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Choosing Books Like a Connoisseur

choosing booksIt’s rather entertaining to watch shoppers in the produce section. Some approach a fruit stand with fear and trepidation. They know they’re supposed to be picky about which mangos they buy, but they haven’t the foggiest idea how to tell if it’s ripe, not yet ripe, or past its prime.

Others barely give a mango a second glance. They figure if it’s on the display, it must be good to eat.

Then there are those who are mango connoisseurs. They think nothing of spending several minutes picking through the mango offerings, keenly judging each one for quality.

You see the same three mind-sets at bookstores and in library aisles when parents choose books for their children. Some mistakenly assume that any book on the shelves will do. Some want to select only the best but don’t know what to look for. And some can find the tastiest fruit among all the rest.

Charlotte Mason was in that last category. She could spot the delightful, delicious books in a moment. Best of all, she left us her tips on what to look for.

As we mentioned last time, Charlotte used books as one means of helping a child form a personal relation with someone or some idea. But not just any book can do that important task. Here is a short list of what Charlotte said to look for when you are book shopping.

  1. Make the subject come alive.

    To make a real connection, a relation, with an idea, it must touch our emotions. Mere dry facts don’t usually accomplish that vital aspect of real knowledge. Look for living books.

  2. Get in touch with great ideas from great men.

    As much as we, parents, would like to think that we know a lot, there is so much we don’t know. So let’s allow our children to form relations with great minds of the past and present. The best way to get in touch with those great minds is by reading their thoughts. Look for worthy ideas in books.

  3. Well-written.

    Charlotte described well-written books with these terms: “written with literary power,” “a word fitly spoken,” “worthy thoughts, well put,” “inspiring tales, well told.” Look for books written in good and simple English (or Spanish or French or whatever your primary language is) with a certain charm of style.

  4. Not childish twaddle.

    Avoid books that present “little pills of knowledge mixed into weak diluent.” Twaddle talks down to the child and assumes she can’t understand more than tidbits of information. Look for books that you, the adult, will enjoy too.

  5. Give the children the idea that knowledge is supremely attractive and that reading is delightful.

    In other words, check both the content and the style in which it is presented. Look for books that will give your child a love for learning through books.

  6. The best you can find.

    Charlotte admitted that sometimes it’s very hard to find just the right book for just the right occasion. In those cases, choose the best you can find and remind yourself that those are the exceptions, not the rule. Look for the best of what’s available at the time.

Unlike fruit, when you are choosing books it doesn’t matter whether they are long or short, easy or hard, old or new. What matters is the quality. Now that you know what to look for, use these guidelines next time you’re in the library aisles or at the bookstore. With a little practice, you’ll become a book connoisseur.

Books & Things Seminars

Oh, there is so much more to talk about in choosing good books! We can only scratch the surface in these posts, but we will have the leisure to look more in-depth and discuss more of Charlotte’s tips at our upcoming Books & Things Seminars. The links below will take you to all the details.

March 28: Books & Things Seminar in Loganville, Georgia (Hurry! Registration deadline is this Saturday, March 21.)

April 18: Books & Things Seminar in Marion, Iowa

Two Days Left to Save on Outdoor Secrets

The first day of spring is only two days away! Be sure to take advantage of the special pricing on Outdoor Secrets nature stories only through March 20.

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6 Responses to “Choosing Books Like a Connoisseur”

  1. Bookworm March 22, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I have finally narrowed down my list of “I LOVE YOUR BLOG” Award recipients! And YOU are one of them! See my blog for details, please! CONGRATULATIONS!

    I know you probably dont add awards to your blog, but I want to give you this award anyway! Afterall, I do LOVE your blog! (And YOU!)

    • Sonya March 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

      Thank you, dear. What a lovely encouragement! I’m glad to know that our blog is a blessing to you.

  2. Erna April 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    I just wish I could have someone check our personal library and help me see if there is any “twaddle.” :0)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Monday with Miss Mason–On Trusting Good Books « Mothers of Boys - January 24, 2011

    [...] How do you choose a living book? [...]

  2. Mondays with Miss Mason–B for Books « Mothers of Boys - August 29, 2011

    [...] Choosing Books Like a Connoisseur [...]

  3. Building a library for your child, Part 1 – How to choose « Where My Treasure Is - February 20, 2012

    [...] Dan and I made the decision to be intentional about the books that we offer for our children to read from the very beginning. As you know, I have read and studied a great deal about education. One of my favorite educators, Charlotte Mason, used a word to describe reading material that is not healthy for a child – “twaddle”. You can read a very thorough definition of the word HERE. We try to avoid twaddle if at all possible, and instead, give our children books that are interesting, engaging, thought-provoking — in short –living books. [...]