Literature and Poetry

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Agape Christi Literature Guide

Philosophy Statement

As “people of the Book,” we recognize that books instruct, both explicitly and implicitly. We want our students to love Story and to love Truth. Each piece has its own story which speaks something of the Truth. Are the characters faithful? Are they wise? Do they exist in a “universe” that reflects Truth or defiles it? As students mature, we want them to engage with the best works that man has to offer to either emulate or refute as called for when held next to the Word of God. The purpose of a Christian school is not to shelter students from controversial and even blasphemous literature in such a way as to never allow exposure, rather, the school creates a safe space to practice battling with those ideas under the instruction of their teacher in order to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

With this purpose in mind, Agape Christi Academy set forth the following goals and objectives for its Literature Guide:


  1. Encourage and foster a lifelong love of reading
  2. Develop in students a taste for the best literature
  3. Guide the reading activity of students through selections that aid the vision and mission of the school


  1. Help teachers, parents, and students make wise decisions regarding what books students read, enabling them to select books at the right reading level, in the right genre, and of appropriate topic and content.
  2. Provide direction and coherency to teachers on appropriate literature selections for the classroom and school library in light of the school curriculum.
  3. Awaken the student’s imagination to the time period of a book, often chosen to fit the time period of study in class.
  4. Assist and encourage parents in reading more good literature themselves and with their children (e.g. reading aloud to children, discussing books that both parent and child read).
  5. Provide a record of the books students read in order to encourage students and help parents and teachers guide reading, suggest new books and avenues of study, and cultivate interests.


If we want our children to read quality literature beyond their schooling, we need to teach them how to recognize it by feeding it to them daily. We can then highlight attributes as they arise in the text. Although there are many sources and recommendations for fine literature, we feel that even within these carefully combed sources that some books would not be wise choices for young children to read independently due to the worldviews or themes expressed. We must be cautious in our goal of seeing children enjoy stories, so that we do not allow the books to do the work of training in our place. A book can be just as dangerous a babysitter as television.

The following attributes are used to assess the quality of a work and its appropriateness for children in the grammar stage.

Attributes of Fine Literature

  1. Precise Language: The author clearly describes the people, animals, places, and events using descriptive, vivid language, introducing new vocabulary to the student.
  2. Emotional Appeal: Words, phrases, or sentences evoke sentiments such as happiness, sadness, or compassion in the readers as they relate to the characters in the story.
  3. Insight into People and Life: Stories should be character-building, providing insight into people and life. Dialogue and situations should enable readers to discern motives, desires, and rewards or consequences of different kinds of behavior. Plots should reward the good and punish the wicked, and never condone or gloss over sinful behaviors. Authoritative figures (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) may have flaws, but should be generally virtuous and depicted in a positive light as sources of wisdom. Characters should display biblical masculinity and femininity (or the negative consequences of ignoring these roles) and not promote romantic relationships between minors.
  4. Content: Fine literature will typically include scientific, historical, or geographical content embedded within the story to develop the setting. Scientific and geographical content should not include evolutionary themes at this age. Historical content must not contradict the Bible and should not depict faithful Christians unjustly.
  5. Universality: The work is enjoyable and interesting for all kinds of different people across time and cultures.

Here is an example of fine literature as shown in Honey for a Child’s Heart, p.44. The text is the opening of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (translated by Neil Philip.)

“Far out to sea the water is blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower and as clear as the purest glass; but is deep, deeper than any anchor can reach. Countless church steeples would have to be piled one on top of the other to stretch from the sea bed to the surface. That’s where the sea folk live.”

In contrast to this vivid imagery is the Disney version opening of the same tale:

“Ariel was sixteen, the age when a mermaid was supposed to be thinking about marrying a merboy and settling down. But Ariel had other things on her mind.”

Independent and Guided Reading

Works included on the literature list are marked for either Independent or Guided reading for the listed grade level.


Students in the same grade can display a range of reading levels. Rather than requiring all students to read the exact same titles, and thus potentially discouraging many through either dullness or overwhelming rigor, we want each student to be challenged to grow from their current ability. Each student will be assessed and placed in a reading level. There are currently eight independent reading levels for grammar school. The first level is Alpha, and the names progress through the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta). Within each Independent Reading level, there is still a range of difficulty among the selections. To assist in determining the difficulty level, a Lexile measure is provided for each book (if available). The Lexile score (denoted by a number followed by an “L”) is simply one method of assessing the readability of a text based on its semantic and syntactic elements. The higher the number, the more difficult the book.

Remembering their frame, we endeavor to expose children to themes, events, or depictions when their mental and emotional maturity is ready to process them. To that end, each Independent Reader is also assigned a content rating as follows:

  • Green books: Any student can read these titles.
  • Yellow books: Students in grades 3 and higher may read these titles.
  • Red books: Students in grades 5 and higher may read these titles.

These ratings are guides not rules and parents may give extra permissions or further restrictions to their child.

Students are expected to read at least three books from their reading level list each trimester and present a report on each one. After a student has completed three books, he may select any book with an appropriate content rating from his level or any other level. Older students are especially encouraged to look back at lower levels for books they may have missed in prior years. For example, a sixth grader could look for Red books on the levels they completed before fifth grade. Students may not bring books to class that are not part of the ACA library system.


Reading for growth is the aim of the guided reading category. Students should be able to orally read the works, but will need help with vocabulary, comprehension, and insight on characters. Students are not expected to grasp all the themes on the first reading but to take in what they are ready for and be challenged and inspired to continue reading. Some works may not meet points 3 and 4 above, and therefore require explicit guidance and adult-led discussion to appropriately engage with the false worldviews expressed through characters and themes. Teachers should cover a wide variety of genres and provide instruction that will equip the students to successfully complete the objectives of their book reports independently.