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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur reviews Cheri Blomquist's book for parents who want their children to love literature.

Choosing what books your children can or should read can be a daunting task. There are so many books available. How can a parent determine what is appropriate or educationally beneficial? Book lists abound on the internet and can be overwhelming. Cheri Blomquist provides parents, especially those who homeschool, a great service with her new guide to children’s literature.

Blomquist has a degree in English Education and the Bible. She directs the Denim Beret Writing Program through her website Once Upon a Pen. She is also a former homeschooling mom. In Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them (Ignatius Press), she offers an overview of children’s literature from ancient times until the early 2000s. Her great love of children’s literature shines through on these pages. She writes,

Children’s literature — both the classic and the contemporaries — is filled with rich and beautiful writing, incredible adventures, and characters who are just waiting to become our friends for life.


Before Austen Comes Aesop


Blomquist warns against being in a rush to force teenagers to read adult works of classic literature. Teenagers often grumble about reading such books because they are “too difficult, too unrelatable, and too boring.” In reality, the vast majority of teens aren’t ready for those books. Both their intellect and their maturity need time to develop in order to appreciate those works of literature. Instead, Blomquist encourages the reading of quality literature that appeals to teens. Reading such books “support and lay groundwork for future introduction of [the] Great Books canon.”

One of the features that makes this list of suggested books especially useful is that in addition to providing a couple paragraphs on why the book is on the list, Blomquist also provides a reading level (whenever possible) and interest level for the book. That is helpful for determining whether a work is appropriate for a child to read alone or if it is better as a read-aloud. She also notes whether there is material in the book that some parents might object to.

Another benefit is that Blomquist includes contemporary books. Unlike many classically-minded teachers, she doesn’t presume that simply because something is old that it is better than something new. As she points out, “even the greatest classics were once contemporary themselves.”

In addition, Blomquist offers instructions on three ways to read and study a book: The Leisurely Adventure, The Book Club(ish) Adventure, and The Scholarly Adventure. This is a helpful resource for homeschooling parents who want their children to learn about and appreciate literature without using a formal curriculum.

Before Austen Comes Aesop is a valuable resource for any parent who wants to expose his or her children to important works of children’s literature. It is a must-read for homeschooling parents.

Copyright 2021 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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