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Review: Reading with Purpose by Nancy Wilson

reading with purpose

Would you encourage your teen to hang out, unsupervised, with some of the most charming, persuasive, and articulate non-Christians in the world?  That is what’s happening when they read literature without guidance.

Obviously, this can have devastating effects.  So, what is a Christian homeschooling parent to do?  We must understand the both the ideas and the literature, and guide our teens through them.  To help those who teach teens, Nancy Wilson has written a short, simple guide, Reading with Purpose:  Applying the Christian Worldview to American Literature.

‘Students who are not thinking Christians can be lead to believe many untrue things’ if they do not know what is true about God, man, and the universe.  Wilson, a high school literature teacher, knows this from personal experience.  She aims to teach students ‘to love literature while loving Christ more’.  How?  By understanding the times and worldviews of the authors:

When we understand how to examine the worldview of the writer and consider it from a Christian perspective, we are then free to stay uncontaminated by ungodly thinking while appreciating all that is good in the work.

The modern view of literature is that it ‘should not mean but be’, but Christians both now and in the past understand that literature, like all things, cannot be an end in itself.  All literature shares an opinion about God, about man, and about the universe.  The goal of this booklet is to enable readers, whether teens or their parents, to identify what is being taught in a work of literature, and, if necessary, to refute it. 

First Wilson presents a Christian view of the purpose and value of literature.  Then she briefly outlines American thought and literature from colonial times to the present.  She defines and describes the major periods—Early American Literature, Neoclassicism, American Romanticism, American Realism and Naturalism, Modernism, and Post Modernism—and for each one she bluntly states what was thought about God, man, and the world at the time.  She describes the general characteristics of the literature of each period, discusses some specific authors and works, and provides a recommended reading list, all from a biblical point of view.  Finally she summarizes the differences in literature throughout the last few hundred years in a handy chart.    

Wilson’s unspoken premise, which I agree with, is that the best preparation for teaching literature is to understand the ideas behind the works as well as the works themselves.  Here is the key, I think:  ‘…studying literature cannot be done apart from studying history and philosophy.’  Yes, this is a daunting prospect for a busy homeschool mom, even if she is a bookworm like me.

However, I have witnessed the destructive power of blindly-absorbed literature in myself and in others.  Doing this right is important.  Very important.  Therefore I learn as much as I can about ideas by periodically rereading books like Reading with Purpose and others.  I also gratefully use the Veritas Press Omnibus texts’ guidance to Western literature and thought when I teach my teens.

Reading with Purpose is a short, clearly-written guide to American literature that should be read by every parent of homeschooled teens, as well as by older teens themselves.  It is inexpensive and may well be one of the best investments a parent of reading teens can make.

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge (OK, so it is a booklet, but it’s worth it) and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Trivium Tuesdays, and Encourage One Another Wednesday.

Disclosure:  I have owned this booklet for many years and am not compensated for this review.

One Comment

  1. Amy says:

    This looks like a great book! When you wrote, ‘…studying literature cannot be done apart from studying history and philosophy.’ I thought…Veritas Press Omnibus! But then of course you said that same thing =)

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