This is an old post… bringing it back to life… 🙂
Reading is so darn important that if children learn only one thing, it needs to be to read well. If a person can read, he or she can learn about art, music, science and history as the interests peaks them. Reading is relaxing and how well we read determines our future success in employment and being able to support ourselves and our families.
As a lover of all things Charlotte Mason, reading has always been especially important. Most of our subjects center around living books, as opposed to textbook. Handwriting in the form of copywork, reading comprehension in the form of narration, and all history and science comes from good literature. I use Sonlight, Veritas Press, Heart of Dakota, and My Father’s World catalogs when choosing our book list each year, based on the topics we’ll be learning about. All great companies, so I blindly bought whole packages of books, based on their recommendations. While it was a smart decision for someone who knew very little about children’s books, it was a mistake to buy so blindly. As I learn about literacy on another level, I wish I could go back and do some things differently. Here they are.
First, I have been too strict. Children have a hard time reading fluently until they have been read hundreds and hundreds of stories, beginning at birth (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook). That is why some children go into kindergarten already knowing how to read. Their parents read to them incessantly. This includes the little stories read at bedtime with the mouse or the duck that they find on each page. This includes the Bible stories we read to them. With my oldest son, I read constantly. And so he started reading at a young age. With my other two children I have been a lot busier. I have not read near the same amount. My middle child, Thing 2, is on the autism spectrum, on the mild end. I chalked up his difficulty in learning to read to that fact. When I learned that reading leads to reading, I wonder if maybe he has not been read aloud to enough. Actually, I know he hasn’t and neither has my youngest. I am so glad that I learned and recognized this now. We plan on reading just as much from now on as I did when I only had one homeschooled child.
The second thing I’ve learned is that not all books, even the ones in my spectacular catalogs, are interesting. We spent a pretty penny on a stack of literature recommended for my children’s age groups only to find out that half of them were really boring. The other half were great and we remember them and still talk about our favorites. When we got to a book that really, really bored us we would power through. I didn’t want my kids to learn to be quitters. But, it took a very long time to finish because I dreaded reading it. Looking back, I wish we would have dropped the books that didn’t excite us sooner, because then we would have had more time for the ones that inspire us and awaken our imaginations. I’ve learned that it’s okay to move on if a book is not working for us. Also, maybe if I read a few chapters in before reading to the boys I can tell ahead of time if it will be a dud for us.
Another mistake I’ve made is not letting Thing 1(oldest) or Thing 2 read anything below their level. It’s important to have books that are on their reading level, usually the books we read for school. It’s also beneficial to keep old favorites and books below their reading level lying around for them. I have never encouraged them to go back and re-read those old favorites in order that they just enjoy the book and build up confidence. When the kids really like a book they’ll ask if I’ll keep them until they grow up so they can have the books when they are older. For almost a year, Thing 1 kept Mr. Popper’s Penguins in his bed. I thought it was strange, he was so attached to that story. Looking back I should have encouraged them to go back and look at any and all the books they loved. From now on when we move forward, we won’t forget the old favorites.
When it comes to the little ones, repetition is excellent. The inflection in our voices is important. Reading good books on the couch is precious. Judging a book on whether it has pictures or doesn’t, is not important. For a long time I thought that the quicker they moved on to books without pictures, the better I was doing. It doesn’t matter, at this age. The boys are elementary and preschool kids. And if they love to read and some, or even most of their favorites have pictures, so be it!
The final and one of the most important things I’ve learned is regarding television and useless wastes of time. I’ve always known television is similar to medicine, in small doses it’s okay, but too much is harmful and will cause addiction to the tv. I read a story about Dr. Ben Carson’s life and it’s amazing. His mother was mentally ill with a third grade education and due to her common sense to limit television and require her kids to read and write reports on 2 books a week (which she couldn’t even read), they went on to get scholarships and become doctors and engineers. They credit their success to the change in habits their single mother enforced when Ben was in fifth grade. In our home I tend to let this one slip sometimes. It’s good to be reminded that life is stimulating and the television is numbing for children. Maybe even for me too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what I’ve learned. It’s exciting to be in this place and have my mind refreshed while training to promote literacy. This is not something I ever thought the Lord would give me a heart for. I have always wanted to help women drug addicts, and I’m sure I will one day, but right now my path is leading towards children and helping them to read. It’s more important than I thought. Knowing what reading can do for a child and how much it affects their futures, I am glad to be a part of such a wonderful program.
Thank you for reading!