Saturday, March 19, 2016

Homeschool: Reading the Classics

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For years I have been that person who is likely to be discovered outdoors reading under a tree, curled up with ice cold tea and a book, or disappearing into the couch...with a book. Even as a child I was quite a precocious reader, reading many classics quite early, at quite an early age. Even now I take pleasure is going down the Classics aisle at a book store and pointing out the many, many classics that have been a part of my voracious consumption of the words of others.

Often I think about this particular book that I read about half a dozen times when I was in second and third grade. I loved the book. It was about a girl who visits her cousins in Minnesota and who develops a sincere love for the country. If only I could remember the name of that book I would be delighted. As it is, I cannot remember its title but I attribute my love of apple dumplings to that book.  *wink*

As I've aged I have to own a growing awareness that gulping down books is not the same as giving them thought. Reading at the speed of sound does not guarantee a working grasp of themes. In fact, I can assure you that reading valuable literature with a still-maturing mind ensures an impaired understanding of literature and its deeper meaning.

I am exquisitely aware of the many, many, many books that I have devoured in my life that I cannot fully recall nor appreciate now. At some point during my thirties I began rereading some of the classics and appreciating them so much more than I did upon first consumption those many years ago and finding myself aware of my total lack of appreciation for a good many of the books I have read in the past.

I bring this up for several reasons.

First to express to myself, to my friends and to my readers how incredibly frustrated I am that in my course of reading as a child I didn't have a single person who took my interest in hand and guided me or helped me to appreciate what I was doing. Maybe I wouldn't have been open to a mentor at that time, I can't say. But I'm quite sure I would have still listened to and considered input from any adult who might have been interested in my book readin' appetite. But there was no one.

Secondly, I bring up my sincerely lacking career of reading because it is one of the main reasons that, today, I love talking to kids about what they are reading. Why they have chosen those books. What their thoughts on the reading are. What else interests them. What questions they might be left with after some books. How might the book connect to other things.  

And C, as a homeschooling parent of non-reading children I so wish my children were readers as I am. I will, on occasion, require reading from them. The last book I asked John to read was Hatchett by Gary Paulsen. He enjoyed it very much. Loved the story. Loved the adventure. But it did not spur further interest in him. I'm hoping his next book To Kill a Mockingbird does more for him. We all know that reading when one is not committed to it is sheer drudgery.

I have continued to see John write more and more these last weeks because he discovered on his own how satisfying, how empowering it is to put word to paper...document. I'm counting on that day when he discovers the satisfaction and empowerment of reading as well.

  The books along the right are just a few of the books I read   
  before I could truly understand them.

Edited to add: John is reading To Kill a Mockingbird and is LOVING it.

Edited March 23, 2016 with more thoughts 

I've been thinking about my own high school reading, the books required by various teachers. Think about your own high school reading list. Did you get them all? Did you appreciate them? Have you revisited any of them in adulthood and found that you missed out of the beauty of them during your teens?

Think about these titles. Can a teenager really appreciate what they have to offer?

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 
  • A Streetcar Names Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I've read all of these classics (and more) during my adulthood and they were WONDERFUL, as an adult. As a teen...not so much. 

I'm just saying...

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