Whatever is Admirable: The Classics


A classic is a book which has stood the test of time, captivating generations of readers. It often touches on topics which have universal appeal, such as love, friendship, betrayal or loss. Many classics are referenced in other works, allowing the well-read person to make connections between the two. For example, my son and I were recently watching the movie August Rush (not a classic!) and he immediately recognized several elements from Oliver Twist in the movie.

Although many classics are admirable, for these reasons and more, not every Classic is worth reading. Just as I would never watch every movie that wins an Oscar from the critics, there are many so-called “classics” which our Christian children should not be reading, such as books containing sensuality. I don’t give my younger children books with serious moral dilemmas which they are unprepared for. I look for books where the hero is a positive role model and avoid books which cause the reader to feel love and sympathy for someone who is disrespectful or immoral.

Reading Aloud with Older Children

I still some schedule read-aloud time with my 7th grader, because there are many books that are profitable for him to read with me, though they would not be good for him to read alone.

Last year, for example, my son and I read C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce. Lewis paints an intriguing picture of heaven and hell in this allegorical story. Although I trust Lewis as an author, and would allow my son to read the entire Narnia series alone, it was important to discuss this particular book together, in light of its spiritual content. As we read we often paused to discuss passages that were difficult to understand or where we might disagree with Lewis. The book also raised questions in my son’s mind about spiritual matters, and it was important to be there as the questions arose.

Choosing books for strong readers

The books our children read will have a great impact on who they become, for good or for ill. Just as we would not allow them to play with fools and mockers, so we must protect their minds and hearts from authors who would seek to lead them astray. I would not allow my young child to spend hours alone, talking to a stranger. Do I allow him to read books I know nothing about?

Choosing Books for Voracious Readers

Early in this Home Library Builders series I addressed some of the concerns faced by parents of reluctant readers. But what about those voracious readers, who can never get enough? How do we choose books for them? Long ago I realized I would never have time to keep up with my oldest son. The days of pre-reading all his books are long gone, as he has more time and opportunity to read than I do these days.

Often my son has already read the books his curriculum suggests. Occasionally he re-reads a particularly excellent book, and I trust he will read with more understanding now than he did four years ago. Usually, however, I like to offer him new choices in his reading material.

In choosing books for him, I often rely on authors with whom we have experience, those whom I already have grown to trust. I also lean heavily on certain Christian curriculum providers, drawing new titles from their reading lists. Of course I draw from the curriculum I use, Tapestry of Grace. I also look through the Veritas Press, Beautiful Feet Books and Sonlight catalogs when looking for new books. I trust the screening they have done for me. Books that appear on more than one of my lists deserve definite consideration when I choose what we’ll read. It is also helpful to search extensive booklists like All Through the Ages by Christine Miller or Let the Authors Speak by Carolyn Hatcher when looking for new titles.

I am careful to consider age appropriateness when drawing from lists like these, particularly when choosing literature titles. Although my 7th grader reads at a high school level, that doesn’t mean he is mature enough to discern worldview on his own as he reads. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 appears on many high school reading lists, but a quick read-through of that book showed me that although my son would understand it, he was not old enough for it.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8


  1. I have the same challenge with my 8yo daughter. I can’t possibly pre-read every book, and still keep her happily devouring them, but I can pull from lists like you suggested. Great post; thanks for submitting to the CM Carnival. ♥

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight and wisdom (and links) pertaining to this important topic of seeking healthful literature for our young adult readers. It’s pure joy to choose and share great mind-shaping classic literature with our children. The fruit of knowledge is ripe and plentiful.


  3. Philippians 4:8 is a great verse to follow when looking for books!
    I think it’s important to raise discerning readers.

  4. I read a quote that 80% of books have been published since 1980,80% of those would have been better left as trees.
    How true it is. Thank you for the insights.

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