How do I know if a book is a good book? What I mean is, how do I judge the children’s books I run across, the books that aren’t on my book list?

Learning to chose good children's books

Oh, how I wish I had simple, shortcut answer for this question! I still remember the day I realized that I couldn’t easily discern the difference between a good book and a bad book, between twaddle and living books. Oh, sure, I could discern bad content – such as whether a book promoted something that was evil or sinful. But I didn’t have well developed literary taste.

While we could rattle off a list of criteria for good books – not textbooks, written by someone passionate about their subject, written in an engaging and possibly conversational tone, etc. – criteria doesn’t solve the root issue, which is that our sense of taste and style is underdeveloped.

By reading lots and lots of quality writing – and I don’t think genre matters so much here – we are developing our own personal taste. Also necessary is to not read low quality books. It’s sort of like how, when you turn off your television for a number of years, when you turn it back on for a moment, the content is shocking and horrendous. This type of contrast is important in the development of style.

It was only through reading many good books that I was able to develop good taste. {And I’m still developing good taste. This is an ongoing refinement, not a final destination.} Doing lots of reading isn’t always easy when you’re a young mom with a bunch of littles and lots going on. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it because you’ll be able to go to a library sale and scan a few pages, read passages here and there, and determine if the book matches up to your new and improved literary standards – you will instinctively know whether or not you are holding twaddle in your hand.

So I would encourage you to read. Find a list of good books, and read them. These can be children’s books, and so you can read them aloud with your children rather than trying to find time and space to be alone with your books. Reading is the only sure way to develop a sense of style that you can rely on in a pinch.

Brandy Vencel

Brandy Vencel homeschools her four children using the Charlotte Mason method in sunny California. She reads lots of books. You can find out more about her and those books at Afterthoughts.

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