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My children have always loved a good book. I remember when my first two were preschoolers, we had two reading times set aside each day. They would come running to the couch with their arms full of their book choices—often from their special favorites—and we would read . . . and read . . . and read. Pretty soon I had to start setting the timer for twenty minutes, just so I wouldn’t lose my voice.
(By the way, a stack of books is a great opportunity to introduce the concept of “A-B-C order.” Rather than quarreling over which book should be read first, I would help them arrange the stack in alphabetical order according to title, then set the timer and read as far as we could get before it dinged.)
Nowadays, we are inundated with all kinds of children’s books at the library, in the local bookstore, on the Internet, through special clubs, even showcased in catalogs in our mailboxes. Some people take the view that any book is fine, just as long as the child learns to like books. But Charlotte Mason took exception to that philosophy. Her standards for children’s books—even preschoolers’ books—were high.
Here are some of Charlotte’s thoughts about choosing books and stories for the Early Years.
Be sure to select good books, not twaddle.
“They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy” (Vol. 2, p. 263). Good books present noble, right, and loving ideas in beautiful language. Twaddle talks down to the child and assumes he can’t understand much. If you read these personal definitions of twaddle from CM moms, you will have a great idea of what kinds of books to avoid.
You may need to request that no books be given as gifts to your child.
Though Charlotte had no children of her own, she understood the awkward situation that occurs in many families when relatives give the children books that don’t meet the parents’ standards. If you face this struggle, “Perhaps a printed form to the effect that gifts of books to the children will not be welcome in such and such a family, would greatly assist in this endeavour” (Vol. 2, p. 263).
Try to select books that will nourish your child’s imagination.
“The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times—a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story-books” (Vol. 1, p. 153)
Prepare a repertoire of good stories to tell.
Charlotte also encouraged parents to prepare about a dozen “beautiful stories beautifully told” (Vol. 5, p. 216). Story-telling has several advantages, not the least of which is that the parent becomes the one who feeds the child’s mind directly. When reading a book, the parent is simply the middleman between the author’s ideas and the child. Telling a story, without a book in hand, allows you to look into your child’s eyes and watch his delight as the tale unfolds. It provides precious times that will too soon be outgrown, and yet can remain as childhood memories and family traditions.
It’s never too early or too late to start building your repertoire of beautiful stories and your family library of “good books, considerable and well-written books” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 5).