by Shiloah Baker

classics“I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson once said.

No one should live without books! Books uplift. Books inspire. Books teach.

The teaching done through books encompasses many areas: vocabulary, life experiences, knowledge, learning, and the list goes on and on.

There is no doubt that books are important.

A library is, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “A place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.”

A Family Library is more than just a collection of books that a family accumulates.

A Family Library is a library of books that a family accumulates for themselves and their posterity.

Great care should go into the collecting of books for this library, because the family knows the worth of such a library.

Many great men in history had their own extensive family libraries.

Thomas Jefferson sold his collection of 6,487 books to re-start the library of congress. That is an admirably-sized library!

Why have your own library of books? Why go through the expense and trouble of creating your own family library?  There are many reasons, but I only plan to include the more important ones.

The first reason is so that you and your family are always learning.

“It is a great mistake to think that education is finished when young people leave school. Education is never finished.” 

[Mrs. Child in The Mother’s Book]

A good friend of mine, in a recent email correspondence about my collecting a library of books for my family, related the following:

“What is really interesting about having so many books in your home, as it relates to my recent splurge, is that a book I purchased has a chapter about the economics of good test scores in schools.

“The study tried to identify what parents do that has an impact on how well their children do on standardized tests.  One positive correlation they found was with the availability of a large number of books in the home.

“This had a stronger correlation than even reading to your children every day.  Really interesting, huh? The more books your older kids have access to at home, the more likely they are to just be reading for fun, rather than having to wait for weekly trips to the library.”

I have been homeschooling my children using the philosophy of A Thomas Jefferson Education inspired by Oliver DeMille,  This philosophy of learning is based on the reading of classic books.

Clifton Fadiman said, “When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.”

Classic books also make you smarter and wiser! The wisdom comes in the examples in the lives of the protagonists.

You see consequences to choices made– whether good or bad.

Classic books are not ashamed about including God, morals and good values in the text and influences of the story.

“It is within our power to guide our youth in their reading and to cultivate in their hearts a desire for good books. It is most unfortunate where a person is not possessed with the desire for good reading. The reading habit, like charity, should begin at home.” -Joseph Fielding Smith

Carefully Choosing Literature

It is important to understand the worth of a good book when we are deciding what books to add to our family’s library.

Just as movies and other influences in our lives, books can affect our thoughts and choices.

They can affect whether or not we improve our minds and lives or remain stagnant.

Inappropriate literature has always been around.

What concerns me is how deceptively modern political agendas, sin and other filth are creeping into literature even for the youngest people; and how they are becoming so widely accepted.

They are now found in school and public libraries.

Sadly, many people today believe that it’s okay to make allowances here and there.

Some parents don’t even know what is in the literature that their children are reading.  Now is the time to make a change. It is important to be careful about what we read.

“There is no question that books do something to us. Some works of art can lift our spirits and ennoble us, while other works can degrade and debase us—or they can affect us at any number of points between those extremes, for literature is seldom simply good or bad…

“Because life and time are short, we will be able to read only a few thousand books in our lifetimes. When we pick any book, we are ruling out hundreds and thousands of other books.

“How important it is, then, to choose time-proven great books that will [uplift and transform us], and enable us to rise to greater levels of truth and beauty and insight and understanding and, hence, spirituality.

“Many great men and women have found that a steady, systematic approach to literature has enabled them to fill their beings, in a lifetime of good reading, with the great thoughts of men and women of all the ages, for through reading great books we are put in touch with the great minds of all time, and we become their spiritual and intellectual heirs.” [George W. Pace]

Mrs. Child, author of The Mother’s Book (1831) wrote the following:

“With regard to the kind of books that are read, great precaution should be used.

No doubt the destiny of individuals has very often been decided by volumes accidentally picked up and eagerly devoured at a period of life when every new impression is powerful and abiding.

For this reason, parents, or some guardian friends, should carefully examine every volume they put into the hands of young people.”

By creating our own family library of good, wholesome books we can be careful what goes into the minds of our family members.

What Books To Add
I suggest beginning by creating a book list that you wish to read.

Only list those that will improve you, inspire or teach you.

Get access to as many recommended classic book lists as you can. Surprisingly, classic books are very inexpensive.

I try to get hardcover only for those books that I think will be read often.  There are many great places to find them online and also locally.  Check out used books stores.  Don’t forget to go with your lists!

“It is the duty of every parent to provide in his home a library of suitable books to be at the service of the family. The library need not be large, nor the books of the most expensive binding, but there should be a well chosen variety of the most select that can be obtained.” [Joseph Fielding Smith].

If good literature is important enough to you, you will find a way to have it in your home.

Whether through hand-me-downs, yard sales, thrift stores, library sell-offs, or buying new classics from your favorite bookstore–enjoy putting together and working on your family library!


Shiloah Baker is a homeschooling mother of seven living in North Carolina.