A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
Culture Children's Books
The Read-Aloud Handbook
Some of the renewed commitment to reading aloud to children traces back to this book, which has sold millions of copies and inspired numerous parents, educators, and school reform advocates since its first Penguin edition in 1982. The book is part compelling research, with cautions and practical how-tos, and part Trelease’s “Treasury of Read-Alouds,” with titles arranged under nine categories. This seventh edition, published in 2013, remains a helpful resource for new parents and up-and-coming educators. It was also Trelease’s last: He retired but tapped Cyndi Giorgis to edit future editions. She will release an eighth edition of the handbook this fall.
The Read-Aloud Family
Mackenzie wrote this book for busy parents tempted to skip read-aloud time. While underscoring the importance of reading aloud to children, Mackenzie recounts her own journey as a new mother to homeschooling six children and launching the popular podcast Read-Aloud Revival. This book includes some of Mackenzie’s favorite titles for different ages, though not a comprehensive list, and has helpful tips on keeping various ages occupied during read-aloud time. Personal anecdotes and podcast listeners’ testimonials add flavor to the book, and Mackenzie proves a fresh and relatable voice for parents yearning to connect with their children through books.
Honey for a Child’s Heart
Hunt emphasizes that parents are responsible for introducing their children to good books. First published in 1969, this book is now in its fourth edition and is considered a classic by many educators and parents. Part 1 contains timeless essays on building a family culture of books, with practical tips on how to choose wisely from different genres and incorporate Bible reading. Part 2 provides a rich collection of reading lists organized by age and genre. While the included titles all predate 2002, the book provides a solid starting point for new parents, and Hunt’s enduring wisdom continues to aid even seasoned parents.
Books Children Love
For parents who need less convincing about the value of reading, Wilson provides a robust volume of titles that will take years to exhaust. Drawing from Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-20th-century British educator who preferred “living books” to textbooks, Wilson’s reading list is divided into over two dozen categories with age recommendations. Since Books Children Love was last updated in 2002, some titles may prove difficult to find. But it is a trusted resource for books on a range of topics, from art and architecture to humor and mathematics, that can cultivate a love for “all [God] has made and done and given … for He called it very good.”
Screens have drastically changed family and home life, and Meghan Cox Gurdon’s The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction (HarperCollins, 2019) makes a strong case for the preserving power of oral storytelling.
Gurdon, a children’s book reviewer for The Wall Street Journal, draws from scientific studies, anecdotes, interviews, and her own experience as a mother of five to present compelling evidence for the emotional, cognitive, and social benefits of reading aloud. Some critics argue she oversells—she calls out-loud reading a “miraculous alchemy” and a “soothing balm,” for example. But in today’s screen-saturated homes, the language seems fitting, if not inspiring.
The book advocates reading aloud for all ages, from the nursery to the nursing home. “When we read to other people,” Gurdon writes, “we show them that they matter to us; that we want to give our time and attention and energy in order to bring them something good.” —M.J.