BOOKSBLOOM Seminar and Bookstore


This Monday, July 18th from 6pm-9pm and Tuesday, July 19th from 8:30am-12:00 Meriadoc Homeschool Library will be hosting a BooksBloom Seminar at Trinity Fellowship, 301 Leisure Lane, Friendswood, TX. The Blooms’ BooksBloom Bookstore will open at 3:00 on Monday for Preview shopping for families who are pre-registered. Bring your friends and neighbors to see all the wonderful old and vintage books that the Blooms have collected for your benefit.

It’s not too late to pre-register if you are interested. Jan has even sweetened the deal by offering you an additional $15 off a purchase of $50 or more if you pre-pay.

The cost of attending the seminar is $20 per family. In order to pre-pay just send your $20 fee through PayPal. Log on to and make a personal transfer of $20 to Be sure to indicate in the transaction who you are so I can mark you as pre-paid and place you on my attendance roster. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at

Monday evening will be a great opportunity for the whole family. At 6:30 pm-7:30 pm, Jan will speak to us all:

SAILING ON LIVING LIGHT: Voyaging with Great Books

Adventure, excitement, understanding, and delight – welcome to the world of living books, where the fresh breezes of new worlds stir imaginations! Beyond the dull, dry textbooks await REAL books that add life, depth, breadth, and excitement to learning. Discover how to travel through subjects with books that are interesting, informative, well-written, and enjoyable; books that become guides and maps as we journey through life. Jan, a veteran homeschooler and author, will navigate through both nonfiction and fiction, explaining how each fulfills educational, emotional, and spiritual objectives.

Then we will split into two groups from 7:45-9:00 pm. The men will gather with Gary for:

GATHER ‘ROUND, CHILDREN: Read Alouds for Dads and Kids

Supper has been eaten, the dishes are washed, pajamas are on, and the BEST time of the day is here–story time! Join Gary, who read to his children faithfully for years, as he explores how a father can build a special relationship with his children through time spent reading aloud together. Guidelines and suggestions will be offered that will get even a non-reader dad off to a great start.

The women will gather with Jan to hear:

KEEPERS OF THE BOOKS: The Vital Importance of a Home Library

Throughout history, reading and owning books has been associated with culture, learning, and wisdom. In modern times, books have yielded to electronic information systems. Jan, a vintage bookseller, believes that the older books, written true to a Christian worldview and absent many modern biases, need to be rescued from destruction, read by the students of today, and kept safe for future generations. Jan gives guidelines on choosing which books to include in a home library, which books to borrow from a public library, and which books to send to the trash. Practical suggestions on book repair, deodorizing, and organizing will also be discussed.

Tuesday morning Jan will speak on the following topics:

CRADLE TO GRADE: Preparing Your Children to Love Reading

9:00 am Booklovers become worldchangers, but they are grown, not born. Jan, a booklover and veteran homeschooler, will give advice to help parents of young children develop strategies and lifestyles that will “till the soil” and prepare a child’s mind for the hard, but joyful, work of learning from books. Caution: Do not come if you are not ready to give up or considerably cut down on TV and computer time…

THE FOUNDATIONAL FIVE: Bible Stories, Fairy Tales, Mother Goose, Aesop’s Fables, and Mythology

10:30 am David and his five smooth stones, Cinderella and her glass slipper, Mary and her lamb, the tortoise and the hare, and dynamite are only a few examples of how these five collections of tales have influenced our literature, our language, and our lives. Learning the prime stories gathered in these sources equips your students to enjoy a lifetime of reading and getting the most out of the allusions, metaphors, and subtle remarks mined from the great classics.

Tuesday morning Gary will speak on the following topics:


9:00 am With only a few power tools and some lumber you can get those books out of boxes and onto shelves–shelves that you will be able to put together quickly and easily after attending this workshop for moms and dads. Gary, who has built dozens of these bookcases, will demonstrate step by step how to build a functional, practical, inexpensive, and good-looking bookcase.



