By Holly Koelling
I've spent the last decade or so acquiring a ton (at least) of great books, assuming that my children will just naturally prefer to read the classics rather than contemporary fiction. Ha! The fact that their mother can easily be in the process of reading a dozen books at any given time and will most likely only actually finish the contemporary fiction ones, probably has something to do with their own tastes. If I want to encourage my kids to read a healthier diet of books, I need to take a much more active role in reading (and completing) more satisfying books myself. Classic Connections was a good fit for me at this point in my life. I'm hoping it will jump start my own interest in reading the classics and hopefully passing that interest on to my children.
Mainly gearing her book toward youth librarians and educators, Koelling places a strong emphasis on getting to know the classics yourself. READ them and cultivate the love for them yourself so that you can pass it on. She offers definitions of what exactly are the classics, and which ones might best connect with teens. She offers plenty of practical information, such as internet sites with book discussion groups, as well as websites and an extensive bibliography of resources for finding background information on the material you are reading. She also provides guidance for understanding what teens are going through so that you can better help them as readers.
Koelling offers plenty of practical advice throughout Classic Connections. There are lists throughout the books such as Classic Short Stories, Classic Poems, various age categories, etc. She also suggests ways to combine classics with more contemporary and/or appealing works or media. (I know it won't be long before I can apply some of the suggestions for combining classics with comic books and graphic novels.) While this book has a more scholarly feel to it, it is quite readable, organized well and helpful.
As always, parents will want to use discernment when browsing the suggested book lists. Not all of the books would be appropriate for homeschool families. I did find it refreshing that she emphasized several times the need to be sensitive to families that have strongly held religious beliefs. Some sections, such as those geared toward attractively displaying the library's Teen Classics holding, will not be applicable to the home setting. (Although, now that I think of it, I probably could set aside an attractive section of my shelves for the books I want to encourage). But, I think that most homeschool parents would be able to glean some insights from this book.
While War and Peace has been beckoning my from my bookshelves for several years, I think that first I'll read some books from Koelling's Thin Classics List first. Perhaps Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and then move on to something by H.G. Wells. (And I'll squeeze The Doomsday Book in there because it looked so interesting and we're studying that period in history right now. Plus, I've never read Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl - I know, shame on me- I better get on that one right away. And, it's been so long since I read anything by Mark Twain. I've been thinking about The Crucible quite a bit lately. I really should put George Orwell at the top of my reading list, too ....)