What adults read is one thing, what kids and youth read is another. Today choosing what kids read is a significant concern of parents, and both Mormon culture and today’s Church leaders counsel about what reading materials should be purchased and read. The concern and advice hasn’t changed.
The following advice is from Utah poetess Ruby Lamont, a Roman Catholic whose work appeared frequently in Church magazines. She was a resident of Richfield, Utah and was one of the poets included in the book of poetry prepared as part of Utah’s entry into the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
A Word About Reading
By Ruby Lamont
THE question of appropriate literature for young readers is often sprung. The books read especially in early youth should be selected with the greatest care, for their impressions are indelible and the eternal destiny of the young soul may hang upon this choice. The writer, though young, can say with truth that the first works read in childhood and in earlier youth have left the firmest impressions and remain still the favorite themes. These were selected by an intelligent and conscientious father and, being of the best, have left no regret; whether or not they would have been still cherished as the best had they been trash is a question; but the fact remains that they would have been just as well remembered and their influence as potent though in another way.
Children and youths are left too much to make their own inexperienced selections in reading. Intelligent guidance is lacking and young minds are left to grope in the dark. The fact is established that reading is a factor of gigantic proportions in the formation of character. The world is full of evil and not least of the fascinating allurements of the broad way that leadeth to destruction is the world’s literature. Many a young mind has had its “springs of life” poisoned by the glorious, fascinating, misanthropic poetry of Byron, and been led to believe in the rapturous ecstacy of seusual pleasures by the brilliant Moore. True, these men wrote thoughts that have perhaps been unexcelled in loveliness; but the risk of diving for those pearls is fraught with perils too imminent to the youth, who stands upon the threshold of life looking this way and that, undecided and unsettled in principle and character. Novel reading, even of the best is greatly to be deprecated. Nothing can be more destructive to a studious mind than this habit, not to mention the thousand other ills of life too many to be enumerated here.
Young people (and old, too, for that matter) should not neglect the daily reading of at least one chapter of the Scriptures. A chapter of this kind read in the family just before morning or evening prayer would take the mind from earthly thoughts and help direct it in reverence upon its Maker; and a chapter read prayerfully in secret would be a powerful help to keep the feet from straying after the gilded allurements of the tempter which never leave anything but a bitter, poisoned sting.
I must not employ the space of our editor nor the time of my reader any longer upon the inexhaustible subject at present, but before closing will take the liberty of recommending one of the finest works I ever read for the guidance of the young in the intellectual paths of life. It is Todd’s Student’s Manual. I cannot go into descriptive details of this excellent work, but only wish I could place a copy in the hands of every young man and woman who desires to become an effective student and to follow a course of study and reading that will “count.” Get it, read it and judge for yourselves, and if you do not arise from its perusal much improved I shall be very disappointed to hear of it. This is one of the few works that I dare enthusiastically recommend without reserve and that will tell the reader what I so much wish he should know.
The Contributor, v9 n9, July 1888