10:30 am Speaking from 36 years of husbandly experience, Gary offers cautions, correction, and consolation for husbands with homeschooling wives. His useful advice will help husbands understand their wives better and will enable them to help their wives find joy and affirmation in the day-to-day challenges of homeschooling, parenting, and partnering.

SIgn up now before it’s too late!

Library Open House in April


Meriadoc Homeschool Library
15707 Rill Lane
Houston (Clear Lake), TX 77062

Monday, April 18th 2:00-3:00 PM

Saturday, April 30th 10:30-11:30 AM

Pick one open house date that suits your schedule, and come see what Meriadoc Homeschool Library is all about and how becoming a member of our private lending library can enhance and enrich your homeschool experience. Over 6000 volumes of fiction, poetry, picture books, science, geography, history and other living books are available for member families to check out and enjoy together.

RSVP for the open house date of your choice to:

Sherry Early is the librarian and an experienced homeschooler (more than 20 years). I can’t answer all your homeschooling and literature questions, but I may very well be able to find someone who can.

What’s New in the Library?

I bought lots of books this week, first at the Books Bloom seminar with Jan Bloom, then at the thrift store. Something for everyone!

Picture books:
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan. A dingo captures a wombat and decides to make himself a gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy wombat stew. But the wombat has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is a great Australian classic picture book for those who want to make a quick trip Down Under.

Moy Moy by Leo Politi. Politi was an Italian American author and artist who was both a devout Catholic and a pacifist. His books celebrate cultural diversity and children living within those diverse cultures. Moy Moy is a Chinese American girl living in Chinatown in Los Angeles. Most of Politi’s books are set in California, near Los Angeles and future loving families, ethnic celebrations, and colorful scenes.

Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. “the slow soft sprinkle, the drip-drop tinkle, the first wet whisper of the rain.” A rain poem, with beautiful illustrations by James Endicott.

Also, I found paperback copies of the Picture Book Preschool books Galimoto by Karen Lynn Willliams, A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Doberman, and The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.

Easy readers:
The Littles by John Peterson. I also bought copies of The Littles Take a Trip, The Littles to the Rescue, The Littles and Their Amazing New Friend, The Littles Go to School. These books about “little people” are for beginning readers who are not quite ready for The Borrowers, my favorite little people series.

Shoes for Amelie by Connie Colker Steiner. The story of a French farming family during World War II who take in and hide little Jewish girl named Amelie, based on the true story of the rescue of Jews by the people of the French region of Plateau Vivarais-Lignon.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. I didn’t have a copy of this classic Dr. Seuss romp, but now I do. In fact, most of my Dr. Seuss books were read to death, so if you have any to donate, they would be well-loved and well read, I’m sure.

Middle Grade Fiction:
The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope. The first of the Bobbsey Twins series, and I have a few others in the series in the library, too. If you have any of these books you’d like to donate to Meriadoc Homeschool Library, I’d be happy to have them.

The Fox Steals Home by Matt Christopher. In this sports story Bobby plays baseball and deals with his hurt over his parents’ divorce.

The Thief by Nancy Rue. This episode in the Christian Heritage Series, The Williamsburg Years, shows readers the deep enmity in the 1780’s between loyalists to the British crown and patriots who were determined to make a new nation, separate from England. Can the two sides ever come to agreement on anything, even the meaning of right and wrong?

The Black Stallion Legend and The Black Stallion Revolts by Walter Farley. I now have five of the many Black Stallion books in my library. If you have any others you’d like to donate, I have some horse-loving readers who enjoy these books.

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. The mice of the The Prisoners Aid Society rescue a Norwegian poet, with Miss Bianca as interpreter and Bernard, the humble pantry mouse, and Nils, his partner, as mice-to-the-rescue.

The Mississippi Bubble by Thomas Costain. One of my favorite history writers tells the story of land speculation and emigration gone crazy in France and French Louisiana in the 1700’s. Speculative and economic bubbles are nothing new, as this true history in the Landmark History series demonstrates.

