Cultivating The Habit of Reading in Our Children

Through my 4 years of elementary school teaching, lots of conversations with parents, and straight up observation, it seems pretty evident that many children these days have lost the habit of reading. In our technology crazed culture, I can see how this happens so easily, and most of the time, without us even knowing it. It even takes me over! Yes, there are days where I want to relax and "veg out" with my favorite television show, and there are days where I choose to relax with a book. Although, truth be told that's not even as often as I want it to be!

John Senior said it like this: 
The Great Books movement of the last generation didn't so much fail as fizzle, and not because of any defect in the books- they are 'the best that has been thought and said,' in Matthew Arnold's famous phrase- but like champagne in cracked bottles, the books went flat in minds which lacked the habit of reading. 

To change the figure, the seeds grew, but the cultural soil had been depleted; the seminal ideas of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine and St. Thomas only properly grow in an imaginative ground saturated with fables, fairy tales, stories, rhymes, romances and adventures: the thousand books of Grimm, Anderson, Stevenson, Dickens, Scott, Dumas, and the rest.

So how do we cultivate a habit of reading in our children? A "skill" that seems to be more and more a thing of the past.

I've been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason education and plan on using many of her philosophies in my kids' early years of schooling. Charlotte Mason has a great reading philosophy and her way of cultivating a "habit of reading" involves staying away from "twaddle" and providing kids with "living books."

Charlotte Mason's early writings discourage parents from giving their kids "twaddle" when it comes to reading. Twaddle would include things such as...
  • books that talk down to a child 
  • books that are diluted and devalue the intelligence of a child
  • "reading made easy" books
  • tedious books
  • silly or trivial books
Charlotte Mason is very "strict" on not allowing these kinds of silly, simple, watered-down books. I do not agree with this 100%, but like many things, take some and leave some! In my opinion there is definitely a place for the silly children's books, and rhyme-like fun books, such as Sandra Boynton books (my kids' favorite silly rhyming board books). But I do think she makes a good point. If the majority of books we read to our children are "twaddle" why on earth will they later desire to read good books? Why are those high school classics so "hard" to read? Why don't our kids like to read? Why is reading such a chore? And why as adults do we not read to learn, or instead, choose not to read at all? A Charlotte Mason writer said it quite well, "It is not difficult books that are the problem, it is that we are not developing the habit of reading in children. And not just the habit of reading, but the habit of reading 'the best that has been thought and said.' Developing this habit is not for the sake of your child to become some high achiever or high level literature student. It is for the sake of opening up a door that your child can walk through someday."

So what kinds of books does this leave? I found myself asking the same question, assuming my kids would be reading "boring" books from "way back when" using strange words like "thou, thee and hence." But that's far from the wonder of reading great books! It includes fairy tales, fables, stories, rhymes, romances and adventures. They are books like Blueberries for Sal, Caps for Sale, Peter Rabbit, Aesop's Fables, Frog and Toad, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Little House ont the Prairie, Chronicles of Narnia, and hundreds more!

Another thing Charlotte Mason characterizes as the best reading is "Living Books." Simply Charlotte Mason writer describes them like this:
Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it's easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject "come alive." They can contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects- even math, geography, and science!
I simply love this idea! Especially because when I was growing up we read history lessons and science lessons from textbooks. I was bored out of my mind, which is probably why I didn't remember half of the stuff after the test was over! Charlotte Mason is huge on using living books for teaching history...using books that tell the real accounts through real people and real stories. How fascinating and what fun for a child to learn like that! There are a ton of resources out there that already have all the "living books" you should read for each section of history and science you are going through.

Mekonen is only 3 years old so we obviously haven't begun "formal" homeschooling. But this summer, we are beginning Charlotte Mason's 3 year old book list. We have already read through many of these books over the last couple years, but will be getting them all out of the library again this summer and reading them through. I'm super excited! Mekonen is really into books lately and loves when we read to him. Evie also just loves her books and is usually found sitting on some little seat, just her size, flipping through her favorite books.


And I'm Back- 3 and 1

Wow. Boy have I missed blogging! I wonder if anyone out there is even reading anymore! I intend to get back into the game here! But first I need to catch myself up on what my kiddos are doing, especially since I'm using my blog as a record keeper!

