Reading and Evaluating Books

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

To better understand what living books are: 

A living book is a beautifully written narrative that ignites the imagination; inspires interest in its subject; invites imitation of the True, Good, and Beautiful; and imbeds nourishing ideas that cause both young and old to grow as persons made in the image of God.

As we read and evaluate the books, keep these definitions in mind and ask yourself these questions of the book as a whole:

  1. Will it be enjoyable by those reading it, whether child or adult?
  2. Does it convey ideas rather than just facts?
  3. Do the illustrations (if applicable) inspire beauty?
  4. Does it spark the imagination?
  5. Does it inspire interest in its subject?
  6. Does it capture what is true, good, and beautiful?
  7. Does it encourage positive character traits?

If you can answer yes to most of those questions, then it should be included in our library. If it’s borderline and there aren’t other red flags, we can include it as well – it’s okay to have some twaddle!

Creating Subject Tags

On our website, we are going to include subject tags for all the books to aid parents (and librarians!) in searches. As you read books, think about what tags might be helpful. Some books may only have one or two – such as Fiction, Christian. Nonfiction will likely have multiple tags.

You can see a list of all our tags on our LibraryThing website. Click on “Tags” on the bar above the list of books. This is not an exhaustive list. Here are some ideas to get you started – you’re welcome to add more: 

  • Fiction or nonfiction
  • Subject/topic
  • For classic literature: British Lit, Russian Lit, etc. (if applicable)
  • Biography/Memoir (if applicable – make sure to also include the name of the person or persons)
  • Significant event or person in history (even if the book is historical fiction)
  • Time period (Include the century/centuries it takes place and all applicable terms – for example, one book could be: Middle Ages, Medieval, 14th Century, 15th Century)
  • Area of the world (Name the continent, country, city – example: Europe, France, Paris – if it has multiple locations, include all the main ones)
  • Things that are unique about it (for example: Disabilities, Blindness, Seeing Eye Dog)
  • Big themes (For example: Friendship, Courage, Perseverance) 
  • Positive family relationships (if applicable)
  • For science and nature, start big and go more detailed (For example: Space, Planets, Jupiter…. Or Nature, Animals, Dogs)
  • Christian or Bible Stories (If it’s specifically a Christian book)
  • Awards won (Caldecott, Newbery)
  • If it’s part of a series (For example: Nancy Drew, YWAM, etc.)

Creating the Parent Guide

We will be providing a Parent Guide on our website for those who want to be aware of any content considerations. This will mainly be for chapter books. We realize that some books may earn a place in our library because of its value overall, but there might be a few things that we disagree with. Also, we want to respect the different convictions of every family, and allow them to make decisions in an informative way. If there are too many “content considerations” then we should flag the book for further evaluation.

Please note if any of the following are present (page numbers if applicable). For themes that are present through larger parts of the book, it is fine to be general (example: “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: Battle scenes” → No need to be more specific).

Heavy themes 

(General categories are fine, no need to include page numbers or specifics.)

  • Death of a loved one
  • War, mistreatment, oppression by authority
  • Famine, storms, etc. that significantly impact the main character in a negative way
  • Betrayal by a loved one
  • Separation of a child from parents and/or family
  • Another sort of trauma


(In general, the books will have clean language throughout. However, occasionally there will be instances where we choose to include a book based on its value as a whole. In those cases, we will need to record any instances of the following so parents can make informed decisions.)

  • Any instances of taking God’s name in vain (including OMG, Lordy)
  • Mild swear words (damn, darn, hell) → Any other swear words, please flag for reevaluation
  • Racially insensitive words or phrases that were acceptable when the book was written but are not okay now
  • Name-calling or bullying words or phrases meant to demean (nitwit, dork, stupid)

Violence and weapons

  • War or battle scenes
  • Fighting
  • Using a weapon (gun, bow & arrow, etc.) against another human being

Magical elements

Our library will have books that include magic in a fun, fantasy setting. If it’s present in the book, just note that as a whole (no need to be specific). Any books that glorify or celebrate the occult should be flagged for reevaluation.

  • If it’s magic, note that. A more general term can be “fantasy” if it has non-realistic elements, but not specifically magic.


  • Substance abuse: instances of drunkenness or otherwise under the influence
  • Religious considerations: in general books from the perspective of other religious groups (Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) will not be included in our library. But, if we choose to make an exception, a content consideration should be notated.
  • Orphans, adoption, and foster care: heads up for parents whose children are walking those roads
  • Anything else that might be a hesitation for some parents