The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss. A family in the 1950’s adopts a diverse group of children of mixed race and heritage. This book was one of my favorites as a teen, and although we never adopted children, I think the lessons learned of acceptance and indiscriminate love from this book and other similar stories helped me to understand and affirm the multi-racial families of many of my friends and neighbors.

Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki.

More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson.

Collecting good books is such a fun hobby, or maybe even a calling or vocation. I am immensely thankful that I get to preserve and share these books with my community. (These are only few of the books I found this week. I’ll tell you about more in another post soon.)

What Then Shall We Read? Fiction Old and New

Read aloud fiction.
Read books just a little above your child’s independent reading level.

Andrew Pudewa: “One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents and teachers is to stop reading out loud to our children when they reach the age of reading faster independently. In doing so, not only do we deprive them of the opportunity to hear these all-important reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns, we lose the chance to read to them above their level, stretching and expanding their vocabulary, interests and understanding.”

Examples of living fiction books, chosen almost at random from my library shelves:

*Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson. A story from the time of the judges in the Bible. The publisher Bethlehem Books has re-published a number of exciting and well-written historical novels for children, including Hittite Warrior, Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard, The Ides of April by Mary Ray, and many more.

Texas Tomboy by Lois Lenski. Ms. Lenski wrote an entire series of books during the 1940’s and 50’s about American children growing up in different locales throughout the United States. Her book Strawberry Girl, set in rural Florida, won the Newbery Award in 1946. Charlie, the Texas tomboy, is growing on a ranch in West Texas during a drought.

*Eddie and the Fire Engine by Carolyn Haywood. Carolyn Haywood wrote a series of books about a girl, Betsy, and another about Betsy’s friend, Eddie. Betsy and Eddie are ordinary children who engage in rather ordinary neighborhood adventures: getting to ride on the fire engine, making a lemonade stand, playing outdoors, going to school, and other typical 1950’s activities. “There are no great problems solved here, nor great adventures. Yet Carolyn Haywood makes the everyday doings of children exciting and funny, entering into them from a child’s level. That is sheer genius and can’t be done by calculation.” Reviewer Phyllis Fenner.

*The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke. A young boy’s discovery of twelve wooden soldiers that once belonged to the Brontë children leads to an exciting adventure. This fantasy novel was awarded the 1962 Carnegie Medal for the outstanding children’s book by a British author.

The Silver Sword, aka Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serrailer. Four Polish refugee children travel across war-torn Europe in search of their parents. This exciting story includes a cigar-smoking chimpanzee, a dangerous ride on the underside of a lorry (truck), near escapes and great courage on the part of the children and of their father. It’s a great World War Two novel for children who like to read about that time period.

The Gammage Cup by Carolyn Kendall. Another fantasy novel for fans of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The Minnipins live a sedate and rule-bound life in their own peaceful valley, but everything changes when invaders tunnel through the mountains to disturb the Minnipin way of life. The sequel is The Whisper of Glocken.

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson. This 2007 adventure story tells about 11 year old Tom Hammond, who travels downriver on a heavy piece of refrigerator packing foam. See this review at my blog, Semicolon, for more information about this excellent Tom Sawyer-like tale.

*The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla. This Arthurian easy chapter book was one of my daughters’ favorite book when she was a beginning reader.

*A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy. Kate Seredy was a Hungarian-born writer and illustrator of children’s books. She won the Newbery Medal once, the Newbery Honor twice, the Caldecott Honor once, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. A Tree for Peter tells of a crippled boy who live in Shantytown during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and of how he brings hope to his community by planting a tree.

*Thee, Hannah! By Marguerite de Angeli. Ms. de Angeli is another Newbery Award winning author and another writer who was able to make various places and times come alive by inhabiting them with memorable child-characters who learn and grow as they live in families and in communities. Thee Hannah tells of a Quaker girl living in Philadelphia just before the Civil War.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. Mr. Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga consists of four fantasy adventures set in the land, and the nearby seas, of Anniera. The other books in the series are North or Be Eaten!, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King.

