Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Introducing Great Books to Children
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
April 9, 2023
“Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them,” by Cheri Blomquist, Ignatius Press, 2021, 272 pages, $17.95 (paperback), $17.95 (ebook)
The decay of the American public school system has parents rightly worried. Public education’s abandonment of the western canon of literature, and its replacement with woke substitutes has many parents homeschooling or supplementing their children’s education.
“Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them,” by Cheri Blomquist offers a roadmap for parents looking to supplement their children’s literary education. Blomquist goes beyond the traditional canon of great books of Western literature aimed at adult audiences. She argues that a subset of great literature was written for or adapted to children. She maintains young readers profit by studying age-appropriate great books before delving into books too mature for them to understand.
Blomquist opens the book developing and defending her thesis. Children better appreciate literature by starting with children’s classics, especially important classics as indicated by literary history. She expands this by explaining how and why children benefit from this approach. She outlines how parents can guide their children’s literary education.
The second part of the book outlines great books for children. This is chronologically divided, starting in ancient times, and ending with a chapter of noteworthy books from 1966 to the present. Here she lists the different books, giving thumbnail descriptions, their reading level, and the virtues and themes they possess. She also cautions parents about books which however well written are problematic, those running counter to traditional western and Christian values. Her reading list is superb.
The next section offers different approaches to presenting literature: leisurely reading, “book-club” examination, and scholarly reading. She provides parents three different approaches to introducing children to literature. Parents wishing to supplement public school courses can use the first two approaches. Blomquist gives those wishing to homeschool have a framework for literature classes in the scholarly adventure section. Eight appendices ranging from reading lists to study plans aid parents in teaching children’s great books. These are broken down into elementary, secondary and high school levels. Blomquist has something for children just learning to read and those in their final high school years.
“Before Austen Comes Aesop” should be read by any parent wishing to instill their children with a love of reading. Blomquist offers parents a structure for teaching their children. It is also fun to read, a book reminding readers of the joy of reading. Parents will rediscover the classic books of their youth to share with their children.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.