I have often seen but never read the books of Gladys Hunt on books and reading: Honey for a Child’s Heart, Honey for a Teen’s Heart, and Honey for a Woman’s Heart, all published by Zondervan. But in my last few weeks of book hunting in local Thrift stores I have come across the first and last mentioned titles. Last night I started reading my nice, “new” hardcover copy (c.1969, this is the tenth printing already – 1976) of Honey for a Child’s Heart, and now I wish I had read this long ago!
As an aside, it says something to me that there is no title Honey for a Man’s Heart. Perhaps this is because the very title would turn men off to reading! But we could remedy this with a more manly title, something like Exercise for a Man’s Soul or Food for a Man’s Mind.) I hope it is not because Hunt or other authors who want to encourage us to read have given up on men. As I have noted here, Tony Reinke’s book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011) is a great book for encouraging men (and all others!) to read.
But, to return to Hunt, I also learned that she was a fellow Grand Rapidian (Grand Rapids, MI) and that she and her husband Keith were involved for many years with InterVarsity Fellowship (a Christian ministry to university students; specifically, Cedar Campus, IVF”s Great Lakes training and retreat Center). An internet search on her reveals that she passed away in 2010 at the age of 83. From that IVF note on her passing, I also learned that she had her own reading blog, with the same title as her book: “Honey for a Child’s Heart”.
Last night I read the first chapter of Honey for a Child’s Heart (with the great subtitle, The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life), and it alone is worth the price of the book. In this chapter she sets the stage for making specific recommendations for reading to and by children. “Bequest of Wings” (taken from a line in a poem of Emily Dickinson) is her philosophy of reading – a Christian philosophy – and it is packed with good thoughts (much as the first section of Reinke’s book contains a theology of reading)!
Today I am going to start quoting from this chapter, hoping to encourage you to obtain this book (There are plenty of inexpensive copies available on the internet.) – whether you are a parent of young children or teens, or whether you are a grandparent. It will inspire you to be a better reader yourself, as well as to be a better reader to your children and grandchildren, so that they, in turn, will become good (and better!) readers also. Read on and be inspired!
After pulling a quote from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and mentioning how young children were introduced to the world of Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet, Owl and Christopher Robin, Hunt writes this:
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, of beauty, of delight and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.
Children and books go together in a special way. I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing God and the many rich things He has given us to enjoy. This is every parent’s privilege, and books are his keenest tools. Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way they they spin out pure joy and magic.
…Children are the freest and most imaginative of creatures. They love the fun of words and have a spectacular ability to learn. We must respect their eagerness and competence by introducing them to good books. I am frankly excited by the potential of books to build a whole, healthy, spiritually alert child who has the capacity to enjoy God and be useful to Him (pp.14-18).
And then follows the quote from Emily Dickinson on the magical power of books, which I leave with you (p.18):
He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He knew no more that he was poor,
Or that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy ways
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!