Treasure Our Young Folks and Nurture Their Minds

Young Folks Treasury, 1919
Well, my copy is green, at least. I like the drawing of the ship.

At some point last year, on the shelf at my library where they sell unwanted books cheaply, I spent $1.50 for a green leather-bound Volume One of The Young Folks Treasury published in 1919 by The University Society. It is in wonderfully good condition, with a cover as smooth as the day it was printed and but a little worn at the corners. One page out of 538 is torn, and the black and white illustrations are still charming and clear. I could not believe my good fortune, and indeed was somewhat angered at how the library had set it out where any child or careless adult could grab and abuse it. This tome has survived ninety-two years with admirable hardiness for the purpose of mankind’s enrichment, and it deserves to be treated with respect.

Making it more special to me is that this volume—one of a series of twelve, it claims—is devoted to fairy tales, fables, and poetry. Designed to be read by parents to their children, the book collects all the most famous and beloved nursery rhymes, nursery tales, childhood poems, simplified fairy tales, older poetry, fables (Aesop’s and East Indian’s), and a wonderful assortment of folk tales from around the world. If for nothing else, the book has use as a capsule of the stories children were told in the early part of the 20th century.

I was also impressed by the introduction written by Hamilton W. Mabie. In this era of transition into digital media and eBooks, and the threat of replacement of literature by movies, video games, and possibly even bloggers, I think it is important to keep his words close in mind. As an uncle of three kids with boundless energy, I see their potential and yet worry that our culture does not nurture them well. Children need to be trained to focus, to concentrate, and it is not good to feed them constant sensory distractions of many kinds all at once from the day they are born. But sitting down with a book in your hands and reading, whether for fifteen minutes or an hour or three hours, demands that the reader gather his mental faculties together and think. Engage. Converse with the author. Be patient. What are we doing to ourselves when we leave physical books to lie unopened and spend uncounted hours staring at the lights of our computer screens and television sets? What are we doing to our children if they are raised this way, knowing naught else, and what of our future?

Books are as much a part of the furnishing of a house as tables and chairs, and in the making of a home they belong, not with the luxuries but with the necessities.  A bookless house is not a home; for a home affords food and shelter for the mind as well as for the body.  It is as great an offence against a child to starve his mind as to starve his body, and there is as much danger of reducing his vitality and putting him at a disadvantage in his lifework in the one as in the other form of deprivation…

Children are helpless to protect themselves and secure what they need for healthy of body and mind; they are exceedingly impressionable; and the future is always in their hands.  The first and most imperative duty of parents is to give their children the best attainable preparation for life, no matter at what sacrifice to themselves…

These twelve volumes aim, in brief to make the home the most inspiring school and the most attractive place for pleasure, and to bring the best the world has to offer of adventure, heroism, achievement and beauty within its four walls…

No apology is offered for giving large space to myths, legends, fairy stories, tales of all sorts, and to poetry; for in these expressions of the creative mind is to be found the material on which the imagination has fed in every age and which is, for the most part, conspicuously absent from our educational programmes.

America has at present greater facility in producing “smart” men than in producing able men; the alert, quick-witted, money-maker abounds, but the men who live with ideas, who care for the principles of things, and who make life rich in resource and interest are comparatively few.  America needs poetry more than it needs industrial training; though the two ought never to be separated.  The time to awaken the imagination, which is the creative faculty, is early childhood; and the most accessible material for this education is the literature which the race created in its childhood.  The creative man, whether in the arts or in practical affairs, in poetry, in engineering or in business, is always the man of imagination.

– Hamilton W. Mabie, “General Introduction” to The Young Folks Treasury

The entirety of this volume can be read online at The Project Gutenberg, while Volume X on “Ideal Home Life” can be found here.

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Author: David

I’m a young Christian American reader writer dreamer wanderer walker flier listener talker scholar adventurer musician word-magician romantic critic religious idealist optipessimist man.

8 thoughts on “Treasure Our Young Folks and Nurture Their Minds”

  1. Hmm. Beyond even the simple neurology – there is a strong link between exposure to video-media and ADHD – living in relation to such a 3-D form of “education” that does not require deliberate participation is greatly lacking.

    Granted, reading can be quite dangerous. One of my friends had left his Bible laying open to Song of Songs, and when idly I picked it up to read he warned me seriously, “Careful! That book might teach you to love!”

  2. David, I’m so glad you commented on my post – it led me to your blog, which is amazing! I’m more than a little jealous of your bargain bookshelf find, and they remind me of a great New York Times piece by Anna Quindlen from 1991 I come back to now and again. Here’s a quote:

    “Reading has always been life unwrapped to me, a way of understanding the world and understanding myself through both the unknown and the everyday. If being a parent consists often of passing along chunks of ourselves to unwitting — often unwilling — recipients, then books are, for me, one of the simplest and most sure-fire ways of doing that. I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. That would give them an infinite number of worlds in which to wander, and an entry to the real world, too; in the same way two strangers can settle down for a companionable gab over baseball seasons past and present, so it is often possible to connect with someone over a passion for books.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/07/opinion/public-private-enough-bookshelves.html

    1. What a great quote! Thanks for that article–I’ll probably share it with some people I know; maybe even spotlight it here. I remembering greatly enjoying The Phantom Tolbooth in fourth grade, though I haven’t read it since. Definitely one I’d recommend, though.

      Thank you for your kind compliment. Feel free to browse all my posts recent and past — I try to keep them all easily findable and organized, and comments are always open. Work has kept me from updating as much this month as I would like, but I’ve got a few more reviews in the pipeline, including George MacDonald’s Lilith (a book and author much admired by C.S. Lewis).

      1. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that!

        I’ve been looking through some of your posts, and I’m definitely impressed by how much you seem to go through on a consistent basis. My work also keeps me fairly busy, and that sadly means I’ve spent a lot less time reading in the last year or so than I did previously. I do what I can, but I’m looking forward to being able to live a bit vicariously through you!

        1. Oo, the pressure is on, then! ‘-) Just kidding. I’m flattered. Hope you enjoy what you read.

          (And blast it, I keep noticing little typos in my comments! They always manage to sneak in and I don’t always catch them before posting. It’s embarrassing for someone like me who places such a high value on grammar and such.)

          1. I’ve been feeling the same way about my original comment … clearly I should have written “it reminds me” instead of “they remind me.” I’m not a total dunce, I promise – just having unfortunate luck when it comes to silly mistakes these days.

            By the way, have you read Game of Thrones? I’ve been trying to find someone interested in hashing it over, but none of my friends have started the series.

            1. I have not, no, though I’ve kept an eye on news about the HBO series. To be honest, I won’t be watching the show and I don’t expect to read the series, because of what I’ve heard about the explicitness of their violence and sex. I simply don’t need that stuff cluttering up my mind — no matter how well-written the story may be (and I hear that Martin and his TV adapters are excellent writers), I don’t think it’s worth it. But anyway, that’s all to say no, sorry, I can’t discuss the series. I did, however, review Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana. My understanding is that he has a similar historically-based approach to building his fantasy worlds.

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