Sunday, September 13, 2009

Loving to Read

Looks like some teachers are finally starting to "get" it! Students have to be able to read books that they find interesting...pushing "boring" books on them before high school at the earliest can have devestating consequences.

Now of course, some children will need rather forcible prompting to pick up a book at all, but the books assigned to them should interest them. There is time enough for giants like "Moby Dick" later.

(And I think it's a rare high school student that could actually understand "Moby Dick." I know some who have read it, but they haven't enjoyed it.)

My mother's strategy was, for the most part, to buy good books and leave them on our shelves and eventually I'd read them. When I was very young she did have to strongly encourage me to read past the first chapter (which I would claim was boring) but I quickly learned that the books in our house were almost always interesting.

I also picked up an early love for classic stories through "The Great Illustrated Classics." Those may seem like a cop-out, but when you consider that I was 8 or 9 when I was reading the abbridged versions, it's not so bad. Especially because I fell in love with the stories enough to pick up the complete versions at the ages of 11, 12 or 13. Two of my favorite classes, "Pride and Prejudice" and "A Tale of Two Cities" were read this way.

As a homeschooler, I did not have a single formal literature class until I took "Brit Lit I" in college (as a 17-year-old), and I performed splendidly. Which I think goes to say that formal literature classes really are not needed or worth much until the last years of high school or in college.

If you say this is a biased assesment because I am obviously a huge bookworm, I'd like to point to my brother and sister. My sister loves reading, but she is more particular than I am. However she read and enjoyed what I consider Austen's hardest novel, "Mansfield Park" as a freshman in high school. No one told her to read it - she did it of her own prompting.

My brother really does not like the act of reading, but he is entirely capable of it and of appreciating what he does read. When he finally got down to reading "Harry Potter" this year, he rushed through the first three books nearly as fast as I did. And when his theatrical company put on "Pride and Prejudice" he showed himself capable of tackling the book (although I'll admit he only got half way).


Minni-Mo said...

=) My little brothers read the illustrated classics too! I always thought the pictures were strange but fun to look at... and you're right, they were a great way to introduce the stories!
Do you have any new book recommendations?!

Mythopoeia said...

I've read /and/ enjoyed Moby Dick, but I'm the only person I know of who has, alas!

I briefly went to school in England (1-4 Grade) before starting to homeschool, and we were never assigned particular books to read. Instead, there was a huge bookshelf packed with books of varying levels of difficulty on color-coded shelves (pink for the easiest, blue for the hardest, etc.). Every week we had to choose a book for ourselves and read it. The teacher, after evaluating our reading skills, would assign us to particular shelves, and as it was seen to be an honor to be permitted to read from the blue shelf, we children were inspired to work at our reading and really enjoy it. I think this was the best method possible for nurturing young readers: it ensured that we read only what we were interested in, that we really understood what we were reading, and that we /wanted/ to read harder and deeper books. It's a pity that I have not heard of any such practice here in the States.

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Minni-mo - Many of the books I've been reading lately have been high in adult-content - not books I want to write about on a blog that I know is highly frequented by teen girls. However I do have a Jane Austen-related book that you should see reviewed tomorrow.

In the meantime, may I direct you to my list of favorite books at the bottom of my blog page?

Genevieve said...

I also think that reading abridged versions of classics is a good idea. I never needed to do it, because I have always been a bookworm, and just read the originals, but for my siblings who were less keen on reading it was always a good thing.