For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann
I know Maureen through cyberspace. I put her on my blogroll early in the process of researching and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library. I interviewed her here, and she’s also profiled in my book. One of the things I most enjoy about Maureen is that she is a READER who knows libraries and literature well. Among her many other activities, she moderates a Yahoo discussion group called Homeschool Library Connection that is devoted to encouraging homeschoolers to be proactive library users and gives excellent, realistic guidelines for homeschoolers who would like to submit titles for the library to consider purchasing.
Maureen’s passion for homeschooling, literature, libraries, and her faith are all on display in her new book, For the Love of Literature. The goal of the book is to provide homeschoolers who would like to incorporate literature–as Maureen and Charlotte Mason might say, “real books”–into their children’s studies. As such, the bulk of the book is devoted to literary guides broken down by subject: “Art and Music Appreciation,” “Math”, “History,” “Science,” and “Books about Books.” Each section includes books that can be tied into subject areas along with annotations and recommended age/grade levels. To make the guides even more useful, Maureen has organized the art and history sections chronologically, and she has subdivided the math and science sections by topic. Any youth services librarian who browses the lists will see a great number of library staples–for example, math books by Mitsumasa Anno, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, biographies by Demi, and the Magic School Bus series. Librarians will also find less familiar books by some smaller, specialty Catholic presses–books about famous missionaries, for instance, and series about the saints.
In addition to the literature guides, Maureen has chapters devoted to using the library, building a home library, the value of reading aloud, information about teaching from a classical or Charlotte Mason perspective, and how to create unit studies. She encourages homeschoolers to get to know libraries with a summary of the Dewey Decimal System and information about what one can and can’t expect from a public library. She acknowledges, for example, that libraries can’t get titles that are out of print and that librarians will be most interested in purchasing materials they know will circulate. She talks about how the library ELF can help homeschoolers keep track of heavy borrowing and how LibraryThing can help homeschoolers organize and track their own libraries at home.
This book will be useful to libraries for a lot of reasons. Catholic homeschoolers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the homeschooling population, and there aren’t a great number of books that address their particular homeschooling needs. This is also a book that will prove useful beyond its originally intended audience. Teachers and librarians at parochial schools may find it useful when looking for materials to supplement their institutional curriculums. Open-minded homeschoolers of many faiths will find useful titles within these pages, and this is a book librarians can use to identify alternate selections from a homeschooling perspective when patrons are looking for books that the library can’t provide. Because Maureen made an effort to include titles that were in print when the book went to press, it can also serve as a collection development tool. Highly recommended.