Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along: Introductions

Welcome to month 1 of our Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along!

Not sure what we’re talking about? Find out more here.

Normally, these discussions will be for members only, both Golden and Silver Key, but we’re sharing this with everyone this month to give you a sneak peek! Each month, some or all of the Redeemed Reader team will model a book club discussion that coordinates with the readings from Honey for a Child’s Heart for that month. We’ll also provide a pdf of the questions by themselves that you can then use with someone in your *real* life to talk through together.

honey for a child's heart read along

In this first month, we’re focusing on Introductions: to each other, to Honey for a Child’s Heart, and to children’s books. Our coordinating children’s books this month come from one of the picture book lists and from a “classics” book list in Honey for a Child’s Heart. Members, you can find the recommended books listed along with the discussion questions pdf on the Honey for a Child’s Heart Hub!

We’ll be using the newest, 50th anniversary edition, of Honey for a Child’s Heart, but you are welcome to follow along in an older edition. Most of the content is the same, but the page numbers will be off.

Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along Question #1: First Encounters

How did you first encounter Honey for a Child’s Heart? (Or, how have you personally benefited from this book?)

Janie: Being from an older generation (ahem) I didn’t encounter Honey until my kids were grown. (Jim Trelease came first for me, mainly because I heard him on Dr. Dobson and checked out his Read-Aloud Handbook for good suggestions.) I checked out Gladys Hunt’s book probably around the time I started writing children’s books. I was curious about what she considered to be valuable and enduring, as well opposed to the flighty and fleeting. Her book helped give me a broader picture of the kind of books I wanted to write.

honey for a child's heart

Megan: I know my mom used Honey as well as Read-Aloud Handbook when she was raising us and scouring library book sales for their discards (some of which I am grateful to inherit!), but my personal experience came from taking Mr. Pettit’s Children’s Literature class at Covenant College. That was when I learned that the books (especially the fairy tales) I loved could hold such significance! I remember crying when I read Voyage of the Dawn Treader for the first time that year because the last few pages were so powerful. 

Betsy: I grew up with a mother who read to my sister and me diligently and with great delight. When I discovered Honey for a Child’s Heart as an adult, I called my mother to tell her about it, exclaiming over how many titles I recognized in it. She simply remarked that of course I did—she used Honey for suggestions for all of our read alouds when I was growing up! 

Regular readers will know that the Redeemed Reader team considers ourselves in debt to Gladys Hunt and seek to carry on her legacy in part here at Redeemed Reader. We have a page of her old blog posts here on Redeemed Reader, and we’re looking to add more this coming year!

Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along Question #2: Books Other Than Honey

In the introduction to the 4th edition, Gladys Hunt writes that Honey for a Child’s Heart was the first of its kind—the first book about children’s books that looked at the spiritual ramifications of this great parenting-reading adventure. And we’re so thankful for her example and wisdom! What other similar books have been helpful to you as you seek to practice discernment and wise judgment over books?

MeganOn Stories and Other Essays on Literature by C.S. Lewis and Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination have both been very insightful in shaping my discernment. It’s time for me to read them again! But I am also eager to finish reading Echoes of EdenBequest of Wings, and Christian Imagination. I’m grateful for authors who recognize that delight in reading is worth pursuing and that not every recommended book on a list will have the same effect on every reader.

echoes of eden cover

Betsy: Megan, you’ve listed some of my all-time favorite resources! I can’t recommend them enough. The main reason I haven’t reviewed Leland Ryken’s The Christian Imagination yet is because I’m not finished plumbing its depths!

Janie: C. S. Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism was probably the most helpful for me in tracking down the mysterious qualities of a “good book,” and that those qualities are not the same for all readers. Alan Jacobs’s Reading in An Age of Distraction was enlightening also—I appreciated his non-academic approach, and was intrigued by his refusal to write a must-read list. For an academic who teaches literature, he’s very skeptical about teaching literature!

Betsy: Janie, those are two more terrific suggestions. I appreciated how succinct both of those books were, too. Lots to chew on.

Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along Question #3: Magic Gateways

On page 3, Hunt writes: “That is what a book does. It introduces us to people and places we wouldn’t ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, beauty, delight, and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.”

Who and what are some of the favorite people and places you have met through books? Which books have been your “magic gateways”? Which books have helped you grow and add something to your “inner stature”?

