Good reading is crucial for the early and ongoing formation of the imagination. We all love stories and arguably learn best indirectly through stories,” explained William Fahey, president of Thomas More College … In light of the current culture, Fahey, who has five children, advised, “If the parents are not plotting out a course for the family, then someone else will, and that someone is not likely to be a friend to our [Christian] faith or the family or the child’s mind.”

“Reading good books,” he added, “may not guarantee that anyone turns out to be the finest soul on the planet, but the odds are better, because the child — and the adult — will have a moral imagination, an imagination charged with ideas, characters, stories that will be useful in navigating life.”

Jared Staudt, coordinator of the Catholic studies program at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., pointed out that “great literature teaches common sense, how to think rightly about reality and have wonder in the face of reality. It enlivens the imagination and really lays the foundation for more generalized education that follows.” …

The greatest challenge can be to spark and sustain the children’s interest, Fahey said. “The key is that the mother and father must be readers themselves.” …

“Both parents need to make a very serious effort to do two things: read the classics themselves and schedule time for family reading,” he affirmed. “Even 20 minutes a day makes a difference.” …

There is another benefit: family conversations about the works.

For readers of all ages, classical literature can serve as a great springboard for examining a whole range of moral, ethical and spiritual issues,” observed Patricia Crawford, associate professor of early childhood education, language, literacy and culture at the University of Pittsburgh. “For this reason, it is important for children to not just read these texts, but also to have an opportunity to discuss them and consider their applications to real-world situations. Parents play a very important role in providing guidance and making this happen.”

The characters in classic stories “replace ephemeral movie characters or glitzy pop idols as points of reference,” asserted Fahey. “The child’s and the adult’s moral imagination can only be colored if reading is an individual habit and part of the culture of the family.”

For example, Staudt said that, with Aesop’s Fables, youngsters like to guess what the moral of each story is and then talk about that moral.

He suggests beginning with Aesop, fairy tales, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis before a transition into Greek myths, Homer and dramas by Sophocles as the foundation of Western literature …

Good literature opens children up to a sense of wonder. “The wonder opens up the mind, and they are inspired and excited to want to learn more,” Staudt said …

Faith-based classics are a must-read. “Don’t forget,” Crawford emphasized, “to include great Bible stories and the lives of the saints for children of all ages.”

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Excerpts from Joseph Pronechen’s, Why Families Should Promote Classics, N. C. Register; edited with emphasis in italics by Ellopos Blog