I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Charlotte Mason, one of the great educational thinkers of the early 1900s, but if you’re not please run out and buy a copy of For the Children’s Sake with one of those gift cards you got for Christmas. You’re in for a treat! Our book club recently read it together, and our discussion last week is the impetus for today’s and next Wednesday’s posts.
When Sarah and I first talked about writing about Charlotte Mason here, I half-jokingly said that she wouldn’t approve of Christian kidlit (and therefore our blog) because she felt very strongly that children should be read to from the Bible itself, not retellings. Take this quote, from her book Towards a Philosophy of Education, for example:
The expressed knowledge attainable by us has its source in the Bible, and perhaps we cannot do a greater indignity to children than to substitute our own or some other benevolent person’s rendering…of the Bible.
Hmmm. So does that mean that Charlotte Mason would disapprove of, say, The Big Picture Story Bible or Read Aloud Bible Stories, two of our very favorites in Aslan’s Library? Somehow I don’t think so. After all, one of the hallmarks of her educational philosophy is what she called “living books.” Living books (as opposed to “twaddle”) are well-written by an author passionate about the content matter, engaging, respect a child’s intellect, and help forge a relationship between a reader and the subject at hand. She wanted children to have a highly literary education, to be steeped in Christian teaching, and to thrive in their relationship with their Creator. For those reasons, I do think she would share our quest to find and share the best of the best in theological kidlit.
However, I do think that Charlotte Mason would urge us to make reading the Bible itself one of the main priorities in raising children in the Christian faith. If we find ourselves reading to our children exclusively from retellings of biblical stories, we do our children a great injustice, indeed.
As wonderful as all of the books in the Aslan’s Library collection are, reading from them will never be the same as reading from Holy Scripture, and we would do well to point out that difference to our children. Charlotte Mason wouldn’t want us to exasperate them by reading passages that are too long or confusing for their age, but she would want us to be regularly giving them the chance to encounter the Living God through his inspired Word.
If you’re unsure of how to go from storybook Bibles to the Real Deal with your children, check out our review of The ESV Illustrated Family Bible. Its only text is carefully selected, short passages of the ESV translation of the Bible and it’s also illustrated. Additionally, there are some good ideas about reading Scripture to children in chapter 5 of For the Children’s Sake – but the entire book is well worth reading!