Once you decide reading should be an important part of your homeschool, you face the next question: how to choose good literature for children. There are lists of classics for kids online and, of course, the Harry Potter series is among them once you reach middle school. “The Call of the Wild” is another one. Or “Oliver Twist.”
Let’s take each of these titles and look at them closely. The Bible clearly states witchcraft is evil, so why would any Christian read Harry Potter? But even if you decided you wanted to know what the whole world is so crazy about, my biggest problem with the Harry Potter series is that the characters lie, cheat, and steal in order to accomplish their goals. Since readers usually end up sympathizing with the main characters, I do not want to put such role models in front of my children.
How about “The Call of the Wild?” I have conservative Christian friends who stay away from fiction altogether, but they might consider Jack London’s novel because it’s about a dog. Animal stories tend to always make the list with conservative Christian parents. But wait a minute! If you read the story and have any background in philosophy, you will recognize that London is weaving through a theme of nihilism he learned from Nietzsche.
This story is often classified as a children’s novel, but that is wrong. Children do not get the themes and motifs London put into this book. Besides, the violence described or mentioned in the book should probably not be put in front of impressionable minds. The same goes for “Oliver Twist.” This book is not “kiddie stuff” just because it’s about a boy. Oliver’s journey makes for a great classic, but children should be closer to teens if the read this book at all because of the material presented.
As I have looked around, I found a very good document about how to choose good literature for children. It is on the website of super-conservative Christian curriculum provider, Bob Jones University Press. I don’t get BJU Press curriculum for my homeschool for several reasons, but I think they did well with their article on discernment and literature.
This document first lists great books for children by grade, and then, around page 157, it goes into how to choose literature for children from a Christian perspective. It’s a great article and if you read anything today, you should read those pages about developing discernment.