Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Future of Good Children's Literature

Recently, someone asked me to talk about how I determine which books to save, and which to give or throw away.
The best way to tell if a book is worth keeping is to read it! If I want to keep it around, because I think I might like to read it again, that's a keeper! Yes, I still enjoy reading good children's literature. Most of what is out there today, is not good or literature. I have read some books more than ten times, because I enjoy them and it is like visiting an old friend. These books I want to introduce to my children and grandchildren some day, as they are my childhood friends that never grew up. Good books demonstrate good character and encourage us to persevere through challenging times. We want to become like our storybook heroes. If a book is well written it also teaches us, painlessly, what good writing is like. Other old books teach us history before it became politically correct, when it was still OK to be 'proud to be an American'. A good author is knowledgeable about his subject and passionate. When you read a 'twaddle-free' book you learn easily and remember what you read. The author whets your appetite to learn more about the subject. If you come across books like that, keep them and note the authors. Find other things they have written.
I do throw books away regularly if they are not up to our family's standards either in moral tone or writing quality. They are just cotton candy for the mind and can rot our mental teeth just like candy does our physical ones.

Another BIG factor in buying older books is that their availability is quickly decreasing. One reason is that in 2008 the US congress passed a law that ordered the CPSIA to make it illegal to sell anything for children 12 and under that hasn't been tested for lead. The law is over broad. It says EVERYTHING must be tested! It went into effect on Feb.10, 2009 and put the lead limit at 600 ppm, and on August 14, 2009 it reduced it to 300 ppm. Libraries and other businesses let out a yell. A compromise was reached on books - Only books printed before 1984 (ironic date) would have to be tested. Alas, those are the good ones. Many used bookstores dumped all their books in that category unless they were 'collectible'. So far the law has only been selectively enforced. A couple christian and used bookstores were raided. The penalties for breaking the law are BIG. The law is so broad as to say you can't even give away these 'dangerous' items. Testing is terribly expensive, and in the case of books, you have to destroy them in the testing. I am therefore buying doubles/triples/more of the books I want my children to have available for our grandchildren.
If you want to read more about the CPSIA and the lead laws go to www.heartkeepercommonroom and type in 'CPSIA' or 'lead' in the search engine on the left hand sidebar.
As the collection of good books available is diminishing, so is the number of collectors increasing. More and more homeschoolers are putting together 'heritage libraries' for their families. Books that were easily found five years ago, are now nowhere to be found unless someone donates a private collection. If you find them you need to grab them, because they probably won't be there tomorrow.
In another post I will write about some of our favorite authors that we are always looking for.
Who's your favorite children's author? I love Stephen W. Meader and Lois Lenski.

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