Paperback Advice from Livy
I wish there was a magic way to identify good literature for children—especially for boys. Unfortunately, there isn’t… and this discussion is as important as it is difficult! This is because paperback friends—just like the flesh-and-blood variety—exert a powerful influence on the lives of children. Bad company corrupts good morals. Are your kids searching for pearls in a literary dung heap? How do you even determine that there’s a pearl there in the first place? What’s a good book even supposed to do?
In his account of Rome, the renowned first-century historian Livy listed two fundamental purposes for studying history. In history, “You see examples of every possible type. From these you may select for yourself and your country what to imitate, and also what you are to avoid.” Why is this important? If you don’t pay attention to this kind of thing, you’ll end up where Rome was at the beginning of the first century… a society “in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies.” (Sound familiar?)
The same two purposes hold true for other literary genres as well: all good lit should help the reader imitate the good and shun the bad.
As Christians, we want our sons to become devout men of God. We want them to be just, compassionate, and humble. We want them to be courageous, bold, men of integrity. In keeping with this, the stories we give them should be rife with heroes who embody such strengths. Our boys should be filled to the brim with heroic virtues. If we turn our sons upside-down, giant-killing bravery, humility, and sister-protecting instincts should pour out onto the carpet. And this will be due, in part, to the potent heroic examples floating around in their heads.
Such heroes reside in healthy stories. But we don’t want to confuse “healthy” with “safe.” Continue reading