I envy those who grew up reading the classics. What a great way to spend your childhood. To see the example of great men and women and the good choices they make. What an inspiration for a growing mind.
I am seeing more and more how the principles of leadership education are true. I see the importance of reading classics and spending most of my time in whole and healing books. I can see the fruits of the classics in the lives of my children. My oldest daughter reads voraciously, with the majority of her reading being in the classics. I watch her as she is beginning to make choices in her life and can see the influence these good books, especially our core books, are having on her. These books help her understand who she is and are helping her build a solid foundation on which to build her life. She is a great kid and is a positive influence to her friends. What a difference classics make.
I look at my own childhood and can see a great contrast. I too read many books, but hardly any classics. I spent my time in broken and bent books, and unfortunately that describes my childhood as well, broken and bent. As I look back, I can see how having a mentor would have made all the difference. If I had had someone to help me find the classics and who could have inspired me to read them, what a different life I could have had. What pain and sorrow I could have avoided. With the guidance of a mentor I could have learned what is right or good. I could have had the strength to choose the good when faced with temptations and trials. What a difference mentors make.
I can see the importance of having a core book, to have something in your life to use as a measuring rod. How can I decide if a book is a classic without a core book? What standard do I use? How do I decide if anything is right or wrong? Growing up without a core book, I know what it is like not to have one. Life without a core or foundation is awful. You have to learn everything by your own mistakes; a painful and miserable way to live. That is the benefit of the scriptures and classics. You can see the mistakes of others, and realize that you don’t have to make those mistakes in your own life. You can learn the “easy way.” What a difference a core book makes.
These were my thoughts as I was reading Les Misérables. I didn’t grow up reading classics, but I can read them now. I can look at the Bishop and try to follow his example: “the bishop’s day was full to the brim with good thoughts, good words, and good actions.” I can look at Jean Val Jean and have the courage to make the right choice in the most difficult of circumstances. These classics and my Heavenly Father can be my mentors. I can be inspired by them to learn what is right and to then choose it. I don’t need to envy others; I can live it myself!
 Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. (New York: Signet Classics, 1987), p. 54