Books are wonderful. All homeschoolers know this. But teaching our children to really understand and appreciate some of the great literature classics requires more from us as teachers. We need to share with our children the RELATIONSHIP we ourselves have with each book we study together.
“I LOVE that book!”
“Oh, I hate that story…”
“That book changed my life.”
How do books have such a tremendous impact on us? I think at least part of the answer is this: as readers, we develop a degree of relationship with the characters in the story, the experiences they have, and the author who created them.
A shy person can get lost in books, preferring the imaginary world to the real one that is sometimes so threatening. This is because on some level, imaginary or not, we form a relationship with the book we are reading.
Sharing the relationships you, as the teacher, have had with certain books will really enhance your students’ willingness to give a tough read a try. Let’s be honest; some books are harder to get through than others! While Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is a book that I absolutely love, I find Book the First to be a bit difficult to get through. There are long descriptive passages that use vocabulary not comfortable to my brain, and I have to work when I read it.
Reading “tough books” requires our children to work. Sharing our own experiences in forming relationships with these books can encourage them to put forth the effort required.
Here are some examples of ways that you can share your relationships with books you have read:
* Tell your kids about the first time you encountered the story. How old were you? (See, children? I was once a young person who was required to stretch beyond my comfort zone and read tough books, too.)
* What was your first reaction to the book? How have your feelings about it changed since that first reading? (See, children? I originally was not crazy about this one, but by the time I got to the end of the story I couldn’t put it down!)
* Tell the truth: Do you actually LIKE this book now, or do you merely respect certain elements in it? (See children? I can’t say that I really enjoy the book as a “good read,” but I am impressed by the masterful creation of round, dynamic characters. The plot doesn’t do a lot for me, but the characters really are fascinating.)
* Allow your children to reach conclusions for themselves. Ask questions that help them COMPREHEND the material, but don’t tell them “This is what you are supposed to get out of this chapter.” Instead, encourage them through discussion to articulate what they see, and even if it is not the same thing you take away from the passage, if they can support their position, you can validate it.
Remind your students regularly that a book is nothing unread. It is the combination of story and reader that give it power. Encourage them to bring their own experiences, opinions, feelings, fears, joys, etc. to the book, and as they relate to it, they will find the work less daunting and the experience richer.
For helpful study guides to aid comprehension of the material, check out 7 Sisters’ collection in the EBookstore. (…and look for my take on George Orwell’s Animal Farm to be released tomorrow!)
What are some books with which you formed a strong relationship?