Recommendations on Books to Form the Basis of a Family Library
WELL chosen books, ranged on shelves and piled on tables or desks in the "orderly disorder of constant use" add the final touch of cozy livableness to a home. They join the invitation of the big easy chair for a quiet hour that is both entertaining and profitable. The very contrast of their bright colored or somber bindings give a decorative touch that could not be secured in any other way.
In selecting the books to be placed in the home much thought and care must be exercised in choosing just those books which have a definite value for the individual members of the family group. Unless the family income admits of an extensive library, entire sets of single authors, except such authors as happen to be favorites, should give place to a greater variety of books—books suitable, for instance, for reading aloud in the family circle. The books found in the home are bound to express more than any other thing, not only the taste and preference, the discrimination and culture of the family, but the very spirit of the members.
There must be an intelligent selection of books for the children of various ages as well as for the adults, and the personal literary tastes of the various members must not be lost sight of. For the very little children, who as yet read only pictures, we should place on a low shelf of their own, where they can reach and early feel the thrill of handling and almost literally devouring—as they will do on occasion—such fascinating picture books as the "Jolly Mother Goose Annual," illustrated by Blanche Wright; "The Story of the Three Little Pigs," or "The Man in the Moon," both illustrated by L. Leslie Brooks; "The Farm Book," "Railroad Book," illustrated by E. Boyd Smith ; any good animal book such as the Ernest Nister books or the "Animal Why Book," by M. P. Pygraft.
Then for the rapturous age of children from five to six, who invariably greet the story teller with "Tell it again," there will be the shelf of books which will begin the child's first library; books which first read aloud to him by older members of the group, finally become his own won- derful kingdom when he has been initiated into the mysteries of reading. One of the beautifully illustrated, "Child's Garden of Verse," by R. L. Stevenson, "Sing Song," by Christina Rossetti, and "The Posy Ring," by Wiggin and Smith, may well start the poetry shelf.
From the delights of the linen and picture books of the "Peter Rabbit" series, or the "Story of Henny Penny"; "The Old Woman and Her Pig," and others from Jacobs' "English Fairy Tales," he will welcome to the great adventures that "never were on land or sea." Then "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," by Gudun Thorne Thompsen ; "The Sandman Farm and Sea" stories of William J. Hopkins; the Joel Chandler Harris "Uncle Remus" stories as well as the many fairy tales will give him his heart's desire. Now comes an age when no child should be without some two or three of the following books : "Swiss Family Robinson," "Gulliver's Travels," Pyle's "Robin Hood," "Arabian Nights," "Peter Pan," "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," "Pilgrim's Progress." These books are so necessary at this age partly because they give the boy or girl a taste which is almost certain to lead to further adventure later on in the best adult literature.
Psychologists tell us that at the age of twelve years there is a sudden rise in the amount of reading done by both boys and girls, and this continues for at least three or four years. Boys of this age show a great preference for stories of adventure, exciting tales with a hero and rapidly moving events, as well as biography, exploration and travel. The book shelf in his room then should be stocked wth such books as "Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain ; "Treasure Island," by R. L. Stevenson ; "Two Years Before the Mast," by Richard H. Dana, Jr., and a dozen others to be found in the accompanying lists.
Girls of this age also like adventure and biography, but they also want more fiction and stories of great women. First on their shelf should come "Little Men," "Little Women," and "The Old-Fashioned Girl," by Louisa M. Alcott. Some of Frances H. Burnett's stories, "The Little Princess," "Sara Carewe" or "The Lost Prince" may be placed alongside.
On these shelves, too, will be placed many of the best legends and stories, including "Tales of Troy and Greece," by Andrew Lang ; "Old Indian Legends," by Zitkala Sa ; James Bald-win's "Story of Siegfried," or "Story of Roland," and stories of modern heroines of the type of Laura E. Richards' "Florence Nightingale."
Then for the child who has a special interest in science, and most youngsters in their 'teens do have if they have in their possession the books which stimulate them to pursue this knowledge, there are the Fabre books, or any well illustrated flower and bird guides as are listed below. To answer the needs of those interested in the stars, there is G .E. Mitton's "Book of Stars" or "Star and Planet Finder," by Serviss ; for the boy who likes engineering there is Domville Fife's "Submarine Engineering of Today," or A. Russell Bond's "With Men Who Do Things." The important thing in the selection of the particular books chosen for any individual boy or girl is to minister to the interests he already has in the book world and to stimulate new and wider interests. The wise choice of books for the adult members of the family—books to be placed on the shelves of the library or living room and lived with through the years—is a difficult matter, dependent upon a number of things. If there is a good library in the community, which contains a fairly complete collection of popular and classical works as well as books of reference, then the volumes selected for the home will follow more closely the personal tastes of the various members of the family. Certain reference books are indispensable, however, since they are in constant use.
One up-to-date atlas, such as Reynold's "Comprehensive Atlas and Ga- zetteer of the World," or Rand McNally's "Handy-Atlas of the World," a good standard dictionary if the more expensive encyclopedia seems prohibitive and for the children who need a less formal and technical compilation of knowledge "The World Book" or one of the other condensed reference works compiled for youthful students.
AS for the literature-fiction, drama, poetry, philosophy, biography—to be placed in the home, the choice is as much a matter of personal preference as the choosing of friends among living men and women. The volumes placed on the shelves should be those one desires to read, re-read and refer to frequently. There is no place, except in a library far more extensive than that of the average home, for the book that is read only once and then laid away never to be touched again except to be dusted.
One good bird's-eye view of the best literature of all the ages is furnished by the Harvard Classics, the famous five-foot book shelf collected by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard. The fifty volumes of the series are published by P. F. Collier of New York. Individual volumes may now be obtained second hand at many book stores. It gives glimpses of a wide variety of literature and will serve as an excellent guide for the collection of additional works of those authors that appeal to the reader.
Inclusion of volumes adapted to reading aloud in the family circle is important in any home library that is really to fulfill its purpose. Humorous writings of such universal appeal as Mark Twain, short stories of familiar modern life of the type of O'Henry and Edna Ferber, stories of rapidly moving adventure and the entire field of the drama will furnish evening after evening of the most wholesome entertainment of the sort that binds the entire household closer together.
The children should be taught to use the Home Library and to realize the great value of it. It is not every family that can afford a very extensive one, and for this reason it should be appreciated. Many mothers are so interested to provide good reading material for their families that they will often sacrifice personal necessities to provide such a luxury. Not only books of literature—fiction, drama and -poetry—should come under the attention of the child, but an encyclopedia set is a great aid in his school career.
Source: Woman's Weekly Supplement, 1923.