*The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Two brothers and two sisters pool their allowances and each take a Saturday to go on a solo-adventure. These were “free-range’ children before the term was invented, when it was normal for an eleven year old to ride the bus by himself or for an unaccompanied nine year old to take in the city museum on a Saturday.

51IVLbtnDCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_*The Sound of Coaches by Leon Garfield. Garfield’s plot and characters and atmosphere owe a lot to Dickens. I was especially reminded of Great Expectations as I read this story of an orphan boy of mysterious parentage who is raised by a common coachman and his wife. See my Semicolon review for more on this great historical novel.

*The Black Fawn by Jim Kjelgaard. Jim Kjelgaard was the author of more than forty novels, the most famous of which was 1945’s dog story Big Red. In The Black Fawn a boy adopted by an older couple, in turn “adopts” a black orphaned fawn and tries to protect the fawn from hunters.

*Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John. A story set in Switzerland about bullying, and injury, and forgiveness.

*Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum. An Irish orphan girl, Pegeen, who loses her only guardian and the only family member she knows, her grandmother. She goes to live with friends while the village priest searches for her uncle who has emigrated to America. The O’Sullivan family of Bantry Bay take care of Pegeen in the meantime—even though Pegeen is a very naughty little girl. More at Semicolon.

The starred books were the ones that were not available for check out in the entire Harris County Library system. All of the books listed are available at Meriadoc Homeschool Library.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

What Then Should We Read? Picture Books

More notes from my talk at GCCHS Expo on Saturday, May 30, 2015:

Read picture books.
Lots and lots and lots of picture books. Look at the pictures together. Draw pictures together. If you need a curriculum or a list, use Five in a Row (which will complicate your life with more ideas than you will have time to do) or my preschool/kindergarten curriculum, Picture Book Preschool (more simple or maybe too simple?). Or use any other list of high quality, living picture books. Enjoy that one book that your preschooler wants to read over and over and over. Eliminate twaddle (silly, annoying, empty books) from your home, and then your child can only pick good, living books to ask you to read.

Melissa Wiley: “One of the homeschooling questions I am asked most frequently is “What do you use to teach your kids to read?”
I usually explain that I haven’t yet had to do any formal reading instruction with any of my kids. I have three fluent, eager readers now, and every one of them learned pretty much the same way:
1) (And so very important, it should be numbers 1-50.) Lots and lots and lots of read-alouds from the time they are teeny tiny. Poetry, picture books, novels, magazine articles, fairy tales, biographies, all sorts of very good, high-quality, literary writing. We read and read and read and read.
51) When at some point I notice the child is beginning to recognize her name and other simple, common words, I pull out our trusty Bob Books.
Read-alouds and Bob, that’s how we’ve done it three times in a row.”

OK. I admit I taught each of my eight children to read. I used a phonics curriculum, and I taught them to sound out the words. But if I had it to do over again, I would try Melissa’s way, especially with my youngest, who loved to be read to but had no desire to learn to read. I think if I had been able to just let it go, not worry about what anyone else thought, and keep reading to her, she would be a more enthusiastic reader now.

Maybe not. But in the meantime, whatever else you do to teach them to read, read picture books. And keep reading picture books after they can read to themselves because there are a lot of really good picture books to read and enjoy and read over again.

How to Establish a Reading Life in Your Home

Second installment of notes from my talk at the Gulf Coast Home Scholars Expo last Saturday:

So what does all of this reading encouragement and motivation have to do with the practical day-to-day business of homeschooling?


In order to take full advantage of the way God made us to love stories and to learn from each other and from WORDS, we’re going to have to change the way we live and the way we do school. I think they should be the same, or as near as we can get them. To homeschool effectively and, dare I say, joyfully we need to have a learning lifestyle. And my advice to you, after almost thirty years of experience in living with and teaching my own children, is to make books and discussion and observation the center of that lifestyle of learning.

