Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What's On Tonight?

Next to comments about the weather, fellow students or coworkers frequently gravitate to the question, "What's on TV tonight," or else refer to the last episode as they share their intention to watch tonight's continuation . Though my childhood is increasingly in the far and distant past, I can still remember the night of the week my favorite programs were offered. With chagrin, I admit that the Thursday night line up for any particular year is embedded in my memory.

A mother in my library recently described a new practice in their home that I thought I would share with you. As you know, I often lament the lack of reading and the loss of the family reading habit. This particular family has come up with a plan to ensure that they read together on a regular basis and their creative approach is far from a tedious or cumbersome plan.

Each member of the family chooses a book they wish to read, but each one has to select it from a different genre of literature. The choices currently include a history book, a fantasy fiction story, a biography, and a mystery story. Each book is assigned a different night of the week to be read aloud. On Wednesday, for  example, they read the mystery. Consequently, if they're dying to know what happens next, well Sorry, they have to wait for next Wednesday to find out what the following chapter brings.

Not only is this a clever way to read several books, to provide four family nights of togetherness and a  superior form of entertainment to television, but it is a way of accomplishing the habit of wide reading and reading slowly, a practice Charlotte Mason encouraged. The options for this kind of reading program are endless, not just in the variety of books read, but in how the time is used. It is possible, if you have an hour, to read a fiction story for one-half hour, and a missionary biography for the second half-hour. Various members of the family can take turns reading, or certain books on given nights can be read by different family members. Spreading the reading from week to week builds curiosity and secures attention through expectant

I was blessed to hear, not only that there is a family tackling the counterculture practice of reading, but doing so in such an innovative way. I'm already scheming how this could be put into practice in our family's widely spread age range and schedule. The wheels are turning. We could do poetry on the nights when we have  little time to read, or better yet, maybe I should save the cliff-hanger for the nights with the least reading time to intensify the suspense. I think I can guarantee that the unexpected night out may soon cause a little wail of disappointment since we won't come back to that night's reading for another whole week. When we miss the reading program for that night, there's no machine to set to record in our absence.

I think I'll make moody Monday the funny book night. How about My Family and Other Animals? Wednesday, a good night for a suspense story to carry you to the end of the week, perhaps Surrender by Robb White; the boys will love the war and danger. Friday we'll offer fantasy, Lloyd Alexander's Book of  Three is a good contender.

I can just imagine my children in the future quoting lines from their favorite incident in some book and saying, oh, and do you remember the one about the boy living on his own on the mountain (My Side of the Mountain), or the night we laughed at the scrapes the Melendy kids got into in Then There Were Five? Remember how Dad was kind of scary when he read King Lear?

For the joy of reading,



  1. I grew up with these words on my mind as well. Now, my life is much richer with books. Thank you for sharing this - it is a GREAT idea. I must think how I can incorporate it!


  2. Kelly,

    So glad this idea was helpful to you. Perhaps you could start out with a 30 minute program 2-3 times a week and increase according to demand!


  3. Liz, thank you for such a wonderful post encouraging us to go counter-culture, shut off the TV, and step into the wonderful world of reading ... together as a family, even. Sharing this with our Great River Community in Cincinnati !
    Janet Pressley-Barr

    1. Janet,

      I'm glad it was an inspiration to you. I think your music would be a nice entertainment addition to the reading - perhaps you could think of a theme song for each book (I can still hum most of the songs for the shows of my childhood). Nothing goes together better than books, music, and family.

      Enjoy these gifts before the years are gone.