Monday, February 18, 2013

Ten Books for Parents Who Want to Encourage the Habit of Reading

A week ago, a fellow homeschool librarian from Rogersville, Tennnessee, joined Emily and I for a workshop called Reading Re-Visited: A Re-Evaluation of the Use of Books in the Modern Homeschool. We wanted to provide both a learning time for parents, as well as mid winter encouragement for them. Since reading is necessary to every subject and a dear passion of our hearts, we tackled some of the most pervasive difficulties parents face in not just accomplishing the feat of getting their children to read, but drawing them  toward a lifetime rich in the art of reading, the love of literature, and the wonder of worlds beyond our common daily experience.

Some find this to be a natural and simple task. Most parents are baffled about it these days, however. Most acknowledge the importance of reading in an education, but many of them are not sure why and, consequently, are frustrated or confused as to how to accomplish this goal.

It's easy to assume that most people who visit this site agree with us about the value of books. Still, in working with parents in our library and from the emails of inquiry we receive, we know that our modern world has some particular challenges that conflict with our attempts to immerse our children in good books and instill the habit of reading. At this recent seminar, Robin gave a powerful presentation of the dangers facing our culture due to the lack of reading. Studies and statistics abound that indicate that few Americans pick up a book in a year. Indeed, reading is threatened with extinction. Our use of technology, so accessible and useful, if not used with understanding of its negative effects, is one of the enemies of developing the art of being a reader.

After her potent and convincing arguments, I had the privilege of presenting the solution. Compared to the complexity of technology, it was simple. It might be so simple, it is ignored. If you read my posts often, you already know the kinds of things I talked about: how we as humans are made to communicate through words and acquire knowledge through story, how children learn naturally through story, and the joy of family reading in not just engaging your children with literature, but deepening and strengthening relationships. The problems we discussed are not easy to solve, namely, reading is work, and, reading takes time. The ease of electronics and the pace of our pursuits oppose our success in this endeavor.

Brave parents, wise parents, face the challenge and take action. The key to winning the battle for reading  with our children is within us. If we want our children to not just perform the act of reading, but become intimately enthusiastic and independent pursuers of books, we must do two things: 1) read to them; 2) read ourselves. Every single day.

I know, I know - you don't have time. Life is too full of too many things. Still, rewards are for those who attempt something. I gave the families last Saturday a plan that I offer to any of you who will take me up on it. Here are the ten books I suggested they read in the next six months:

1. Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
2. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
3. The Call to Wonder by R. C. Sproul
4. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
5. The Shallows: What by Nicholas Carr
6. A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy
7. The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
8. Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt
9. Of Other Worlds by C. S. Lewis
10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Impossible? I did the math and promise that if you spend only ten minutes every single day in reading through these books, you will easily get through the books below. You may have already read some of them, to  which I suggest either refreshing yourself with reading them again, or, substituting others on your list of things you might like to read some day. I chose these particular books because of the complementary ideas within them, though they are of different genres, are from different perspectives, and at different reading levels. Would anyone care to take me up on this project?

For the joy of reading,

Liz

14 comments:

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed your recent recommendations for a variety of ages (Scent of Water for me, Little Eddie for my son, Anatole for another son)! I already read daily but would love to add these books to my list and give them a try. Thank you for challenging us all to read - to read well and to read good material.

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    1. Dear Gina,

      I'm so glad you are enjoying so much. It is a joy to read and a joy to know so many are still diligently pursuing that worthy practice.

      Liz

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  2. Liz,

    I would love to take on this project with you!

    I don't have a lot of time with eight children, and have desperately needed a nudge to start reading (good) books other than for our little homeschool (or about homeschool:). I have only read two (4 and 8), but will read them again, gladly.

    Are we to spend 6 months or a year on the list? Will there be discussion? If not, fine ... having the list will be enough.

    Thank you,
    kathi

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    1. Kathi,

      Wonderful! I chose books that all have something to say to us as parents and hopefully will entertain, inform, amuse, convict, and inspire you in the midst of homeschooling. I haven't thought about how to handle a discussion, but would love to hear feedback and reactions to the various titles, so will have to consider how to do that. Thanks for encouraging us in our attempt to support mothers of little readers.

      Liz

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  3. Any chance you would host a reading group. I love to read books like this but hunger to have people with whom to discuss them.

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    1. Dear Sara,

      I would be delighted to have a reading group online, but in this case I am not sure which books folks will be reading when. What kind of book discussion would encourage you most? For example, specific questions to consider, or just the opportunity to share what the book means to you?

      Liz

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  4. I have read all but the Dickens book ( which I choose A Tale of two Cities this year instead of Hard Times but I should read it), and Fahrenheit 451 ( my sons read it and I am not a fan of the genre but you do convince me on this kind of list) and have read parts of THAT Lewis! Good list.All of the books are good and make the reader think.
    You do know what else I am reading. My students have The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Andy Catlett to read before May alongside history books, etc...

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    1. Bonnie,

      I know you are always working through a stack. Hard times is shorter and simpler to read than A Tale of Two Cities, but for your class the latter is most crucial. As to Bradbury, I was shocked when I forced myself to read that book at how captivated I became and how profoundly the message of that book has marked me - perhaps more than all the others on this list.

      Liz

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  5. thanks again, liz! there are a couple on there i've been planning to read for awhile, i'll bump them up on my list thanks to your 2 cents. ;)

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    1. Amy,

      For us readers, the challenge is not always "what" to read, but "when" to read it. Let me know what you think of the ones you have waiting in the wings once they have made it to front and center.

      Liz

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  6. I have only read one of those books, but several have been on my list of things to read. Thank you Emily for sharing this list: I am halfway through Fahrenheit 451 and am stunned the parallels to our culture today. A couple of chapters into Hard Times, I can see why it is on your list: the death of imagination through a force-feeding of facts and emphasis on materialism.

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  7. Liz,

    Like Sara and Kathi, I'd love to discuss these books. Here's how other online book clubs I've participated in have done it: you post the date and which book (or part of the book) you'll be discussing; on that date you write a post to kick off the discussion, and the rest of us join in via the comments. It's not as natural as a face-to-face discussion, of course, but it works.

    Either way, I am so grateful for this book list. I look forward to reading (or re-reading) every book on it. For the sheer joy of reading! :)

    Warmly,
    Kimberlee

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  8. Hello! I decided to take the challenge to read these books in 2016. I had already read Understood Betsy and Last Child in the Woods, and Ten Ways to Destroy...now in 2016 I've read Hard Times & Farenheit 451 and am in the middle of The Shallows and Of this and Other Worlds. It's been great! Thank you for this book list and the challenge to read these books. I'm really enjoying them all and am encouraged in homeschooling my kids and in my own personal growth through this.

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    1. I am so glad you are enjoying them and that all these books you have read are enriching your teaching. It's also encouraging to me to know someone is still "taking the challenge."

      Liz

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