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Approving the Books they Read - Issue 266
September 14, 2012
Hi there! ....


This week seemed to have so many interruptions that I’m not sure we had even one ‘regular’ day. Jess has a friend staying with her for 3 weeks – we love having her as she slips in to being a part of our family so naturally. Both Jess and her friend have study to do so they both diligently study in the mornings and a little in the afternoons before enjoying each other’s company. Jess is now studying an online course on Professional Organising which we are very excited about for her, as it is a course that will continue to develop her interests and passions. Naomi spent all her free time, and a little of her regular focus time working on making a few birthday presents. Daniel has done a mammoth task cleaning up and organising his Lego collections – a big job! We had lots of conversations with the kids some based on character issues, some on lifeskills and areas that need effort, some on beliefs – their beliefs and the beliefs of others, some on relationship issues; conversations take up a lot of time in our family but they are so necessary. Between all that we did very little formal lessons this week other than independent study – I intended to, but it just never seemed to happen! You get weeks like that!

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Approving the Books they Read

Approving the books they read – I know it is a good idea but I just can’t keep up. As a parent you get very excited when little Johnny starts to read and as his skills improve you get proud of the books he is reading and then all of a sudden he is wanting more and more and more…. And you just can’t keep up. Especially since sister Suzy isn’t too far behind. How do you approve all the books your kids read?

I started off with good intentions – just like I monitor movies, I would monitor books. And I could keep up while they were reading picture books but then it simply got out of hand and I realised I needed other strategies to ensure that my children read good books that were in keeping with our values.

There are plenty of movie review websites which makes it a lot easier for us to evaluate a movie, but there isn’t the same type of service for books. And yet, garbage in – garbage out applies to all media, books included. But there are reviews available – we just have to dig deeper.

  • Honey for a Child’s Heart and Honey for a Teens Heart both by Gladys M Hunt, are two books that are written with the idea of reviewing books and sorting them into age appropriateness as a tool to help parents with this very task. They have helped me not only review a book, but also proactively choose books for our family library. As with all reviewers you may not agree with what she determines, that is okay, you are using a review to get your ideas sorted – not to follow blindly.

  • Homeschool Curriculum Suppliers – if you can find a homeschool curriculum supplier that reflects your heart for your family then it is often a good place to start for buying books that will suit your family. I highly recommend books from the Sonlight catalogue and for the younger children, the books that Five in a Row use. Both these resources list books that are great whether you use their curriculum or not.

  • Amazon has book reviews written by real people who have read the book, which can help you gauge your response to a book. You have to read more than one as people always have different perspectives but you can get a feel for a book. Another big plus with Amazon for those who need to buy books unseen online, is that you can have a look inside most books. You can see the table of contents and the first pages. I find this very helpful.

  • Friends – talk about books with your friends. I have a handful of friends, whose children are older than mine, or more advanced readers and knowing how they have handled certain titles in their home is very helpful. Once again I may not agree but I can use their comments as a basis for an informed (to some degree) decision.

Another two strategies:

  • Teach your kids to discern – ultimately your children need to know what defines a good book and what is wise to keep away from. In my family this is a sliding scale – the older ones are able to read content that I would not let my younger ones read and yet there still needs to be a standard – a line drawn. We can make all the rules about choosing a good book we like but it comes down to what is in our child’s heart – does he understand the wisdom of your choices, does he want to fill his heart, mind, emotions, passions with good things? Does he trust you for direction? These issues are nearly more important than the book choices – gain your child’s heart and he will make wise choices with you.

  • Encourage Non Fiction reading – How clearly I remember groaning whenever we went to the library – the books at my young readers level were blah – they included toilet humour, rebellion against parents, sibling discord (to put it mildly) and general attitude, not to mention that story lines were pretty basic. At this stage I encouraged Joshua to read non-fiction. This had a few benefits – he increased his general knowledge and love of learning, I could flip through the book quickly to see any worldview clashes to address and it was generally without the above issues! We also encouraged biographies though I do remember having to put some guidelines around what biographies he read as some had adult content.

Of course, reading the book yourself is always going to be the best course of action, but if you have more than one child you are likely to find this an impossibility. I do try to read some of the books, but mostly the ones that are going to be controversial with my children if I was to say ‘no, you can’t read it’ – this is so I have my own reasons not just reasons I’ve read about online. This is becoming more important now in the mid-late teen years. I also like to read the books I know will stir my kids’ heart for good too. This prepares me for good heart to heart conversations with them.

Reading can easily be something that your children do without your input – it is a quiet activity and we can be lulled into a sense of security. We need to talk to our kids about what they are reading; not only the plot, but the values of the characters in the story, the beliefs and purpose of the author in writing their story. We need to ask our children what they believe about the issues the book touches on, and how the words are affecting their beliefs. This goes for fiction and non-fiction. Worldview issues are a plenty to discuss regardless of what you are reading.

Our ultimate goal in choosing good books for our children is to give them an appetite for quality literature. It has been interesting watching my children grow up and come to this realisation themselves. They are starting to see the difference between the books I choose or recommend and the books their friends choose or books that are in the library. They are starting to see quality in story line, in character development, in word choice, in hidden agendas and values. This is what we are guiding them towards when we direct their book choices.

A poster we used to have near our kids computer said THRPLE – Whatever is True, Honourable, Right, Pure, Lovely, Excellent – think on these things (Phil 4:8)

It would be equally valid to have such a reminder in our personal library wall, on bookmarks or on the back of our library cards. Books affect our thinking (our heart) and we need to guard our heart. As our children are growing up it is our job to guard their hearts and teach them the value and skills needed to guard their heart for themselves when the time comes.


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Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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