Read the Classics? It doesn’t have to be dull

classic books on the shelfToo often “the classics” of literature are considered too old and too difficult for our children to tackle. As our kids’ teachers, we try to put on a happy face and tell them they’ll love it. If we’re honest with ourselves and our children, we have to admit we used Cliff Notes when during our school days and have never really read a “classic.”

We all know the benefits these masterpieces of literature have for all of us; they continue to be a positive force in literature, they bring history alive, and many reinforce positive moral characters. The problem is we remember our own experience reading the classics in school. My teachers used one of two methods: read only a selected portion of a book and move on or read a chapter to discuss the next day.

The first method of cherry-picking a couple of chapters out of a book doesn’t give a reader the full sense of the story. We were expected to pick some moral lesson out of the few pages we read. Never did we get the full story or the opportunity to know the characters.

The second method is plain boring. “Read chapter 2 tonight and be prepared to discuss the reasons for the family moving.” Even though the entire story is read, trying to extract answers to specific questions throughout destroys the flow of the story, thus the enjoyment.

Fiza Pathan’s book CLASSICS: How we can encourage children to read them offers suggestions not to teach the classics but to encourage children to read the classics. She is a teacher in India. Her methods have been used in and out of the classroom. Plus, she speaks from experience.

Some of us still may wonder why we should encourage the reading of classics when there are so many modern books specific for children are available. A few of the reasons Pathan cites in the Introduction are to develop creative skills, philosophy and morals, and logical thinking processes. Many of the popular books for middlers and teens are lacking in all of these areas.

Instead of passing out a stack of books at the beginning of the term and assigning chapters to read, Pathan gives students and parents the opportunity to find pleasure in this literature. She suggests that “the first step must be the selection of a suitable book, one that matches the personality and tastes of the pupil.” What better way to inspire students?

Pathan encourages parents and educators, that would be most of us, to get to know the child before assigning a work to read. Picking specific books for children to read doesn’t instill a love for reading. Giving assignments based on the book doesn’t instill a love for great literature. Getting to know the interest of the student and offering a selection based on that interest does.

Doesn’t this sound like homeschooling? We know our children better than the textbook companies and we know their interest. Following Pathan’s advice to follow the interest of the reader fits well in most homeschool programs. Imagine, she suggests that parents read the classics and set an example for the students.

CLASSICS has other suggestions that allow each family to try what will work for them. Some of her ideas include watch the movie first, reading the classics aloud starting at a young age, or using abridged editions to spark an interest to read the full book.

The book does have what I consider meaningless activities such as word search puzzles. On the other hand, nearly every chapter has a list of books that fit well in the method selected.

I highly recommend CLASSICS; How we can encourage children to read them to all teachers, parents, grandparents, and everyone else who wants to instill a love for reading good literature

Classics: How we can encourage children to read them
Fiza Pathan
ISBN: 978-1505296815
Print only: $5.99

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