“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas…we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.” ~Charlotte Mason


Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.
Morning time (Cindy Rollins): Read the Bible, prayer, read aloud(s). You can add lots of things: a history read aloud, a hymn, art, a poem a day, science read aloud, Shakespeare, nature study, journaling . . . But start off simple.
Math time: choose a math curriculum and do math every day. But spend less than an hour a day on math, maybe just thirty minutes a day.
Independent reading time: Everybody reads.
No grammar, no writing practice (until they ask), no spelling, no PE (except going outdoors to play), music practice only if that’s what you want to do, art if you and your children enjoy art.
Chores: assigned each day

This list is very similar to Melissa Wiley’s (Here in the Bonny Glen) Rule of Six. She says that in each day for herself and her children she tries to include six things:
• Good books
• Imaginative play
• Encounters with beauty (through art, music, and the natural world—this includes our nature walks)
• Ideas to ponder and discuss (there’s Miss Mason’s “something to think about”)
Meaningful work
• Prayer

Why Read?

From my talk at the Gulf Coast Christian Home Scholars Expo in League City, TX this afternoon:

Perhaps the greatest gift any father can bestow upon his children, apart from the covenant blessings of parish life and a comprehension of the doctrines of grace, is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives a knowledge of the world, and it offers experience of a wide kind. Indeed, it is nothing less than a moral illumination.
—Thomas Chalmers

WHY read?


The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them; it was not IN them, it only came THROUGH them, and what came through them was longing. These things-the beauty, the memory of our own past- are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune which we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.”
C. S. Lewis

1. God communicates using language.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

We don’t worship books, not even The Book, the Bible. Nevertheless, God uses the metaphor of “word” to tell us us something of who He is, of who Jesus is. Language is part of the foundation of the universe, according to Genesis; God spoke and the world came into being. So we read, first the Bible, God’s word to man, and then other books, men’s words to each other through which we can receive God’s truth, too.

A book ought to be an icepick to break up the frozen sea within us.
~ Franz Kafka

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
~ Muriel Rukeyser

2. Stories illuminate truth.
Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables. He did not tell them anything without using a parable. Mathew 13:34

Stories, in particular, show us things that nonfiction cannot. We ought to read both fiction and nonfiction, but stories are uniquely able to penetrate our defenses, obscure precious truths to those who are not interested enough to pursue those truths, and illuminate truth to those who are. Jesus said he spoke in parables so that those whose ears were dull and whose eyes were closed and whose hearts were fat would NOT understand. (Mt. 13:13) Conversely, those who seek will find, and often the truth is hidden in a story.

3. Books can communicate truth when we either don’t have the time or the words ourselves.
And how many people have discovered God’s truth in a book written by a man?
Martin Luther read Augustine, and he came to an understanding of sin and salvation that freed him from guilt and self-condemnation.
John Newton read Thomas a Kempis and it brought him from the slave trade to the ministry.
C.S. Lewis read G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald, and he said they “baptized his imagination.”
Chuck Colson read C.S. Lewis, and he was born again.

This excerpt from the July 26, 2008 issue of WORLD magazine illustrates how wonderful a tool the written word in the process of conversion and spiritual growth. It’s an interview with journalist Bob Beckel.