Betsy: I’ll resist waxing eloquently here on *all* the many books and people and places I could name. Those that truly stand out are:

  • The Secret Garden: I credit my absolute fascination with green growing things, my delight in God’s creation, and my (artificial) nostalgia for a giant old home on the moors of North England to this book. I’ve read this book more than any other single title save the Bible itself.
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: what a delight! And what a beautiful book in every sense.
  • Old Yeller: another book that gripped me as a child, and one that I’ve pulled inner reserves from each time I’ve had to put a dog down. This book is right up there with the scene from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird when Gregory Peck, as Atticus Finch, must also put a dog down. For us dog lovers, these final acts of mercy demand great inner stature; Travis loved his dog as much a I’ve ever loved any of mine.
cover of silver sword

Janie: Yeah, I could name several. (One mark of a true reader, I think, is someone who can immediately name books that changed or affected them.) My first transient experience with a book, when I recall being lifted out of myself and into the action, came through The Silver Sword by Ian Serallier. It’s the story of four young people who find their way back to their parents after the devastation of World War II. There’s a reunion scene near the middle of the novel that made me gasp out loud. My second big book crush was The Once and Future King by T.H. White, a retelling of the Arthurian legend. White did great things with characterization; delving into these personalities gave me a better understanding of the ironies, contradictions, and beauties of human existence. (Even though White, by all accounts, was a notorious misanthrope.) I had another experience with Anna Karenina, the second time I read it. Tolstoy was another famous misanthrope who seemed to understand people entirely; after Part Four I was so full of his characters and everything happening to them I had to put the book down for a while and walk up and down the sidewalk processing it all. 

Betsy: I, too, loved Anna Karenina, but I’m super impressed you’ve read it more than once! It’s a hefty tome!

Megan: When I first read Till We Have Faces I was fourteen, and I hated it. For some reason I read it again a couple years later…then again…and then I produced it on stage as my senior project in college. It became one of my triad of favorite books (also including Stepping Heavenward and The Hiding Place) about women who were struggling to know God. I also loved the All-of-a-Kind Family series and read them over and over as a child. Other books that add to my “inner stature” are those that move me so deeply that I cry at the end. Two of my favorites in that category are Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. (I need to read those again, too!) 

[Readers: One of the blog posts we have from Gladys Hunt is actually about this idea of “Magic Gateways.” Check it out!]

Honey for a Child’s Heart Read Along Question #4: Spiritual Depth of Books

Hunt echoes our own conversations about TRUTH and STORY when she discusses the spiritual depth of books along with the intellectual enjoyment of them. Her questions at the end of the first chapter are worth pondering: “How large are your goals for your children? Why have a small world when you can walk with God into the larger place that is His domain? … With what will you furnish [your children’s] spirit[s]?”

We might phrase it this way at Redeemed Reader: how are we introducing TRUTH and STORY to our children? How are we pursuing wisdom and delight? Big questions, but let’s toss out some suggestions of ways we can do this with books in particular, since that’s our focus at Redeemed Reader as well as Gladys Hunt’s focus.  

Megan: This year we decided to take a different direction with homeschooling and I have borrowed from Betsy’s American Literature lineup to decide what books I want to read with my highschooler that we will both enjoy AND learn skills we can apply to appreciating other books we read by choice. Two things we have done to enjoy books more are looking for motifs that appear not only in Scripture, but also in fairy tales, Calvin and Hobbes, and other fiction. For example, have you ever considered the significance of short heroes? What about numbers like three, seven, and twelve? We keep a notebook, but they also come up in casual conversation. Also, this summer I started a book club with my two eldest boys and a couple of other teens, and I gave the other moms a copy of Echoes of Eden so we can learn together how to think discerningly about literature. We’ve had some great conversations!

cover of skyward

Janie: The main way I’ve used books with children is simply by reading aloud to them and talking about the books with them. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to a Sunday school class years ago, which was probably not the best use of Sunday-school time. But the book was new to them and they reacted to every turn and twist—and when Aslan came back to life it allowed me to present the story of Christ’s death and resurrection in a new light. I wouldn’t do that with every group of kids, but with these girls I think it had a real effect.

Betsy: My family loves to listen to audio books when we’re together, especially on our big road trips. We’ve covered some serious ground along the “wisdom and delight” avenue: we’ve listened to everything from Starship Troopers, Henry Huggins, Harry Potter, The Giver, and Skyward to The Lord of the Rings, Horatio Hornblower, and Dune. The delight of sharing in a well-told story together is magnified when those same stories have prompted conversations ranging from issues of authority (in society at large as well in our own selves) to sacrificial love to the very meaning of life and death. We have to go back to Scripture to answer many of these, especially when a perceptive teen tries to tease out some nuance. And we’ve laughed. Oh, we’ve laughed.

Your Turn

That’s plenty to get a conversation started! Use these questions to get your own read along with a friend, spouse, neighbor, friend (or group) started. Once a couple of book lovers start talking books, the hard part is stopping the conversation.

For this month, in addition to the recommended titles from the lists in Honey for a Child’s Heart, we’re also offering up our Favorite Children’s Novels Old and New Book List. It’s our humble expansion to Hunt’s work.

And feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments below: how would YOU answer one of those questions above?

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Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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