While American children and young adults might be reading more than in years past (says a 2009 study from the National Endowment for the Arts), they also are on the whole spending more time lost in a media blitz. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported last week that kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day consuming TV, movies, and music.

In a media-saturated and -distracted age, Sarah Clarkson hopes to reignite a love of reading books among families and children. Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families (Apologia, December 2009) is Clarkson's roadmap to books worthy of family reading and study. Her lists are substantial—the chapter on children's fiction lists 51 authors, many with more than one book—so for families looking to add more reading into their routines, or for lovers of lists and of reading, Read for the Heart is a valuable resource.

Clarkson, based in Colorado and currently writing a children's novel, spoke with Ruth Moon about the delight of children's books and her philosophy of choosing good books.

What's the value of adults reading children's books?

Children's stories distill big concepts down to the level of the simply true and beautiful. Some beautiful children's books—the Chronicles of Narnia or At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald—have some of the deepest ideas in the world distilled into the simplicity of what you can tell a child. Children's books can say true things about the world in a way that all the adult thinking and introspection and description can't capture.

Why is it important to read to children?

It is astounding what words do for children's brains. Reading helps them ...

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