Friday, February 28, 2014

Sunday Reading in the Parents' Union School

by Anne White
"The 'way' of this kind of teaching is very simple and obvious; read to him, or read for him, that is, read bit by bit, and tell as you read, Hartwig's Tropical World, the same author's Polar World, Livingstone's missionary travels, Mrs. Bishop's  Unbeaten Tracks in Japan––in fact, any interesting, well-written book of travel." ~~ Charlotte Mason,  Home Education
Trivia question: who is possibly the most famous owner of Hartwig's The Polar and Tropical Worlds (a bindup of the two books)? Give up?  Charles Ingalls.  It is otherwise known as "Pa's Big Green Book," the only book that Laura and Mary were allowed to look at on Sundays.

When we're examining the P.U.S programmes,  it's easy to miss "For Sunday Reading" squeezed between the books and commentaries for formal Bible study and the devotional reading just after it..  After all, it is "optional."  "Optional," when you're squeezed for schedule space already, is taken as the equivalent of "skip this."

But that's what Sunday is for, isn't it? A "stop right there" on the seventh day?  A refresher?  Some of us are stricter about Sunday-keeping than others, and I'm sure that Charlotte Mason's students would also have come from a variety of religious backgrounds where "Sunday reading" and "Sunday occcupations" were or weren't enforced, encouraged, or permitted.  But here it is in the programme: an invitation to pause in the week's schoolwork; an offering of refreshment.

Aside from a few heavily Bible-oriented and church history titles that come up repeatedly, the "Sunday Reading" category has room for different sorts of biography, books on exploration (especially those relating to missionary work), and occasionally poetry and fiction (such as Uncle Tom's Cabin).  One choice book that I'd never heard of, included one term shortly after Miss Mason's death, was The Roll Call of Honour, a new book of golden deeds, by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, a book that refers to itself as not A Book of Golden Deeds but "a book of golden lives."  It includes chapters on Simon Bolivar, John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Giuseppe Garibaldi, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, Louis Pasteur, (Major-General) Gordon, and Father Damien.  Similarly, a book called Adventures in Science by Arthur Maile includes short biographies of Pasteur, Lister, Perkin, Edison, Rontgen, and Marconi.  So Sunday reading seemed to include anything relating to heroism, character, and principles, although the subjects were not always specifically Christian.

A good number of the books mentioned, though, were published by the Society to Promote Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) or the Religious Tract Society (R.T.S.); it was supposed to be Sunday reading, after all.

Here are some of the titles I've come across that were mentioned as Sunday reading for the different forms (grade levels).  Some are included in the Programmes currently on the Ambleside Online website, others came from the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives (some of those, as I mentioned, are books that were used throughout the 1920's after Miss Mason's death).

A small warning: I am including the publisher information because it does help to track down the right books online. Many of them are online; a search by title and author will bring up page images on sites such as  or Project Gutenberg.  However, and please take this seriously: not every book on this list will be a good choice for students' reading.  Some contain negative racial or other views that were typical of their time; others may not agree with your own religious beliefs.  Please preview before handing to children.

Form I (primary grades)

Sidelights on the Bible, by Mrs. Brightwen (R.T.S., 8/-).
The Child's Book of Saints (Dent. 9/6)
When I was a Boy in Serbia (Harrap, 3/6)
Mrs. Gatty's Parables from Nature (Dent. 2/6)
When I was a Boy in Japan (Harrap, 3/6). 
The Story of Stanley (Nelson, 2/-)

Form II (grades 4-6 or 7)

Sidelights on the Bible, by Mrs. Brightwen (R.T.S., 3/-).
English Church History for Children, Vol. II.  (Methuen, 5/-).  
Mackay of the Great Lake (Milford, 3/6)
The Children's Year (Church Seasons), by the Rev. G. R. Oakley (S.P.C.K., 8/6). 
St. George of England, by B. Hood (Harrap, 2/6). 
The Book of a Chinese Baby, by M. Entwhistle (U.C.M.E., 1/6).
How to Use the Prayer Book, by Mrs. Romanes (Longmans, 2/-). 
The Northumbrian Saints, by E. N. Grierson (Mowbray, 2/6). 
Lion-hearted (Bishop Hannington), by Canon Dawson (Seelay, 3/6).

Form III (grades 7-8)

Heroes and Writers of the Book of Common Prayer, by A. M. Forde (S.P.C.K., 8/6)
.Longfellow's Golden Legend (Oxford Press, 5/-).
Life and Voyages of Columbus, by Washington Irving
Africa and her Peoples (Walker) (not online)
The Roll Call of Honour, by A.T. Quiller Couch
James Gilmour of Mongolia (R. Lovett)
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (Mrs Bishop)
The Last Secrets, by J. Buchan
Ethics of the Dust, by John Ruskin
 Longfellow's / Tennyson's Poems
The Romance of Excavation (Masters)
Saints and Heroes of the Western World (Davies)
Adventures in Science (Arthur Maile)
The Story of My Life (Helen Keller)
George Washington (A. Russell)
The Firebrand of the Indies (Xavier), by E.K. Seth-Smith
Henry Martyn, Confessor of the Faith, by C.E. Padwick
The Holy War / The Pilgrim's Progress
Fight the Good Fight, by W.E. Frost (not online)
The Faerie Queene Book I
The Land of the Incarnation (Gertrude Hollis) (not online)
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (Canton)
Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain

Form IV (approx. grade 9)

Keble's Christian Year (Longmands, 10d.). 
Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (Allen, 2/8, or Dent, 1/6). (f)
The Golden Legend, by Longfellow
The Quest of Nations, by T. R. W. Lunt (U.C.M.E., 2/6), pp.1-60. 
The Story of S. Paul's Life and Letters, by J. Paterson Smyth (Sampson Low, 5/-), pp. 1-75.  
The Fall of Constantinople, by J. H. Neale (Dant, 2/6).

Forms V and VI (senior high)
Stanley's The Eastern Church
Stanley's Sinai and Palestine (Murray, 4/-), pp. 304-364.
Moral and Religious Education, by Dr. S. Bryant
The Myths of Plato 
Browning's View of Life (with the poems referred to)
Westcott's Religious Thought in the West (Macmillan, 6/-): 
Benjamin Whichcote.
Sunday Collects, by Canon Masterman (S.P.C.K, 2/-).
John Inglesant (Macmillan, 4/6). 
George Herbert's Life and Poems (Oxford Press, 2/6).


  1. Thanks! I'm adding this list to my long list of books to read!

  2. It would be lovely to compile a modern list.