Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: Read For the Heart

Hello, my name is...well I blog anonymously so I'm not going to tell you my name.  Lets just skip ahead to the part where I confess to being a book-aholic.  I'm the kind that waits in line and pays a premium to get first dibs at a used book sale.   I'm the kind the moving men despise when they lug box after box marked "Books" onto the van.  I can't fall asleep at night without reading a few pages.   There are others in my family with the reading bug.  When we go visiting we always carry a bag or two of books to pass on.  Imagine my dismay then to discover I'm part of a dying breed.  My last review for this Homeschool Crew voyage is the book Read For the Heart  published by Apologia.  In it, author Sarah Clarkson cites that less than half of adults in America now read literature.  Even worse, less than a third of 13-year-olds are daily readers (how does this bode for our future)?

In addition to facts about our literacy problem, the first section of the book covers the authors passion for reading, fond memories of family read-alouds, and ways to encourage reading in our young people.  Sometimes I found Ms. Clarkson to wax on a little too poetically in her reminisces.  For example:
A winter's eve has come.  Dusk is tapping at the windows as a fire snaps and sings from the hearth. Shadows spring dramatically around the ceiling as I nestle into the toastiet corner of the couch, a mist of hot-chocolate steam encircling my face. My siblings and parents settle in around me, my mom lighting a candle as my dad flips hes way to the bookmark in our latest family read aloud.

I don't know if her purpose is to show a well-read person had larger vocabulary or trying to prove that family read aloud time can provide heart-warming, lifetime memories.   Reading by candlelight... really?  I had to read by an oil lamp during this week's power outage and I found it extremely hard on the eyes.   Since I'm already on board with the whole "reading is important idea", I skipped ahead to the heart of the matter-- the lists of recommended books !   The remaining chapters were dedicated to specific genres:

  • Picture Books

  • The Golden Age Classics

  • Children's Fiction

  • Fairy Tales & Fantasy

  • History and Biography

  • Spiritual Reading for Children

  • Poetry

  • Music, Art, and Nature

Each chapter is organized alphabetically by author (the history section is organized by era and then by author).   The title, publication date and recommend reading level of their key works are followed by a one-paragraph synopsis (usually just one or two titles per author).  Occasionally, there may be a caution about bad language or situations that may disturb younger readers.   There may also be a list of some of the author's other titles but with no elaboration. 

This book about books  is written by an unabashed Christian and published Apologia, known for its science curriculum but branching out to publish other helpful homeschooling titles.   That should give you a clue to the types of books included here--God honoring if not necessarily Christian in content.  They  could be considered "Living Books" by those with Charlotte Mason tendancies.   I've found the last six titles I'd used as read-alouds within the pages: The Wheel on the School, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Sign of the Beaver,  Trumpet of the Swan, and A Cricket in Times Square.  (Can you tell our science theme was birds and insects?)  I also found old favorites from my own childhood like the All of a Kind Family series and Twenty-One Balloons.   You can read the Golden Age Classics chapter on Apologia's website.

The appendices are filled with more book lists--Caldecott Medalists (distinguished picture books), Newberry Medalists (distinguished children's literature), G.A. Henty titles, Landmark History Books, The Trailblazer Series, and a list of the author's personal favorites.     Keep in mind that the first two categoriesare awarded by the American Library Association, an orgainization with liberal leanings and a worldview that may not match your own, so you may want to preview these books before handing them off to your children.

The beginning of my review may have sounded like I was entering a twelve-step program for an addiction to books.  The truth is, I don't want to be cured!   Nothing better to feed the need than a book about more books (that's like a book to the second power, right?)  For it's $17 price tag, this should give me ideas to feed my habit and encourage my son's growth for some time to come.   You can read what my fellow Homeschool Crewmates think about Read For The Heart by clicking here.
Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Read For the Heart for the purpose of completing this review.

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