This was not an intended book review. It came about as I was writing another post on why I love reading to my kids. In writing that post, I was mentioning the incredible job my wife has done putting together a family library and I was citing some of the books she used to help her in her book choices. Since Honey for a Child’s Heart was the main book I remembered her using I thought I would read it before I finished the post just in case there was something useful I could use. Was there ever! I decided I needed to do a dedicated book review before I finished my other post.
I knew that Honey for a Child’s Heart contained an extensive bibliography with brief descriptions of books and I really thought it didn’t do much more than that, but Gladys Hunt spends 100+ pages describing her views on literature and it’s role in strengthening a family. I found her views to be both insightful and inspiring and I wanted to pass that along to anyone reading this post.
Photo credit to Michelle Chaya
In the title I mention that this is a must read for dads. I say this, not because it is for dads only, but rather because of my experience as a dad. As I mentioned in an earlier post (five reasons to home school… one teacher’s perspective) Heidi did a lot of our research on homeschooling and I was gradually converted after some reading and discussion. When it came to the importance of reading as a family, it took much less to convince me and I didn’t bother reading or doing research at all. I suspect there are many of us dads who take a back seat in a lot of the workings of the family, especially if we are away at work and our wives are at home with the kids the majority of the time. That is why I recommend this books to dads. It gave me a new perspective on reading and gave me first hand inspiration.
Here is what I liked about the book. (I tried to let her writing do the convincing so there are a lot of quotes)
1. It is well written and well thought out. She has a simple way of stating her opinion with logic and reasoning behind it. Here is one example of her writing as she tries to convince the reader to take a more active role in parenting:
“I don’t know anyone who would suggest that we follow each other like a herd of thoughtless animals, pushed about by life. We have freedom and capacity to choose. God’s promise of wisdom to those who ask is given on the condition that the person open himself up to God’s ideas and be ready to obey. I have a painful feeling that family life is often more obedient to a given sub-culture than to the Lord of Glory. Each set of parents is charged with responsibility for their children. Each must choose goals which they deem valuable and then make private decisions to implement them. Life seems full of choices among good, better, and best. Only lazy parents avoid making decisions. And remember, Parents bend the twig long before it gets to the schoolteacher.”
2. She lays out reasons for reading that go far beyond academics and IQ. She argues for strengthening the family as a unit and for getting to know your kids as individuals; as seen in the following quote:
“Not infrequently parents complain of inability to communicate with their children. “I cannot understand how he thinks!” I want to ask if they ever really thought together about ideas. Parents may treat children as children most of their lives – giving them “milk,” working hard to provide opportunities for them – and then suddenly the children are on the verge of adulthood and they have never become acquainted with them as people. It is frightening to suddenly find people living in your household whom you don’t know!”
“You can’t one day decide to know your children and have it magically happen. You begin from the beginning by sharing “the honey” of life, as well as providing “the milk.” Knowing someone means sharing ideas, growing together. It means not being embarrassed about feelings or being yourself.”
“In this day of committees and television…we do recommend family reading with great enthusiasm for we have seen what it has done for our family and the immense pleasure and richness it has brought.”
3. She not only argues for reading of good literature but also gives an extensive bibliography to help parents find such literature. (she also gives a plug for us dads to take an active role)
“Family reading aloud demands good literature. Only the best can stand the test of having the words hit the airwaves and fall into the minds of such a variety of ages. You won’t find a busy father reading insipid, sentimental stories aloud for very long – and the best family reading requires a father’s voice.”
Photo credit to Michelle Chaya
4. She makes one of the best cases for reading the Bible as a family that I have ever heard, and does it in a way that is matter of fact and non-judgmental. Here is one part of what she says:
“Why is it that family Bible reading is such a rare thing in today’s Christian homes, especially when it is the most alive, pertinent book in the world? Why did that young father expect that disciplined Scripture reading would produce resentment? Let me suggest several reasons.” (you can read the reasons in the book)
And in another place she writes:
“If we approach the Bible with a stained-glass window voice and emotional tremors that make the book seem religious,” in the most frightening sense of that word, chances are our children will escape at the first opportunity. Our prayers, too, must reflect that we are speaking with someone who is real, not that we are making a speech.”
5. She makes compelling arguments for parents to be more active in the shaping and molding of their children’s thinking.
“Communication flows out of conviction. Far too many parents feel little responsibility beyond providing physical needs, seeing that order is kept and that their children are at the right places at the right time. They do not plan to be influencers of ideas, to furnish the mind with what is true. They expect the school and the church to do that for them.”
She then goes on to discuss the the great need for good parenting in a world filled with so many influences in television and media.
In summary, I found this book to be about far more than reading good books and highly recommend it to any and all new parents, old parents and grandparents alike. I hope that you enjoy reading it for yourself and, if you do, let me know what you think in the comments section. Happy reading!