In this book, the author writes about what makes a book a good book and why reading to oneself and why reading aloud is important and then provides a long bibliography of recommended books. What makes this book special and different from other books (i.e. "Read Aloud Handbook") is that this book is completely family focused. It is written for an intended audience of parents and stresses using reading as an important activity that bonds families together.
Hunt feels that good books feed the soul, teach values, and build character. When one connects with a character emotionally, lessons will naturally be learned from reading the story and getting to know and love the characters. Only good books fit the bill for nourishing the soul, only good books provide "honey". Hunt quotes Eric Fromm, who wrote that he feels that children need "milk" and "honey" to thrive: the milk is the parent providing for the child's physical needs, and the "honey" is the "sweetness of life, that special quality that gives the sparkle within a person". Hunt and Fromm agree that only a minority of children are receiving "honey" from their parents, a parent must first love honey and have it to give, and that not every parent has it to give. Hunt feels that "good books are rich in honey".
There are 124 pages of discussion about good books and the value of selecting good books. Good books make children wonder, laugh, and that contains spiritual, emotional, and intellectual dimensions. There is not much dedicated to selecting books for toddlers and preschoolers although there are plenty of books for that age range in the book list. Unlike other books, this is purely opinion and the author does not spend time discussing results from studies about reading aloud. This book does not discuss issues such as problems that schools have with teaching reading or dealing with children who are not read to, or discussing problems with illiterate children and adults, or other societal educational matters-this book is focused on the family unit and speaks to parents about using reading and books to enrich the lives of their children.
Not a lot of time is spent talking about what makes a bad book, and specific examples are not given of bad books. I was a bit disappointed that the issue of guns and violence in books for preschoolers was not mentioned. Hunt does discuss negative content in books for upper elementary grades and teens. Hunt states it is a bad idea to fashion stories around common life problems for the sake of dosing up the books with realism: no matter how sad or pointless it is. To inject these negative issues in a manner that leaves the reader feeling sad and hopeless accomplishes nothing positive, and only serves to squash the child's spirit. Hunt states that it is now common for books to feature rape, sexual problems, and illicit drug and alcohol use.
Hunt is Christian and evidence of this is speckled here and there but I don't think it will be offensive to non-Christians. There are 12 pages dedicated to a chapter about reading aloud from the Bible as a daily family experience.
This edition contains 85 pages of book lists. The books are first divided into three age ranges, then by type such as picture book or series. From there the books are arranged by complexity of content, and then alpha by author. There is an index by author name only. Trying to look up a single book title to see if Hunt recommends it is not possible. Some of the entries contain no description, most contain one sentence description, and some contain 2 or 3 sentences for a description. This book lists contain works of fiction, not non-fiction such as books about trains or other "real" things that young children do love to read about-there are plenty of other ways to find those books, though.
I loved that Hunt brings into the discussion, the role of family and creating a safe and comfortable home for the child. There is a chapter about influences in the child's life: good and bad. Television is discussed, very lightly, for its problems such as helping contribute to short attention spans in preschool aged children, squelching creativity, and that the violent content of many shows and evening news programs does nothing but corrupt the soul. Good books are often translated into movies (Disney and such) but rarely compare to the quality and depth as the story as told in the book version. Hunt basically cautions to selectively watch TV but to make sure children get a daily dose of reading good books rather than spending valuable time sitting in front of poor content television shows and commercials. There are other books on the market that cite the studies and discuss the problems with television such as "Endangered Minds", if that is something you are interested in learning more about.
I love that Hunt is writing about the importance of family life and the value of reading as a family bonding experience, rather than the more common urging of parents to read anything at all to their children just so they would be interested in reading when the time comes to teach them to read. I am sick of hearing that parents should read anything, anything at all, to their children as a way to interest them in reading-I believe that content does matter!
Hunt's analysis of what constitutes a good book and her urging to use books to elevate the child's spirit is refreshing to read about. Hunt writes with clarity and this book is quick read but the important message will stay with you and inspire you. This book would make a great gift for new parents or grandparents; it makes an easy "wish list" to use as a buying guide. The price of this book is inexpensive and will save you time searching for good books in the library or bookstores, and it will save you money when you are buying books so I recommend it for every parent and grandparent.