Friday, May 27, 2011

TOS Review: Read for the Heart

PhotobucketMy final review for this year's The Old Schoolhouse crew was a special treat -- a book for me. It's a wonderful book that I can't recommend highly enough!

As much as I love reading homeschool catalogs, I often skip right past the parent sections of most of them. By the time I finish tallying up the rest of my order, I don't choose anything for myself.

I had never noticed that Apologia offered books aimed at homeschooling parents, and I now know that I've been missing at least one real gem. I absolutely loved Sarah Clarkson's book Read for the Heart, and I can already tell that it's going to make a difference for our homeschool family. I believe it's also a "must read" for families that choose not to homeschool.

Sarah Clarkson is a homeschool graduate with a gift for writing and a love of books. When she talks about her family, I never got the "better than thou" impression that I sometimes get when reading about other  homeschoolers. She tells about a real family, reading aloud amidst real schedules and with real challenges. At the end of the book I'm left thinking, "I can do this."

Sarah Clarkson uses rich description to show us how her life has been changed by the books that her parents shared with her when she was growing up. She goes on to share the research about reading aloud, to explain why you should read certain types of books, and to describe what makes a good book. After reading all of her information, I realize that reading aloud to my children is worthy of more than just the leftover time at the end of our days or something to squeeze in once all the math problems are calculated and all the Latin verbs are conjugated.

The biggest portion of this book is devoted to lists of the books that have her highest recommendation. This is much more than just a list of books. She suggests an appropriate age range for each book, gives a short summary, and warns parents about any subject matter that may not be appropriate.

Of course, any list of book suggestions is only as good as the books it recommends. I now have a great deal of respect for Sarah Clarkson's opinion, and I trust that the books she names are ones worth searching out for my family. I looked through the lists and found several of our favorites. Addison also agrees that the books she recognized in the lists were some of the best ones that she's read.

In addition to lots of recommendations for longer chapter books, Sarah Clarkson gives parents a lengthy list of treasured picture books to share with their younger children. I scribbled down a list of these books and snuck away to the library by myself one morning. I came home with an overflowing tote bag of books that I hoped Lauren would enjoy. All of them were big hits. In fact, she's asked to hear some of the books over and over again. It's such a treat to enjoy a beautiful picture book with Lauren instead of merely suffering through another lesser quality book that she would pick on her own in the library.

The real test came when I put her recommendations to the test and asked for Addison and Brennan's opinions. If you've been following along with my entries to Debra's Reading Aloud challenge, you can find some of the books we've recently enjoyed. I was surprised to see that both Addison and Brennan enjoyed Rascal by Sterling North. I had feared that they'd get bogged down listening to the rich descriptions. We've now moved on to My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George -- another winner in our house.

I can't wait to see what other treasures we uncover as we continue to choose books based on Sarah Clarkson's recommendations!

Read from the Heart is available through Apologia for just $17. They offer a few other books to encourage homeschool parents, and I can guarantee that I'll be looking more closely at them to see what other gems I've been missing. You can find these books on their website here. If you'd like to read what other homeschool parents thought about Read for the Heart, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received a free copy of Read for the Heart as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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