I have occasionally run into a school of thought that says, "As long as they're reading, it's a good thing, even if the book is not a very desirable book." Sometimes this philosophy puts on very reasonable, academic-sounding clothing and says things like, "Sometimes people use the word literature in a snobby, exclusive way, implying that these books are literature, and those books are not, but in reality, all written works are literature, and we shouldn't be so quick to discount those we don't prefer."
Some books are worth reading -- and some are not. And you don't have to dip into the truly filthy genres to find ones that are not. But, for the Christian reader, it's important to realize that there are objective standards from God that govern what books make the cut and which ones do not, and for any reader it's important to be aware that some books are simply higher quality than others. Some stories are literature -- and some are twaddle (trivial or foolish speech or writing; nonsense; also often used to describe poorly written works).
Miss Mason speaks of children, but surely the same thing is true of us all: the line between teaching and learning is blurry, and I think that most adults spend a great deal of time on both sides. The apostle Paul gave us a clear standard to apply to a host of things we encounter: including our books (and other media):
One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life. We need not say one word about the necessity for living thought in the teacher; it is only so far as he is intellectually alive that he can be effective in the wonderful process which we glibly call 'education.'
-Charlotte Mason, 2:279
Paul's not describing Captain Underpants nor Twilight nor Fifty Shades of Grey's sick pornographic depiction of abuse here. He's not really talking about unobjectionably bland formulaic works, either. Paul is urging us to aim for the very best books, to make those books our teachers, to take their heroes as our companions. Books that urge and inspire us to develop the qualities that he mentions. Books that invite the Holy Spirit to be with us, so that we can learn, not only by study, but also by faith. Ones we can revisit, and share with our children and our grandchildren. Books that we can take something valuable from each time we read them.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
It is no small part of education to have seen much beauty, to recognize it when we see it, and to keep ourselves humble in its presence.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:56
As we select books for ourselves and our children, it's our responsibility to see that they have the best books to read and to be read to, and in so doing we will bless their lives through cultivating in them (and at the same time in ourselves) a taste for the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.
All this week, I'm going to be posting about books. Stop by again to read about:
- Literature and Twaddle
- Supporting New Readers
- Second Language Literacy
- A Feast of Ideas
- Feeding the Teacher, Too
The 5 Days of Books series is part of the Homeschool Review Crew Annual Blog Hop: 5 Days of Homeschooling. Click this graphic to see what other Crew members are writing about.