"Through this book, I in a very humble and modest way have tried to propagate my testimony about classics and what they can do for many."

Mumbai-born author and teacher Fiza Pathan believes fervently that reading classic books enhances imagination and improves language skills. She bases her theory on experience: At an early age, she read Bram Stoker's Dracula, inciting in her a love of good grammar and grand ideas. In her teaching, she observes that children who frequently surf the Internet or watch TV (even educational channels) tend merely to ingest ideas without generating their own. Once they begin reading the classics, their language and imaginative skills change noticeably for the better. Citing many examples, she demonstrates how these books contain moral story lines, excitement, mystery, and romance. From Around the World in Eighty Days, one can learn geography, from Robinson Crusoe, survival techniques, from Ben Hur, Roman culture. Books can sensitize us to critical issues: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.

Pathan's guide is lively and readable, offering quizzes, a list of 72 classic books well-suited to youth, and original book reviews from her students. She advises against reading abridged classics because much is lost from the text, though a quality movie version may point some students to the original. She uses occasional British-based educational terminology ("tuition class," "fifteen on twenty") unfamiliar to American readers, but this doesn't detract from her central point: Parents and educators should unhesitatingly introduce children of all ages to classic literature and never consider it too dated or too sophisticated. On the contrary, classics have survived because they are timeless and have much to offer to readers at all levels.

All of us could take a page from Pathan's Classics and begin to read, reread, and encourage our children to explore the time-honored books of our heritage.

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