In 1989, cultural critic, Ken Myers, made a statement about popular culture that should shake any living Christian with a pulse into thoughtful alarm: “the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier times.” A simple scan of some influential book titles, written by non-Christian as well as Christian authors, proves the prophetic nature of his claim: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman, The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
But neither a listing of book titles, nor even a treatise on the superiority of an extinct Christian culture is necessary to convince any of us at Providence, that we DO have a culture to cherish, uphold, and pass on to our children and grandchildren. Providence has been, continues to be, and seeks to continue to be an oasis where the Truth found in God’s written Word is upheld. Also, the appetites, heart orientation, and capacity of the mind are vigorously cultivated, so that this Truth can be defended and lived out courageously, even mercifully. Providence has always and will always continue to cultivate this word-based culture through the joys of READING.
Over its more than twenty-five years of existence, Providence has cultivated a reading culture that gleams brightly in the surrounding cultural darkness. Parents love to read to their children and to share book titles with each other. These same children go to the library excitedly, recommending titles to each other, blessedly unaware that this is not “cool.” Our dedicated teachers also encourage their students by reading the best in children’s literature throughout the year. Teachers and parents are assisted with their choices through the “Recommended Reading List.” This list includes over 1,700 titles compiled by the Providence Book Committee. The objective of this committee is to provide a list of books that reflect the School’s core values, as well as to promote educational stimulus appropriate to each grade level. Supporting these goals and objectives is the annual Providence Book Fair, which enables our families to build their own libraries with the “living books” that are becoming more and more rare.
Since the realities of our fast-paced modern life do make sifting through that wonderful reading list harder to manage, the idea came about to provide our parents and students with a more concise listing of the top thirty-five recommended books for each grade level. Since there are thirty-five weeks in a school year, that number seemed the most appropriate organizational structure. Therefore, the idea behind each of these lists is that it would be possible to read all of them in a school year. Some are picture books and would take twenty minutes to finish, while others are above grade level, and would therefore best be read aloud, while still others are perfect for reading silently by the student. An attempt has been made to provide a balance of books that encourage slower, more thoughtful digestion, as well as those that are beautiful in conception, but less demanding in terms of time to read, or those that provide a sometimes-needed light-hearted approach to character instruction. There has also been a deliberate inclusion of books in the fantasy and fairy tale genre. Today’s children are being bombarded with fantasy fiction that overtly seeks to impart a paganism where symbols that have traditionally represented real evil display good, and good displays evil. The desire of the authors of these books is to sow confusion in the realm of the sub-conscious in order to decode what God has already “hard-wired” in children—a knowledge of good and evil. To counter such a predominant cultural influence, each class list intentionally includes the fantasy works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald. These works reveal and reflect the spiritual realities God reveals to us in all of scripture. A firm foundation in the works of these authors will gird our children for the fierce spiritual battles they increasingly face.
The 35 Great Books List includes what we consider to be the best books in historical fiction in the area of history each class is studying that year. While there is an ever-growing list of well-written books in this area, we included as a priority, titles that we have most consistently heard were Providence favorites. We have also included some poetry, as well as at least one Christmas-season story, since the available titles in these areas are so rich and enriching.
These are not exhaustive lists, containing every work of literature or history that any educated person should read, since they are limited by the structure described above. By the time any given student finishes reading all of the books on each of the lists of the Top 35, he or she will have read what we consider the best in children’s literature. It is our hope that this list is just one more way to keep our children and their parents in the written word, enjoying the wonders of God’s creation and the joys of family and work, as well as constructing one small section of the beautiful Temple of God that He is building up for His own glory.
“You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you will never be-
I had a mother who read to me.”
– Strickland W. Gillilan
Click your Class selection below to open the PDF document.