After our book club read For the Children’s Sake, we visited RiverTree School, the only school in our area that’s based on Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. One of the most striking things about that visit was seeing students of all ages pay attention to what they read.
It sounds like a simple thing, but let me assure you that what we observed was anything but ordinary: the children were able to retell what they had read (or what their teacher had read to them) in remarkable detail. One of Charlotte Mason’s highest priorities for students was that they would learn certain good habits – the habit of attention being one of them. She thought, rightly, that in order to be educated one must learn the discipline of concentration. She wanted all children to develop the ability to focus on the task or content at hand for an age-appropriate length of time.
What does this have to do with theological children’s literature? Seeing the RiverTree students focus so intently on books make me realize that if you’re going to teach your children to pay close attention to what they read, you’d better be prepared to give them reading material that’s worthy of their concentration!
For instance, how would it affect your book-buying habits if you knew that your child would memorize and take to heart every single thing that she read? Would you have more conversations with them about what they read? If I knew my child would forget everything she read as soon as she put down a book, I might not be very concerned about her reading material. Wanting her to learn how to pay attention to what she reads, though, makes me very mindful of the kinds of books (especially theological books) I put on our bookshelves.
Charlotte Mason’s vision of raising children who pay attention to books and take notice of truth and beauty certainly has implications for our book buying. If we want to help cultivate the habit of attentiveness in our house, we would do well to limit the twaddle (to use a C.M. phrase) and seek out the books that display literary and artistic excellence. I’m so grateful that there are many such books out there just waiting to be shared with our little ones!