Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Volume 1: Reading for Older Children

I am happily diving back into Miss Mason's work today, and wanted to share some thoughts on her short chapter on "Reading for Older Children." Technically, my six-year old is not an "older child," but I found some helpful guiding ideas here to add to my stockpile.

First, Mason accurately tells us that a child who has been carefully taught to read and given a good base of vocabulary will do the rest of the work himself and soon be reading well (226). To be on the look-out for are two potential problems: 1) Does the child have the habit of reading, and 2) Are those habits slipshod?

How are we to understand the habit of reading? Charlotte feels that children often are spoon-fed knowledge through talk and lessons, but never acquire the habit of reading books "as a means of interest and delight" (227). Indeed, she cautions us that as soon as a child can read, he should be reading widely on his own, for pleasure and to seek out answers to questions. In thinking about my own experiences at home, I can see that often my husband and I answer the children's questions for them or hop on Google to seek out a definitive answer. But we have a wonderful home library in which some of their questions could be answered, certainly. This is a nice reminder to allow a question to remain a question for a moment, and to guide the little one to books which might be able to help.

Secondly, Miss Mason reminds her readers to impress upon the child that one careful reading is to be enough to gather the full meaning and detail of a book. Of course, if the child is narrating to you, you can see that this is being done. A bit trickier in the early years when you have a precocious reader zooming through books on her own!

As far as reading to our children, Mason would certainly advocate that in the early years, I think, but she cautions against it in the older child (I believe she has in mind lesson books here, the books children are using for school). Her advice has logic, because doing the active work of reading a challenging book is more fortifying than having it read to you. I think bedtime reading, for pleasure, falls outside of this category, and I will happily read to my children as long as they'll have me:)

And finally, book choice. Here is where we get the Charlotte Mason treatment!
"I am speaking now of his lesson-books, which are all too apt to be written in a style of insufferable twaddle, probably because they are written by persons who have never chanced to meet a child. All who know children know that they do not talk twaddle and do not like it, and prefer that which appeals to their understanding. Their lesson-books should offer matter for their reading, whether aloud or to themselves; therefore they should be written with literary power....Therefore, the selection of their first lesson-books is a matter of grave importance, because it rests with these to give children the idea that knowledge is supremely attractive and that reading is delightful. Once the habit of reading his lesson-book with delight is set up in a child, his education is––not completed, but––ensured; he will go on for himself in spite of the obstructions which school too commonly throws in his way." (229)

Pretty fortifying, eh? Give them solid lessons in reading, build habits as regards books, and you will have a child who loves to learn, regardless of what life throws their way. 


  1. The foundation is so important to establish for when you let the older ones go off on their own with schooling. And for later in life when you want them to enjoy many kinds of books, not just easy, twaddle stuff.

  2. I like this post (I've only recently started following you here) and it reminds me that I need to start working harder with my 8 yr old on getting him to take on his share. He is still doing McGuffey readers but I think is capable of short bits of our AO school books, too. I stopped asking because it wasn't worth the fight, but I think he's become more confident in his ability and I should give it another go! Thanks for the reminder :)