This year I began with For The Children's Sake. I'm a Swimming Mum this week. That's like an Aussie Soccer Mom, only each morning you'll find me sitting by the local swimming pool as Jemimah does her daily swimming lessons instead of ferrying children to soccer practice. Anyhow, I digress. I've been reading as I wait. That's what I was trying to say. I wonder if that's why my reading has been more of the dip in here and there version than a full reread but regardless of why, I find myself doing just that. Maybe it is all the 'dipping in the pool'? (Oh I am so drôle tonight!!! Giggle.)
Susan is an inspiring writer, and each time I read this book I come away with a fresh idea. Today was no different. She was talking about adults reading living books to children and she says this:
Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim's Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself...Later she talks about young children reading Shakespeare:
Some people were incredulous. "It's not possible," they responded. "Children just aren't up to that."Oh this is so important! Most of us were not home educated ourselves. Some of us had pretty purile school educations. Some of us never attained the level of reading that we dream of for our children. And yet Susan is saying that if mum does not understand what she is reading aloud, then her children will not enjoy the book. Simple. So what's a gal to do about it? Should we stop reading quality literature to our children thereby perpetuating the problem of poor vocabulary and reading ability into the next generation, or is there something else we can do? Now I'm no expert - in anything really - but I believe that the answer to this question is an emphatic 'Yes'! It has to be - there is no choice really, is there, short of employing a professional reader to read to your children in your stead.
But they are - if the door is opened. There is only one problem that I can see. The adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children.
While I don't advocate stopping a book just because mum doesn't like it, if she cannot read it with understanding and enjoyment then the child is not going to be able to learn from it either. That's what Susan says, and I agree with her. It may, therefore be worth stopping temporarily to investigate the problem.
Firstly, I think it is Ruth Beechick in her 3R’s book that says that a book is too difficult for a child if there are five unpronounceable words on a page. I would say that the same applies to an adult. Take a look at the difficult book and count how many words on a page are either difficult for you to pronounce or that you don’t understand.
If you don't know how to pronounce a word consider how important it is to know how the word should be said. You would be amazed at how many pronunciations there are for the names of the characters in Greek myths, for example. In this case the way you say the name is less important than the consistency of whichever pronunciation you choose. If you consider that a word is important then ask somebody!! You can google too, but sometimes you actually need to hear it said. Now how many words do you have a problem with? Hopefully less. Kids won't expect you to be perfect either. They won't mind if you stumble over the occasional word. The word lackadaisical came up three times in our reading the other night. I got it wrong each time. Jemimah didn't mind. Yes, I can say the word: lack·a·dai·si·cal; lack·a·dai·si·cal; lack·a·dai·si·cal. See! I just couldn't on Saturday. Dunno why.
On to words you don't know. Can you glean their meaning from their context? If so, then your kids probably will too. If not, is it important? I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy with Jemimah today. Actually, she was reading it to me, and we came across this:
Poor people had to wear homespun on Sunday and Royal and Almanzo wore fullcloth. But Father and Mother and the girls were very fine in clothes that Mother had made of store boughten cloth, woven by machines.(Is boughten a real word in America? It is not in Australia.) Anyhow, the problem I had was with the word fullcloth. What is this? I know it's a fabric; I realise from the context that it is likely to be homespun; but as to what it is or what it looks like, I have no idea. I ignored it. So for that matter did Jemimah. Its meaning was irrelevant to the story. If my daughter had asked me about fullcloth I would have said something like, "Oh, I think it is a type of fabric that Mother would have woven at home." She didn't.
Mostly with words you don't know in a story you will find that this is the case. The context provides meaning.
Which leaves important words that you can't pronounce and don't understand. Perhaps it would be worth prereading your hard book and looking for these in advance. Look them up if they are important to your reading of the story. Leave them if they're not. You can always look them up with your kids if they happen to ask.
Above all, don't give up reading the hard books! Why do we read Living Books to our children? Why do we want them to read fine literature? Because reading begats reading - the more you read the better at it you'll become. The axiom applies to 35 year old mums as well as 7 year old children - The only way to improve your reading, vocabulary and comprehension is to keep reading.
Finally, don't forget that the hardest part of a book to read aloud is the first chapter. It takes a while to catch the author's cadence and rhythm, but it soon starts to flow, and with that comes enjoyment and understanding.
Even with Shakespeare and Pilgrim's Progress.
Especially with Shakespeare and Pilgrim's Progress.