Reading the Classics

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” – René Descartes

You might say that Cincinnati Classical Academy is a “Back to the Books” school. Along with all of the Hillsdale-affiliated K-12 schools, we believe in the importance of books in a child’s education. We believe that content matters. In other words, it matters what our students read. The books in our curriculum aren’t chosen arbitrarily, from year to year, based on individual teacher’s tastes– or the headmaster’s taste, for that matter. The books in our curriculum are time-tested to be instruments that properly shape our students’ moral imaginations. 

In literature, this means reading and discussing the classics: Aesop’s fables, classical myths, the stories of the Old Testament, the tales of King Arthur, American folk tales like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It means Winnie-the-Pooh and The Tales of Peter Rabbit. It means Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, Anne of Green Gables and Heidi.

Later in the high school years it means reading great works of literature like the plays of Sophocles and Shakespeare, epics such as The Odyssey and The Aeneid, short stories by the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Flannery O’Conner, and of course classic novels by great authors like Austen, Dickens, Twain, Melville, Dostoevsky, Orwell, Kafka, and Solzhenitsyn. 

In history classes, it means those books that provide compelling narratives of important events and important lives. For example, the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin, Anne Frank, and Frederick Douglass and enduring works of non-fiction like Machiavelli’s The Prince, de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery.

This is what we mean when we say content matters. It matters what our students read. 

And no! – these books are not boring. They engage the imagination, they evoke wonder, they delight, they teach students about the reality of the world around them, they teach them about themselves, about others, and they especially provide insight into what it means to be human. And these books and these stories really do have the power to shape the students’ imaginations as they learn to feel, to wonder, and to experience joy that can help them live their own lives well. 

If you haven’t already, download our curriculum sheets for each grade. This provides a pretty good feel for what our students will be reading during their years at Cincinnati Classical Academy!