Reading, reading, reading… oh, how we, parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, worry about our children reading. Education systems, schools, centers, professionals, teachers, parents, relatives… a whole culture obsessed about reading, and a whole army of programs, incentives, remediation, professionals, text books, phonics, computer programs, books of all kinds and shapes, with lights and glitter, and that make all type of noise… are you dizzy yet?
I ask… do YOU read? Or better, what is READING to you?
To me, reading is surely growing as a christian. Yes. I read the Scriptures. No. I am not always as constant as I should, but my top interest in reading is the chance it affords me to be in a relationship with Him.
Thomas A. Kempis says “read as to soften the heart, not so as to divert the mind”. And more, “Must you be always gossiping, always going about aimlessly, picking up the latest rumors? If you can do without that, you will find plenty of suitable occasions for getting on with your meditation.”
The Bible, along with some devotionals that inspire and bring some thoughts from the Scriptures, feed my spirit. These reads are vital. My soul craves them. If I loose track and focus, my conscience nags me and asks me to please nurture my spirit, and I submit and read His Living Word.
Reading is, or can be, a way of living your life, understanding about the world and others, pursuing knowledge without leaving our spirits unattended. Being careful not to make it our only goal in life. Remembering that our wisdom is but foolishness.
Some need this reading in more quantities, others not so much. The degree to which we partake of reading to live an examined and meaningful life is personal, but some reading of this kind must be in place if we want to be free from the bondage to our lowest instincts, free from the slavery of living a materialistic life, tied to everything that has ONLY to do with the body. There is surely nothing inherently evil with our body. We should enjoy life’s pleasures, they are blessings. I am talking about living for the body and for the body only.
I am always happy to see my friends read, happier to see their children read, the happiest to see my children read… but I have learned to respect how much or little others read, -specially my girls and my husband-, for we all relate to books and life differently. Quantity and variety differ from person to person, grown up and child alike. Whenever I think about reading and my girls, I think about our school books, and their free time. For school, some books have to be read, -whether by me or them, that is something I discern according to their age and abilities-. They know there are certain expectations, and we are constantly reviewing them, and making adjustments and changes. But I don’t push for their independence but assume they want it and with my guidance, it will come as it is showing at times.
You see. Moms of non avid readers who know the value and indispensability of reading in order to learn and enjoy life, have a hard time contemplating reading and their children. They, -we-, think a lot about how to make the children read more, worry some or much when they get to certain age, -seven, eight, nine-, and they don’t seem to have it in them to get lost in a book or be avid readers. This can become a consuming issue (it was for me at one point, 🙂 It should not be the case. Over the years, I have decided that my responsibility is to guide them into reading for learning during our lessons, and to support them as much as I can, to demand certain things from them, and to model reading myself. The rest is a faith leap, something I leave to Him. Worrying does not help. Do what you can, model with joy, and respect them however they are.
Reading allows me to meet authors, people that have written about concerns, pressing topics, in one word, about our human soul. Every year I discover new authors, and now I have other titles by those favorite authors I can read, or re-read. Some writers manage to write the best adventures book, or the most interesting novel, while weaving in it christian values, teachings, and truths, never compromising beauty and quality.
We are currently reading Robinson Crusoe for school literature, and what a book! These stacks of books underneath, are all the options we have for free reads, or reads outside our studies. I tell the girls to choose if they wish to read anything by themselves, and what they’d like next, and together we keep reading the best books you can imagine as a family and by ourselves.
These are their picks. Oldest will keep reading Stories of Don Quixote, and says she will start The Borrowers, and youngest will read with me No Flying in the House. My youngest likes me to buddy read, but she also loves picking the book and reading some pages out loud herself.
Once we finish Tanglewood’ Secret, we will start Bambi. We have been reading lots about children and Bambi will be the right change, I believe.
(For the record, they nor I did read any of these books -oops)
As years have passed, I have added different kinds of books, viz. travels, biographies, poetry -this in particular, thanks to Ambleside Online-, books about books, history, education, British literature, American, Russian, European, books about Asia, ancient cultures, modern conflicts, short stories, plays, some science, the classics, young adult, children books… the possibilities are countless.
