Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Encouraging a Love of Reading: Honey for a Child's Heart Book Review

Thinking about reading during my childhood always brings up nostalgic feelings of warmth and begging for "just one more page!"  I have fond memories of reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my mom.  When she had to travel for work, she would record a chapter for each night for me to listen to while she was gone.  I remember diving into a more challenging book, Heidi, (the original, unabridged version) and sharing laughs over the longest sentences I had ever seen and discovering exciting new words I didn't know.  (Mom, one day we will finish that book!)

I joke (only partially) that reading was the source of most of my scoldings as a child.  I was the type who would get permission to "finish the chapter" before setting the table and find that thirty minutes later I had read three more chapters and the table still wasn't set!

This warmth and love for books is something we strive to develop in our daughter.  Already she loves books (There's a Woset in My Closet anyone?) and will spend a good portion of the day pulling books from her basket or the pile on her floor (which never seem to make it to the shelf!) and climbing on my lap to read together.  On one occasion, when Clay got home from work, Sophie squealed with delight and immediately crawled away from him without greeting him (very uncommon).  She crawled over to her basket, pulled out a book and held it up for him to read it to her - like she had been waiting all day to share it with him!

Book Review: Honey for A Child's Heart

After seeing it recommended many times (including when I was compiling a booklist for the Classical Christian School where I used to teach), I finally checked out Gladys Hunt's Honey for A Child's Heart (affiliate link).  This book lived up to every recommendation it had received.

Gladys Hunt does a fabulous job of describing the joy, warmth, and closeness that comes from sharing quality literature as a family.  It made me want to read more with Sophie and we already spend a good bit of time sharing books together!

The book is divided into two main sections: "Using Books to Help Children Grow" and "Best Loved Books for Children".  "Using Books to Help Children Grow" shares the "why" of reading as a family and the importance of exposing children to great quality literature from an early age.  It focuses much more on the character developed during this process rather than the academic benefits, but those are certainly not dismissed.
Good literature teaches more than we know.  Example always speaks louder than precept, and books can do more to inspire honor and tenacity of purpose than all the chiding and exhortations in the world.
Also in this section, Hunt details what makes one book superior over another as far as quality of literature.  She argues that it is difficult to pin down a specific definition of quality literature, but that one certainly knows it when they see it.  Excellent literature leaves its mark on the reader.
That which is excellent has a certain spirit of literature present.  The sensitivity of the reader says, "This is true." "This is real." And it sets in action something in the reader that has profound effects.  It has been an experience - spiritual, imaginative, intellectual, or social.  A sense of permanent worthwhileness surrounds really great literature.  Laughter, pain, hunger, satisfaction, love, and joy - the ingredients of human life are found in depth and leave a residue of mental and spiritual richness in the reader.
In the second section, ""Best Loved Books for Children," Hunt provides 13 different annotated book lists.  Some of them are broken down by age level, while the older age groups are further divided by genre.  She also includes a multi-age list for Nourishing Your Children's Spiritual Lives and Books for Special Occasions.

In all honesty, this book made me want to get in the car and go straight to the library!  I want to raid the library shelves and read all of these books for myself even though Sophie is still way too young for many of the lists.

She has a very good list for 0-3 year olds and I am excited to begin reading these books with Sophie!  I sat down with the list while logged onto my local library website and searched to determine which of her recommendations our branch carried.  Fortunately, the majority of the list is available at our library! Our library's site has the ability to log in and create a book list, so I added each of these recommended books for her age onto a list so that I can have a list of suggestions when we go to the library.  Because, let's be honest, when Sophie and I go to the library together, I do not have much time to peruse the shelves looking for a good book!  I've found that our trips are much more successful when I know the majority of the books I want to check out ahead of time.

The first book we read from her list was "Where's Spot?" by Eric Hill.  Sophie has given it her stamp of approval as we have had it for less than 12 hours and have read it at least ten times.  She adores this book!  I look forward to sharing many many more of Hunt's recommendations with our young, excited reader!

What's your little one's favorite book right now?

I'm linking this post up at Trivium Tuesdays at Living and Learning at Home.

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