I remember sitting on my bed with my “big sister,” Mary Beth (she was my babysitter, but we are as close as sisters), reading. I was about ten or eleven.
She had told my mom and me that I should read Anne of Green Gables. My mom picked up the whole series, and I fell in love with all of the wonderful characters. I remember reading the first book in only a few days.
I was close to the end of the book when Mary Beth was at our house. She handed me some tissues and sat with me as I read and cried over Matthew’s death. She comforted me, and we bonded over a book.
One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is of my fourth grade teacher reading A Dog Called Kitty aloud. I remember how I felt as she described the little boy getting rabies shots in his stomach; I remember the feelings I had when Kitty was attacked.
I can visualize the cover and title of the book my mom read us bedtime stories from, when my sister and I were little. I remember how it felt to snuggle with her and listen to her read.
Good literature and good stories can create strong emotional memories. These memories stick with us for life. They help us form a love of reading and appreciation for a good story. I have plenty of memories of reading and enjoying a good book alone; I read the Narnia series once a year for a while, and can remember where I was as I read them. But the memories created when good literature is shared — those are the memories that really last!
I think that this, as much as any other reason I have given in the past, is why the classical method appealed to me. I only realized it recently, as I really began to focus on reading classic children’s literature out loud to my children. I want my kids to have those memories: strong memories tied to reading good books; attachments to the beautiful characters like Charlotte and Wilbur, the Pevensies, Charlie and Grandpa, Anne and Gilbert, Dorothy and her companions, and countless others.
As I read aloud to my kids, I remember more and more about being read to as a child. I remember how reading with friends and family helped to create my love of books and reading. Reading is more meaningful if you share the experience with someone else. It does not have to be a deep, philosophical discussion where you search for the author’s true meaning (this ruins books for me more often than it enhances it), but just having someone to share the emotional roller coaster that happens when you fall in love with a character and that character suffers loss or joy enhances the experience.
Sharing these emotional experiences with a close adult helps to teach a child how to deal with these emotions. But more than anything, it creates an amazing bond as you experience the adventure, excitement, and sadness of these beloved characters.
Some of the amazing books my kids and I have read and loved:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
Grimms’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairytales from various sources
Selections from the Bible and Bible storybooks
As I work to develop a love of reading in my children, I realize more and more that the way to do it is to pick good books and read aloud to them. I cannot force them to read a book that I pick for them. Many times, this turns my son off of a book I know he would love. I tried all year to get him to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and he refused. Now that we have read it aloud, it is one of his favorites. I have no doubt that after we read the first few books, he will get impatient and finish the series on his own.
Read aloud to your children, read alongside them, and experience the joy of good literature together. Instill the love of a good story, and they will become readers for life.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.