How do I get to read so many books at once? It is not that, as much as some searching I do before engaging fully in a book. Sometimes I have many titles around, then I focus into one, and finish it. Then I contemplate other titles, read the first pages, decide… It is a constant search because I have to listen to my inner needs and voice, and choose accordingly. Friends help lots. I love when my dear friends “pick for me”, lol. Poetry does not have to be read from beginning to end. At least, I don’t do so. I open my poetry books at random, and read for a while. Or if I read from a selection, the variety is already provided for me.
I read out loud in the car to my family. Even my husband is enjoying A Book of Golden Deeds, by Charlotte Yonge, and sometimes Robinson Crusoe, or that which I choose for that time. I read a bit here and there while I clean, we listen to audios, we read at breakfast and lunch… what better company than books? If you read, you can discuss character and choices through the life of the characters in the books, so you will avoid gossip and senseless conversation.
I like to add some poetry in Spanish for the girls, as well as those recently found Fábulas de Samaniego, which are rhymed, have such a delicious vocabulary, and they teach in such a fun and beautiful way.
Part of reading, is preparing to read. The more I read, the more I find some classics so enjoyable. The difficulty resides in how little we truly know about them, and how much we think we know about them. Because they are so renowned, we think we are going to open them from the first page, and instantly get so much fun and diversion from them. Because their language may be from a bygone era, and we are not used to it, we are easily put off and want something more contemporary.
We fail to see the uniqueness and the relevance of the classics in the timeline of our civilization. Someone said poetry is not to be understood, but felt. To some degree, I believe the same goes with literature.
If I have learned something from educating my girls with the aid of Ambleside Online, it will be that classics are accessible by all of us, children and grown ups. Actually, it is my thought of late too, to prefer a fresh reading of the original instead of so many commentaries, critic reviews, etc. But I have to prepare somehow. What to do? Ask someone who knows and has enjoyed that classic, and that person will surely tell you how to approach it.
I can help you with this one, El Quijote. If you want to read it, pick a beautiful copy, a paper copy that gives you first of all, the sense of the length of the book, and the chapter distribution. If you can have a version that has good notes, go for it. You may not want to read them all, but they are there to help you as needed. Good illustrations are not an extra, but to me, for this book, they are a must. They help you visualize something far removed from your present life.
|This is Don Quixote, published by Heritage Press.|
If you still need more support, James Baldwin has a very well done approximation to the story. Familiarize your children with it, you will not regret the time invested in doing that.
If they see you reading classics, they may ask, or you may share a sentence here and there… my girls are not reading P.G. Woodhouse yet, or Kempis, but, as I read those in the car, at home, I always share some parts of the book, and to them, there are not “difficult boring classics” and fun twaddle, but they see them books that mom reads and we may not be overtly interested in reading at the moment, but books that are enjoyed, read, and loved.
This is how I first read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in Spanish, before my English was enough to read books. I have a great edition, with Tenniel’s drawings, -I know, Rackham or Tenniel? lol-, that has invaluable notes and explanations that were great to read. You can read them before or after the chapter, as not to break the flow of your reading… as I said, use them to your advantage.
If you want to see some pictures, cartoons, videos, before or after, they create interest, love, and background to better receive the classic, but one does not truly needs them at one point, the book is what we are ready to enjoy. It is quite interesting to see my girls realizing that movies, TV, series, and culture, owes so much to classics… everything around in the media, has a root in books, and eventually, in western thought for us in this part of the world, and in humanity expressed in ballads, poems, legends, fables, novels, and books.
So, like Charlotte Mason said, we read because through reading we self learn, and the books we choose are more than a rich literary list full of classics destined to make well read intellectuals out of our children, but a corpus of living books that compose a christian character education. We read to live a meaningful life, an examined life, a life of service to Him, a life that revolves around that which is true and beautiful, a poetic life.