WORLD: So, how did you come to faith?
BECKEL: I was in the process of getting divorced. I was married to a professional golfer. You don’t know fear until you see a five iron in the hands of a professional golfer at two in the morning. It’s a scary thing. I had a lot of difficulties. I had retreated to a farm in rural Maryland and refused to come back to Washington to do any television appearances. I got a call one day from Fox saying, would you come and do an appearance with Cal Thomas? And for some inexplicable reason, I said yes. Five different times I tried to call and cancel. And I couldn’t cancel.
I reluctantly drove in and there was Cal. I knew him a bit, but not really well. He looks at me and says, “Is there something wrong?” Right away. Instead of saying the normal Washington thing—”Good. Fine. Great”—I said, “Actually it’s not.” And he said, “Let’s talk about it after we’ve done the show.” He spent many hours with me after that and talked about faith but never pushed faith on me. He sent me a lot of books. I was one of those people who needed to have proof. I needed to see skin and bones. The idea of whales and arks and burning bushes and opening seas—all that was just in my mind Charlton Heston.
One of the first books that Cal sent me was Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I began to read that. Cal continued to send me books. It must have cost him thousands of dollars because this farm of mine was way out and this poor postal guy kept coming out hauling these boxes of books. I read and read and read. Finally, Cal said, “Why don’t you come to church with me?” Now, I hadn’t been to church in . . . well, I hadn’t been to church. So Cal takes me to Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, which is full of more right-wing Republicans than any church in all of Washington. [But] the message that day was a message that worked. It was about faith and belief and that there is a certain leap that you need to take but in the end what else is there? When you compare the rest of life, what else is there really? Slowly but surely it came to me that there was something there.

4. Great books enable us to learn from many teachers.
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. Proverbs 11:14

Live always in the best company when you read.
Sydney Smith

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face…. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.
Edward P. Morgan

When we read we receive the wisdom of people, past and present, whom we would never have the opportunity to meet. And we and our children can examine things and ideas that we would never be able to or would not want to experience personally.
Do we want to know about China or the Olympics or the Silk Road? Read.
Do we want to understand how Christians thought about the faith in ages past? Read.
Do we want to understand the hopelessness of a life lived apart from the grace of God or the arguments of the atheist who says that there is no God? Read.

What Is a Living Book?

“Living books” is a big buzzword in homeschooling these days. What does it mean? Really, living books are just good books, books that engage the reader and make the subject “come alive” in one’s imagination. But I realize that definition or re-statement rather begs the question.

Children's book week, November 15th to 20th 1920. More books in the home! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Boston Public Library, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
The difficulty lies in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the reader. The books that make history or science or imagination come alive for me might not be the same books that do the same for you and your children. However, there are a few characteristics that at least indicate that a book might become a “living book” in your pantheon of well read and fondly remembered books:

1. Books that tell a story are to be preferred over books that recite facts. Some children sometimes can enjoy books that have little boxed facts grouped around the perimeter of the page or textbooks that just give the facts, m’am—for a while. But a dry recitation of tiny packets of information, even if it’s spiced up with pictures and fancy fonts, isn’t going to hold anyone’s attention though an entire book, or engage them to want to read more. We need and crave story. Tell me that bees live in hives with workers, drones and a queen bee, or tell me the story of a hive of bees with its queen that is about to become the victim of CCD (colony collapse disorder). Tell me the story of how, almost overnight, the worker bees disappear, and no one knows why it happens or what to do about it. In other words, tell me a bee story, true or fictionalized, and I will remember and be interested and engaged.

2. With the exception of picture books, which are a special case, books that emphasize printed narrative are to be preferred over books that devote most of their space to pictures and graphics. Unless the book is meant to introduce children to art and the rich world of artistic story, the books that you choose to read should be rich in narrative, painting pictures with words. And even picture books or wordless books should tell a story, and in in quality picture books the story and the illustrations work together to create a captivating narrative.

3. Living books are usually written by one author who has a passion for his subject or story, not by a committee. Books by committee, textbooks or compilations, are not useless, but they are usually ineffectual for the purpose of introducing a subject or arousing the reader’s passion and curiosity for learning more.

4. Books that appeal to the imagination and nourish passionate relationships with the subject of the book are to be preferred over books that simply provide pieces of information without giving readers a reason to desire that knowledge. Nowadays, one can turn to Wikipedia or other internet sources to get basic information about anything from kite-flying to welding. Sometimes, after a person has already developed an interest in a subject, knowledge intensive books are just what is wanted. However, “living books”, what Charlotte Mason called “ideas clothed upon with facts”, are what is needed to inspire interest, engage the imagination, and speak to the soul of a reader, giving him reason to remember the knowledge that can be acquired from books and from other sources.

