Grow Readers and Writers: The Power of Ideas

Recently a kind Park Ranger gave my children some wonderful encouragement that I’d like to pass on to all of you. He said something like this: 

Keep reading good books. Learn to write well and influence the culture. We need good authors today. 

The Wayside House of Authors, Concord, MA

We were in Concord, MA and when we saw a group of tourists head next door to Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, we decided to make our first stop The Wayside (called Hillside by Bronson Alcott), the home of the Alcotts when Louisa was ages 13-16. It was later the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne (author of A Wonder Book, Tanglewood Tales) and then of Harriett Lothrop (pen name Margaret Sidney, author of The Five Little Peppers series). It proved to be a delightful choice since our family ended up being the only ones on the 11 am tour. The Park Ranger gave a wonderful presentation of the house and enthusiastically took more time and detail when he found out we had read from all three authors. He showed us where the Alcott girls put on their plays in both the barn and the dining room and played Pilgrim’s Progress on the hill behind the house. Nathaniel Hawthorne added a third floor tower for a tiny room where he hid from visitors and wrote standing up at a slant-top desk…and he was in his fifties! Our guide said that the Pepper books were coming back in print because they were so popular with homeschoolers and Christian schools due to the good values portrayed. He told us that Mrs. Lothrop’s husband was a publisher and that the couple was very interested in printing good history books for children as well as preserving the historic homes of authors, including Orchard House next door. 

It was fascinating to get a peep into the lives of authors whose ideas have inspired us. As Charlotte Mason said, “In truth, a nation or man becomes great upon one diet only, the diet of great ideas communicated to those already prepared to receive them by a higher Power than Nature herself.” (vol. 3, page 156) and “Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food…our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs…making such extracts from Scott or Dickens or Milton, as will certainly give him nourishment. It is a case of, — ‘In the morning sow thy seed and in the evening withhold not thine hand for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that.’ {Eccl. 11:6} ” (vol. 6, pages 109-110). The Holy Spirit cultivates the great ideas encountered in books. It is exciting to think that our children can go on to write noble stories that can help others know our precious Lord and, as the apostle Paul wrote, “think on these things.” 

Keep Sowing!
Beth S. 

“Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books.”
John Ruskin, 1865, from the preface of Sesame and Lilies. [In context, Ruskin is saying to choose worthy books.:-)]

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2 thoughts on “Grow Readers and Writers: The Power of Ideas

  1. Beth, this picture and your telling of your trip is inspiring. You must have been thrilled to be there! I love how the good Lord makes those connections for us!

  2. Beth, thank you for sharing this! My girls have listened to the audio recording of the Five Little Peppers book, but now I would like to investigate the other books in the series. (Not sure if I knew this book was part of a series). Thanks! Tina

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