Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chapter 4: Reading and Literature

This chapter by Jack Beckman primarily deals with two topics: Charlotte Mason's method of teaching children to read, and, complementing St. Cyr's chapter living books, the value and use of quality literature in the life of the student and his studies.  Miss Mason's suggestions on teaching a child to read are wonderful--I see in them respect for the child's mind, thirsting for ideas and literary language, as well as sound practice in teaching technique.  Hers is a two-pronged approach that pulls from both sight words and phonics, and it is a great example of how integrated all aspects of her method are: the close observation a young child learns through his natural curiosity in the outdoors prepares him for the careful attention that is required to distinguish one word from another, for example.  The teacher makes use of inherent appeal of interesting words and real ideas by using children's literature or poetry rather than dull readers.  Learning to read is not just decoding, as is often the case in traditional approaches; it is the student developing a new kind of relationship with words--including many words that he has already met and learned to love in read-alouds and conversation. Beckman helpfully breaks down the method into steps so we can see how a reading lesson for a young one might look, and it seems delightful, really--it makes me half wish my two oldest hadn't just decided to start reading on their own one day!  I have a feeling my next one in line will need a bit more help from me, so I'll have a chance to try it all out in a couple years' time, I'm guessing. :)

The second section reiterates Maryellen St. Cyr's comments on narration: quality reading material is absolutely essential for the student, reading is a mind-to-mind meeting between the student and the author, students from their earliest school days (and even before) must be exposed to the best writing available.  And then Beckman sums up the differing duties of teacher and student in this educational model: "The teacher's role becomes that of providing the time and the 'score of thinkers' to the child for her edification.  And from this the reader has a responsibility--that of a single reading and a retelling of what has been read." (146)  The teacher provides the introduction; the student forms the relationship.  We as teachers should keep in mind that much more important than preparing lessons is our choice of books: whom do we want our child to meet this term?  What kind of relationships do we want him to form?  And then, with gentle guidance, we let the book do its work and allow the child to self-educate.  It really is freeing to think that although I am technically my children's "teacher," they were educated by Thorton Burgess, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maria Montessori, and Robert Louis Stevenson this morning.  Tomorrow I think H.E. Marshall and Shakespeare may stop by. What lovely things books are. :)

1 comment:

  1. Celeste, I adore that idea, that the children are being educated by Shakespeare, Auden, Steinbeck, in a real way, not just reading their works, but spending time with them, nurturing a relationship and learning at the feet of the masters. Brilliant!