5. Living books ask questions or create questions in the reader’s mind. Instead of telling a child that 3 x 4=12 (memorize it!), a living book might ask what would happen if we arranged twelve marbles into sets of four? Or sets of three? Or it might tell a story about how multiplication is used in the real world, or about the beauty of mathematics. Yes, there is a place for the memorization of multiplication tables and of other facts, but it is much easier to memorize or to get children to memorize when the facts that are being committed to memory are perceived as important and valuable.

6. Living books inspire rather than depress the mind and the spirit. Living books create a deep sense of hope in the reader, not by ignoring the sadness and and sin in the world, but but by showing that there is also beauty, hope and redemption to be found. Modern books tend to either end in near-despair (Hunger Games, other post-apocalyptic and dystopian young adult books) or deal in false hope (put on a happy face! follow your dream! you can succeed if you try!). If any book old or new is frightening your child (deeply, not deliciously) or leading them to despair, don’t read it, no matter how classic or beloved the book is.

Library in living room from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

Learn more about living books and about libraries that seek to preserve living books for all of us to enjoy:
Liz Cottrill and Emily Cottrill Kiser talk about their library, Living Books Library in Virginia.
Toward the Definition of a Living Book by Colleen Manning at Ambleside Online.
How a Library Was Born by Michelle Miller: Children’s Preservation Library in Michigan. (Old Schoolhouse Magazine)
How Can I Know if a Book Is Living? by Michelle Miller (Old Schoolhouse Magazine).
Our Good-Book-Collecting Journey by Michelle Miller (Old Schoolhouse Magazine)

Books about Books, with Booklists

Maybe you’re not as addicted to book lists as I am. But I often get questions about what books are really good to read aloud or to give to my seven year old or nine year old. Or what should I give to my son who reads nothing except Redwall or Encyclopedia Brown or whatever the latest fad is? Or how can I help my voracious reader find more good books? Or what books do you suggest that are set during the Middle Ages? What about books for science-loving children?

Well, I almost always have some to suggest. However, when I run out of ideas, or when I want to dream about more books for my future reading or for my library, or when I want to remind myself of all the great books I’ve already enjoyed, these are the books I go to. Books about books for children and for young adults:

Picture Book Preschool by Sherry Early. I am putting my book first, not because it’s the best, but because it’s for the youngest of our children—and their parents, of course. The simple spiral-bound book is a preschool curriculum, suitable for ages three to five, based on picture books that I have been reading to my children for the past twenty years. Each week of Picture Book Preschool is built around a theme, and includes a suggested character trait to work on, a Bible verse, and at least seven suggested picture books to read to your children. Available from Cafe Press or on Amazon as an e-book.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. First published in 1969, this guide to “the imaginative use of books in family life”, is in its fourth edition (2002). Ms. Hunt recommends Harry Potter and other “modern classics” as well as as older books by more established authors, writing about all of these varied authors and books from a Christian perspective. Even if you’re anti-Potter, you can still get a lot out of this well-loved book about the joys of reading together as a family. Gladys Hunt also has two other books, Honey for a Teen’s Heart and Honey for a Woman’s Heart, both with excellent reading recommendations.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Mr. Trelease’s book has been around for quite a while in several editions. (Latest seventh edition, 2013) It’s not written from a specifically Christian or homeschool perspective, but I didn’t find any of the ideas or the recommended books to be offensive or inappropriate for Christian readers. About half the book talks about why you should read aloud to your children, impediments to reading aloud, studies and thoughts about how reading aloud to children is foundational to their education, and the creation of a climate of reading the home and at school. The other half is an extensive list of suggested books: wordless books, predictable picture books, reference books, whimsical picture books, short novels, full-length novels, poetry, anthologies, and fairy and folk tales. I have the 2006-2007 edition in my library, and in it Mr. Trelease recommends lots of good books, some of which I have yet to experience and others of which I am quite fond myself.

Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. Sarah Clarkson is the daughter of Christian homeschooling inspiration, Sally Clarkson, and her book, subtitled Whole Books for the Wholehearted Family, is a treasury of wonderful reading suggestions. Sarah is a kindred spirit, including many of of my slightly lesser-known favorite authors such as Nancy White Carlstrom, Mem Fox (Australian, not as well known in the U.S.), Joan Aiken, Caroline Dale Snedeker, Brinton Turkle, Sydney Taylor, Barbara Willard, and many more. Ms. Clarkson’s newest book is Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books and Imagination with Your Children. Long title, great book with even more reading suggestions.

Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Chidren’s Literature by Elizabeth Wilson and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. (Revised edition: 2002) Susan Macaulay is another daughter of a well-known Christian thinker, Francis Schaeffer. Her book of book lists is based on Charlotte Mason’s ideas about the use of “living books” (another term for good, enriching books) in the education of children. The books are listed by grade level, and many of them are old classic books that would enrich any child’s, or adult’s, education.

em>Who Should We Then Read? by Jan Bloom. The ungrammatical title notwithstanding (the author explains and defends her reasons for choosing to use “who” rather than “whom”), this guide to “authors of good books for children and young adults” is invaluable for its listing of wonderful authors and series from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors who wrote wonderful, imaginative books for children and who are in danger of being forgotten and not enjoyed by a new generation. Some of my favorites listed in this book, with information about the author and an exhaustive list of each one’s works, are: Patricia Beatty, L.M. Boston, Leon Garfield, Elizabeth Janet Gray, Cornela Miegs, Lois Lenski, F.N. Monjo, Leonard Wibberly, Glen Rounds, Katherine Shippen, John Tunis, and again, many, many more. Ms. Bloom’s book is ring-bound so that it lies flat, and there’s a sequel: Who Should We Then Read, Volume 2.

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer. This book is more for mature students and for adults who want some sort of guide to reading the “best” books that they never managed to read in high school or college. Ms. Bauer writes about training your mind to read thoughtfully and wrestling with books and keeping a reading journal, and then she recommends books for “jumping into the Great Conversation” in the areas of classic novels, autobiography and memoir, history and politics, drama and poetry. The book is somewhat intimidating to some folks, but I just read it as another book of old friends and new book suggestions, not as a definitive list of the books one must read in order be properly educated.

You should know that these books were all published at least ten years ago. Many of the books in them are out of print, and many public libraries have weeded these older books out of their collections in spite of their quality and excellence. Librarians must keep up with the new and the popular because of public demand, but when they do so, these older books are endangered.

Most of these books, in addition to the books suggested in them (but certainly not ALL), are available for check-out at Meriadoc Homeschool Library. If anyone has any of these “books about books”, or any of the older, out of print books listed in them, that you would like to donate to Meriadoc Homeschool Library, please let me know.

What’s New in the Library 3/4/2015

Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince. How famed showman and circus owner P.T. Barnum marched 21 elephants across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 to prove its trustworthiness.

Astronomy Projects with an Observatory You Can Build by Robert Gardner. How to build your own astronomical observatory to watch the stars and planets.

Math Projects for Young ScientistsWhere by David A. Thomas. Fibonacci numbers. Geometry and topology. Sequences and series. Julia sets and fractals. High school level math games and projects.

Where on Earth Am I? by Robert Gardner. A variety of investigations, activities, and projects explaining how humans discovered Earth’s position in the universe and how we can find our own location using maps, compasses, the sun, and the stars.

Chicks and Chickens by Gail Gibbons. Wonderfully illustrated introduction to the life cycle of a chicken.

Galaxies, Galaxies by Gail Gibbons. Spiral, barred spiral, elliptical, lenticular, irregular.

Snakes by Gail Gibbons.

Westward Ho! An Activity Guide to the Wild West by Laurie Carlson.

Wingwalker by Rosemary Wells. During the Great Depression, Reuben watches his father walk on the wings of an airplane to entertain the crowds, and Reuben overcomes his own fear of flying.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. In an old Kansas farmhouse hidden doors in an attic room open onto other worlds.