C. S. Lewis says, “the right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.” How do we inculcate just sentiments in our children’s minds? In our own minds? We can do this with good books. Good books impart just sentiments and soothe parched thinking.
It is said that in the Lewis home both parents loved to read and often read for hours in the evenings. Like so many families, this winter our family has been unable to enjoy our regular outings due to weather or due to health concerns. Restless inactivity breeds irritability. To the rescue: a good book!
The other night I read beneath a blanket on the sofa and heard from my daughter’s upstairs bedroom her characteristic giggle and clapping of hands. She trotted downstairs with a contented appraisal: “Oh, that was such a good book!”
When looking for good books to cultivate just sentiments, we may consider our child’s reading skill, listening ability, or emotional maturity, but we must also consider the excellence of the writing. Just as capable physical therapists work our children’s muscles, so well-written books gently but firmly exercise our children’s minds. Lewis gives us this criterion: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” He notes, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Good books abound! We only need to look.
When we find good books, we can read them together. Books written beautifully for younger children can expose all of us to elegant language and ease our weary minds without the demands of more challenging reading. I learned this early in homeschooling and am more firmly persuaded now as I preview recommended read-alouds for the Simply Classical Curriculum. Most recently I read The Winged Watchman at my son’s urging. Not only did I learn about windmills and wartime occupation in Holland with its eventual liberation, I gained a warm and memorable glimpse into security, sacrifice, and hopefulness.
If you are feeling isolated or frustrated this winter, and recognize the need to inculcate just sentiments in your students, a good book can help. From Corduroy to A Christmas Carol, you can find beautiful books to read together. Let the words wash over you and spark a gratifying depth of conversation. May good books nourish our children’s minds this winter, even as we thirstily welcome such nourishment ourselves.