Monday, April 20, 2009

The Best Reading Material

Quality literature opens up a door, giving the reader direct communication with its author. That's one reason we should choose books like a connoisseur! They should be deeply interesting, and not dulled down in attempt to make it child friendly. "Imagination does not stir at the suggestion of the feeble, much diluted stuff that is too often put in children's hands... Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours..."(1)

Charlotte Mason fans are known for reading living books, many of which are classics and biographies. If you're wondering why one would want to avoid the school version of books, a librarian explains it best: "It goes without saying that, in the process of condensing and rewriting these books down to a fourth-grade reading level, most of the distinguished aspects of the works--writing style, language, atmosphere, characterization--have been sacrificed for a simple, not to say simplistic, master-plots approach that conveys the incidents but fails to impart the justification for their continuing endurance in the canon of juvenile literature... For those who persist in the fallacy that knowing what the so-called "classics" of children's literature are about is a satisfactory substitution for actually experiencing them by reading the original, this series is acceptable. For the rest of us, it's as if someone's painted a guppy white and called it Moby Dick."(5)   

Anne Sullivan, (Helen Keller's teacher) says that she "always observed that children manifest the greatest delight in the lofty, poetic language which we are too ready to think beyond their comprehension... (She is also) convinced that original composition without the preparation of much reading is an impossibility... Reading should be kept independent of the regular school exercises. Children should be encouraged to read for the pure delight of it..."(3:287) She also remarked that a byproduct of such reading with Helen made "her mind.. so filled with the beautiful thoughts and ideals of the great poets that nothing seems commonplace to her; for her imagination colours all life with its own rich hues."(1)

Want some help finding great books? The previous link takes you to my favorite book lists and search tools that direct me to carefully-chosen living books. 

Works Cited:
1 Charlotte Mason, Home Education
2 Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School
3 Anne Sullivan in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life
4 John Taylor Gatto, Interview of John Taylor Gatto by Mary Pride. 27 Feb 2010.
5 Christine Behrmann, Review of Swiss Family Robinson for grades 3-5. School Library Journal. 5 Jan 2010.


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