that you find on the ground is very, very dangerous."
Look how this sentence from the Velveteen Rabbit teaches the meaning of the word 'superior:'
"The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real."
JBJ is so full of incorrect grammar and simple sentences because it is written from the point of view of a first-grader, who would actually speak like that (unfortunately). However, there are quite a few older books, written in a different time, from the point of view of a five-year-old (for instance, Heidi, the Little House series) They are much preferred to modern books written for our young people. The local Half-Price Books have a great selection of abridged classics.
My challenge to you is to take some of your good-condition books down and donate them to the Half-Pint Library Book Drive. All the area Half-Price Books are collecting books which will be given to families with children in need. Then, while you're there, pick up some of the classics for your young reader. Did you know Half-Price Books offers a 10% discount educator's card to homeschoolers?
Charlotte Mason emphasized very strongly the use of "whole books" instead of readers. In public schools today, segments of books are printed in textbooks with summary questions at the end. The publisher chops the most exciting or pertinent portions of a work out, puts it in the textbook, and asks directed questions which can be answered by that portion. Then we wonder later why kids can't dig through a whole book and find themes when it is not spelled out to them!
If you have enjoyed this article and would like to read more from Teresa Dear, go to her Classical homeschooling blog, Higher Education.