Thursday, May 13, 2010
WHAT DO I MEAN BY "GOOD BOOKS"?
"Good books not only capture the imagination, but cultivate the conscience as well" - William Kilpatrick, author of GOOD BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER
If you're thinking, "I'm not into preachy morality books", don't worry - neither am I! This blog is not about books and authors whose main purpose is to moralize. A good storyteller should be first, someone who has a story to tell. But that is not to say that good literature does not teach us...
As my kids got a little bit older, I really began to realize the importance of the concept that "just because a book is a good read , it might not be good in the deeper sense of the word." I didn't only want "readable" books that would capture my kids' imaginations. I wanted to find books that would be good for their souls.
Where did I come across this concept? From two books by William Kilpatrick - WHY JONNY CAN'T TELL RIGHT FROM WRONG, and BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER. In them, he says that the context in which behavior is portrayed in a story is what's important: "character building books are not simply books about good people doing good things...the question is not if unethical behavior is present, but how it is presented."
For example, my oldest son David was really drawn into the Goosebumps series for awhile. The books were admittedly suspenseful page-turners (teachers even said: "a great way to get kids reading") but, in my opinion, there was really no other redeeming quality to them. They were formula horror stories for kids. (Think Stephen King, written "Babysitters Club" style).
After a few, Goosebumps was all my son wanted to read! I coined them to be "junk food in book form". (Not a good daily regimen for a reading diet!) I had lots of other options for David to read, so I made the suggestion that if he sustained a "diet" of good literature from our book lists, I'd let him indulge in a Goosebumps book once in a while.
Luckily, I read BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER later that year, and discovered a book series by John Bellairs that not only satisfied my son's interest in scary stories, but was described by Kilpatrick as "very well written and undergirded by a moral vision". (Remember: "capturing the imagination and cultivating the conscience" is the goal, not just finding a "good read"). Was I a happy mom? yes!
More tips from BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER in my next post...