Friday, May 27, 2011

TOS Review: Read For The Heart

I wanted to start off this post with a couple of clips from the movie You've Got Mail that have some interesting insights into books and how they influence us.

I agree wholeheartedly!  I believe the books we read and have read to us when we're children shape our identity and our worldview in a more compelling and significant way than any other books we read throughout the rest of our lives.  In fact, I'm one of the (very) few people who doesn't buy into the "at least they're reading something" idea - the excuse that is usually given when a parent admits that all their child will read is Captain Underpants or Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger (I kid you not, that is a real book!).  

One of the 20th Century's most profound truths: YOU ARE WHAT YOU READ

I love books.  If you were to set foot in my home you could probably tell pretty quickly.  I mean, sure - there are only two bookcases downstairs and one upstairs, so you might have to be a bit of a sleuth to figure it out.  So look around.  Notice the piles of books on nearly every flat surface?  The entire right side of my desk covered with books? If that isn't enough to convince you, ask me why both the "school room" (currently under construction) and my bedroom currently look as though we just moved in even though we've lived here for nearly 5 years.  At last count we had over 40 boxes - all of them full to the brim of books.

I love books so much that while other students left for college with their CD collection, their pictures or their entire wardrobe, I used up most of my packing space for the books I wanted to take.  I even broke down crying the night before I left when I realized that I wasn't going to be able to take all of my books (and back then, I actually did only have two bookcases full of them).

The right books are friends.  They teach me, and help me grow.  They open up new worlds and make my current world better. Reading these books changes me, helping me become the person I want to be. 

In the same way, reading the wrong books is like hanging out with the "wrong crowd."  On the surface, the wrong books can seem innocent, neutral, sometimes even helpful, but once you really hold these books to the correct standards, it becomes clear how damaging they can be.

That was an incredibly long intro, I know, but it's the best way to explain why I liked Sarah Clarkson's Read For the Heart from Apologia Press so much.  Read For the Heart is in some ways similar to other books about books.  On the surface, it seems to be a book that lists suggested reading materials for a variety of ages.  But Read For the Heart has heart.  Sarah Clarkson begins the book by leading you through her own experience growing up with great literature being read aloud in her home.  In many ways, her experiences and feelings about books and reading mirror my own.

I guess the most succinct way to compare the books is to say that other books about books are books about what to read, but Read For the Heart is a book about what to read aloud and what to give your children to read, and how, and most importantly, why.  Actually, the entire title, as you can see above, is: Read For the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families.   It explains how your ideas and loves and worldview and very being can be influenced for Truth and Right through the books you are exposed to as a child. Check out what Sarah has to say about why she wrote the book (italics mine):
"Experts have written many excellent books on the merits of great literature and useful guides to selecting worthy books.  I am not an expert or a critic.  My perspective comes from the other side - from a young heart, mind and soul shaped by storybooks.  Although this book is a handbook, with lists and tips galore to guide you into the world of children's literature, I also consider it to be a story and an invitation not just to a reading list, but to a reading life.
As I have considered the many wonderful reasons to read, a steady progression of scenes from my childhood has come to my mind, each one a poignant portrait of a reading life.  One by one, these scenes remind me of the reasons I read: for a wakened heart, a strong mind, and a steadfast soul."
This book quickly became a cherished friend.  I identified with Sarah's childhood experiences with books on a very personal level.  As a parent, one of my greatest desires is to pass along to my own children this reading life.  Sometimes I get lost in the logistics of it all, and lose sight of the real reasons that I read aloud or give certain books to my kids.  It's not about the hours logged, or getting through a certain number of books per week, or checking one more off the list.  It's about passing along a heritage, gifting my children with the true joy of discovering another "friend" in a story, and the certain knowledge that growth and change is taking place in our lives because of something we've read.

I feel as though I could probably write my own book about how much I like this book, and why!  This book is one that I may very well end up owning multiple copies of, just so I can lend it out to friends without fear that I won't have access to a copy when I need it.  Sarah's reading recommendations come from her very own childhood reading experiences.  She's very clear that her lists are not all-inclusive, that there's much more good literature out there than she had room in the book to list.  But the best part of this book may not lie in the lists at all (though they're GREAT!), but in the story that Sarah weaves about growing up in a family that cherished reading, that understood that the books you read and have read to you become a part of you in a very tangible way.  I dare you to read it without feeling a twang of envy for the reading life Sarah experienced in her formative years.

Don't take my word for it though.  You can check out a sample chapter of Read For the Heart as well as the Table of Contents.  You can also check out what my other crew members had to say about the book.  The best way to check it out, though, is to just get the book.  It's available from Apologia Press for $17.00 and absolutely worth every penny.  Read For the Heart is one of many homeschooling resources offered by Apologia and so far I've found that everything I've tried from Apologia has been a keeper!

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Read For the Heart in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

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