A love of reading is one of those things that we as parents desperately want to impart to our kids. Whether we have achieved that is still a work in progress. However, pictures like these, of our seven year-old G man at the library seem to have us at least pointed in the right direction. Now, I’ am debating on whether I should warn him about those crocodiles (or are they alligators?) chomping on his feet. Oh well, at least he’ll go down reading.
I adore stories. I especially love the good versus evil ones where it seems all is lost until the forces of good triumph in the end. Stories like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings are great examples of some of my favorites. These also happen to be the types of stories that speak to children. In fact, they may impact them in a much more important way than just enjoying a good tale. The following is a quote by the incredible author G.K. Chesterton about fear and stories.
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
I simply could not agree more with Mr. Chesterton on this. Stories do not open our children’s eyes to fear and evil, those they already know too well simply by living in this fallen world. What stories can do for them is to show them that evil can be beaten back, that the darkness of fear can be exposed by the light and thus their imaginations can be set free. They can know in their soul that the victory can be won and the dragon will be slain.
[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”1″]L[/su_dropcap]in-Manuel Miranda is pretty famous in my house. Our oldest loves all things related to Hamilton the Musical, the hugely successful cultural phenomenon. She loves the soundtrack, the other soundtrack, the calendar that she got for Christmas and has even begun reading through the book that the play is based off of. I don’t pretend to understand the obsession, but then I am old and that’s okay. I actually first saw Mr. Miranda years before Hamilton when he was a part of the cast of The Electric Company. This was an educational show that some of the kids watched that combined music with education in ways that were very memorable. Silent is a Ninja was a favorite of all or ours and it was performed by Lin-Manuel.
All of this background is to say that he is fantastically creative mind and creator of art that reaches people. Earlier today, I saw the below quote by him.
[su_pullquote]”Writing makes you a better reader and reading makes you a better writer. These things feed each other.” ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda[/su_pullquote]
That is such a simple concept but one that seems to elude so many in this time of short attention spans and 140 character limit tweets. The fact is, many parent just don’t take the time to read much more than short articles that are posted online and this leads to less reading and writing in their kids as well. I mean, who has the time to read books or write daily anymore? Well, as homeschooling families, we certainly should make the time for it and in our home, it has become an area of focus for us this year for sure. But, it does take persistent dedication because it is so easy to push it off to another time when we get busy with life and we shouldn’t, not any longer.
So, parents, buck up and read to your kids, Read in front of your kids so they see you doing it and follow your example. Find them interesting and well written stories to read and encourage them to write often. They won’t be writing the next great novels yet, but they don’t have to. They simply need to have the freedom to create, with words and to feed that creative side, they need to read. If you won’t listen to me, then listen to one of the most creative people working today, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Our oldest daughter who is nearly 13 years old now was our first book club participant. A couple of years ago, we wanted to add the shared experience of reading a book with peers to her list of activities. To achieve this, my wife joined with other homeschooling moms and they launched the Readers United book club. It had about 12 girls in it and they met monthly to discuss the chosen book, do activities and just generally, be social with each other. They even did community service projects together, had holiday parties together and used the club to form strong bonds of friendship that continue to grow now. These things are very valuable, especially in the homeschool community but unfortunately, the social aspect became the dominant appeal for the girls and the club eventually faded away.
Readers United was a great idea and started out with the stated goal of reading books together, but it lost its way and became just another social thing. While we would never call it a failure due to the lasting friendships she has reaped from it, the club itself failed. So, this year, we decided to try again with our struggling to read, 9 year old son, Boy Wonder. So far, it has been much more successful, due in large part to the lessons learned from Readers United.
First of all, they are staying focused on the book. Most of the kids are staying commiteed to reading the books in time and therefore have a vested interest in discussing it when they gather for club. Secondly, the leaders of the club are choosing great literature as their books of the month. So far, they have read Mr. Popper’s Penguins, James and the Giant Peach and The Indian in the Cupboard with Charlotte’s Web coming up next. Readers United relied upon the girls to choose and their choices were for books that were more light reading than good writing. Finally, they are trying to keep it simple. They aren’t trying to make it a catch-all social experience and that has really helped.
Honestly, our kids have tons of social opportunities and we wanted this to be a chance for our son, and the others in the club, to experience books. Hopefully, this club will continue to accomplish its goals but at the very least, our son has experienced some great books that he probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. That’s a win no matter how you shake it.
So, I am a reader. Anyone who knows me is not surprised by this. For as long as I can remember, I have read. However, my not so secret shame is that I have never read much of anything that could be considered a “classic.” In fact, the majority of my reading would fall into the decidedly not classic genres of science fiction, fantasy, action-adventure and thrillers. So, earlier this year, I decided to rectify this situation by committing to read at least 12 works that are considered to be classic literature. One such book was one that I read along with my 12 year old daughter as part of her Geography studies, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.
Of course, I’ve heard of the book and the author is well known for several of his other books, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I’ve never read him. I haven’t even seen the Jackie Chan movie version so I really had very little idea of what to expect. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did Peanut. We listened to the book together as part of school time and the version we listened to was read by the amazing Jim Dale. His talents for accents and altering cadence and pitch really made it feel alive and by the end, we were right there with Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, hoping he would win the bet. In particular, the portrayal of his often bumbling French servant was delightful.
I could write a much longer review of the book but I don’t really feel that it is needed. What I will say is that it is a great book to read as part of a Geography or History class with your kids. All of the places that they visit, the various modes of transportation from the 1870’s and the different cultures mentioned are all ripe topics for homeschooling. The pace is not breakneck but it is also plenty fast enough to keep Peanut engaged and interested.
As for my own quest to read more classics. This book certainly qualifies and was very enjoyable to boot. I will definitely read more of Verne’s works as I really admired his ability to keep a large number of plot points going and then tied it all up at the end. There were even a number of twists that I definitely didn’t see coming and that’s always fun.
[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”1″]F[/su_dropcap]or as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I remember as a kid, sneaking my paperback copy of the Fellowship of the Ring into church so I could read it during sermons. I remember reading through lunch time at school and staying up deep into the night because I was caught up in a story. While I no longer could get away with reading Tolkien during church, I still find time to read and listen to audio books wherever I can. My favorite genres are science fiction, fantasy and graphic novels and I read nearly 100 books in 2015 and another 61 in 2016. Sounds pretty good, until I take a look at the types of books that I have a tendency to gravitate towards. …
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