One Foot

One Foot

Friday, August 5, 2016

Reading Children's Classics as an Adult





                I attended a Kansas rural school in the era just before such schools were closed and consolidated with larger districts.   Out of that education was born a girl who learned to love books and learned that the way into and upward in the world was through books and education.

              Even from a child’s eyes, I could see resources were limited in our classroom.  We had dictionaries and encyclopedias in the bookcase.  We had textbooks for all grades, but I don’t remember having any books or magazines to go along with the textbooks.
                Our library was a library trunk that the teacher checked out from the larger library system in the county seat, and although I didn’t need an incentive to read, there was a reading achievement reward for reading a certain number of books during the year.  No problem. I read them all, regardless of level.  I’m sure I enjoyed each one.
Then, a few years ago, after making friends with my neighbor, a children’s’ librarian, I was introduced to the “Recommended Children’s Book List” made up of children’s literature that is now considered “classic.” How disappointed I was to find I hadn’t read the great majority of those books.  And so, last year I began checking out children’s books for me.  I discovered a world of imagination that I am so sorry I missed as a child; and a world of writing skill that I wish I’d found earlier.
I have been consistently impressed with the sophistication of language in these books.  It is both an example of language used in the authors’ time, as well as a model of use for large and varied words.  Sometimes we try to control these factors, supposing they contribute to high grade level readability, but given rich content, kids willingly tackle them.  A good example is the series of Harry Potter books that are quite high in readability, but has an interest level that hooks even very young children.  
As an added bonus, nearly every book I’ve read has a great story.  Just this week I found a collection of classics in audio-book form.  “Anne of Green Gables” is in the car today and a wonderful read – reminding me of all the books Miss Holte, our rural school teacher, read to us right after the noon recess and just before mathematics.  
For someone who loves to read, as I do, there are two lists that merit regular attention.  One is the list of books that all students that are going to college should be reading or have read.  The second is the list of the books that make up children’s classic literature.  
I may not ever write a great American novel, but if I don’t, you can bet I have been reading one.  Chances are it was written for children!