We've hit the age 3 and 1 stage and my days with these babes are BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. They are on the move from the time they get up (bouncing in her crib, and yelling from his bed), to the time they crash into bed at night. It's been fun to see Evie's personality emerge. I always assumed out of two kids, one would take the hyper, active, fireball role (Mekonen), and the other would take the quieter role. But boy are we wrong. I think we have 2 fireballs on our hands. Little Miss Evie is really coming into her own these days and I am amazed at her ability to hold her own with Mekonen. These babes are ACTIVE, and our days are very full, but I already feel their baby days flying by and I'm trying to enjoy them as much as possible. Here's a little bit of what they are up to!

3 years
(Pic from February)
  • You are asking "why" about EVERYTHING!!! :) Well, not just "why" but any and every question possible. We joke about carrying around a clicker to count how many questions you ask a day. It's gotta be in the several hundred! 
  • Whenever you've said something you think is funny but no one laughed, or you didn't think we heard you (because we weren't laughing) you say in the cutest, funniest way, "Did you hear what I just said?"
  • When I have wrongly yelled at you and didn't apologize you say to me, "Mommy, I'm sorry you w-elled at me." This is his way of reminding me that I raised my voice at him and forgot to apologize. Gotta love him!  
  • You are really into Playmbol toys rights now...airplanes, boats, pirate ships, and any kind of truck. You also still love to line up all your little matchbox cars and any other trucks or cars you have.
  • When driving in the car you looked out the window, saw a car driving next to us, and said, "Go faster Mommy!!! Race him!!!!" (Too much Lightning McQueen maybe?) 
  • When you talk, all of your L's become W's. It's super cute. In the car the other day you said, "Mom, I'm wickin' my wips." (lickin' my lips). Haha. 
  • You still love to sing! When music comes on in the car you get the biggest smile on your face and love joining right in. You typically hear a song only once or twice and are able to start singing it. It's crazy! You've been singing, "Everybody Rockin' in the House Tonight!"
  • You just LOVE the park. I think a huge part of that is that you get to play with other kids. You are so confident and just walk right up to kids and say, "Hey, do you want to play?" You almost always remember to ask their name too. 

  • We've figured out that with as outgoing as you are and with as much as you LOVE people, you really don't like big crowds. You like smaller groups of kids, like 3 or 4, but much more than that, and you become more reserved and tend to play by yourself.
  • You still love being outside and love to explore. You had such a fun time when we took you and Evie on a hike. You loved jumping in the water and exploring nature. 

  • You are all of a sudden sensitive to noise and cover your ears, not just for sound, but when you are scared. It's the funniest thing. 

Evangeline Rae
1 year old

  • Back in March at 1 year old you weighed 19 lbs. You are my little peanut. You learned to walk just days before your 1st birthday and we haven't been able to stop you since! 
  • Curiosity is the name of this baby girl! From the moment I bring you downstairs in the morning and put you down on the floor, you are on the move! You wander from room to room, completely content entertaining yourself. You love to push the small toy baskets around and fill them up with whatever is in your path. It's so incredibly cute. 
  • I wonder if you will grow up to love reading because right now you love books! You will carry them around and find any little stool, chair, or seat and sit there for the longest time just flipping through books. Sometimes you add your own baby babbling.

  • You love to put things into something and then dump it out. One of your favorite things to do everyday is to take out this big mason jar that we have that is full of little animals and sea creatures. You put them in one by one, and then dump out the jar, and repeat, about ten times. :) You find so much joy in these simple things. 

  • You had so many ear infections that you had to get tubes in April. You weren't talking much yet and the doctor said it was because you couldn't hear clearly enough. Once you had the tubes, you started making so many noises and started to say words. You were not happy about the gown and hat before surgery, but you sure were cute!
  • At 12 months you were only saying one word "shoes" which sounds like "eesh" and you say it every single time you see a pair of shoes. You just love shoes and are always trying to put them on your feet. 
  • You are now saying shoes, yes, and babbling mama, but not really used specifically for me.
  • You absolutely love dogs, and make a barking noise everytime you see or hear one. You get the biggest smile on your face when one is in sight. You gravitate towards the bigger dogs. Here's you and your dog Macy.

  • Not only do you hold your favorite blankies to your mouth to sleep, but now it has to be the corner of the blanket. This is how you put yourself to sleep.

Phew! And that's definitely not a recap of the many missed months, but it'll have to do! I think the hump of getting back into blogging was the fact that I've missed putting so much on the blog it felt overwhelming. But oh well, that's just some tid bits I need recorded for my own piece of mind!