The life story of Longfellow is full of drama, romance, and tragedy.
A museum guard reads a children’s humor magazine at the entrance desk. A businessman reads comics on a long plane flight. Examples everywhere indicate that the world of good literature is not automatically reached at adulthood.
Whether it’s music, art, or books, children who receive regular doses of the best will usually grow up with a taste for quality. And parents, more than anyone else, have the opportunity to guide children toward the smorgasbord of literature that will feed their interest and imagination.
Setting up a home library can begin early. Before children read, even before they can talk, books provide an introduction to new things and ideas as well as a reinforcement of familiar ones. A home library will ideally include a balance of the traditional and modern, realistic and fanciful poetry, prose, and picture books. Through this variety of stories, children discover their favorites. It may be a preference for mysteries one year or biographies the next. But once they catch the joy of reading, be ready to live with a “bookworm.”
Some parents feel their children just aren’t readers, even though they’ve established a home library. One often neglected asset is making reading an inviting activity. Is there a place to sit near the books, or are there colorful floor pillows? Is there good lighting? Does your child need a step stool to reach some of the books? Having a comfortable place to read can make all the difference.
Maintain interest in reading through weekly visits to the library. With this added selection, children find stories they’ll read only once and others they’ll want to buy sometime. The librarian can locate material on the appropriate reading level, books of seasonal interest, and series by favorite authors. Also, don’t overlook the large variety of children’s magazines. Take advantage of your library’s special programs, too, such as book clubs, craft workshops, story hours, and contests.
Once a good selection of books is available, help your children establish a time to read them. Belonging to a children’s book club is sometimes all the incentive they need during summer vacation. When busy school schedules take over, setting up a “reading hour” can give the needed direction. Some children extend the learning potential by keeping a notebook of “Words I want to look up.”
One family of four focuses their program on reading aloud large sections of the classics. They begin by devising their own “Literary Time Line,” a long mural which starts with 800 B.C. (Homer). They’re now up to “Charlotte’s Web,” 1952. “Reading time is hardly reverent,” comments the mother, “being frequently interrupted with silliness, acting out parts, and absurd modern analogies. Admittedly, some of the books chosen require a supreme effort…others the children beg us to finish.” This historical perspective of the classics has produced a mini history lesson and frequent use of the dictionary, along with family closeness.
Another family might tailor reading to their own experiences, such as travels. But however you approach a steady diet of good literature, it will enrich the family and be a foundation for future reading enjoyment.