I generally read three or more books at once, I read out loud to my children every day, and I follow a literature-based homeschool curriculum. And yet, I force myself to NOT read certain books to my children. I’m talking about good quality books, not twaddle. I want to save more difficult books for a later date when my children will understand them better, but that’s not the only reason. I think I ought to save some really good books for my children to discover themselves!
I think back to my own reading history, not at all like my children’s will be. My family had a few classics in the bookcase, but mostly Christian romance fiction. I remember the day I took down my first “grown-up” book, I remember the arm chair I sat in, and I remember the slow but very satisfying progress I made through the first chapter. It was a Janette Oke book. Since then my reading history has been characterized by phases. I’ve been obsessed with Christian romance, westerns, mysteries, Michael Crichton books, and then I dove into classics during high school by falling in love with Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I still hated poetry and Shakespeare at that point. In college I learned to love more classics, even difficult stuff like Beowulf and The Fairie Queene. I respected poetry. Still hated Shakespeare. In later years, I learned to love more types of good literature, even Shakespeare (I forced myself to read it at the table when eating supper alone. Now, it is a very vivid memory of my married life before we had children. I can smell the pages of that old thrift-store book.) I am coming to my point: I came to my literature-passion a lot later in life than I expect my own children will. I came to it through my own investigation, not because anybody forced me to read the classics while I was in elementary school. In fact, I have a confession to make. I am about to begin reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my children, and I have never read the entire series myself. (!) Here’s another confession. I don’t recall reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia series either. I also had never read the real Winnie-the-Pooh stories until I read them to my own kids. You know what? I don’t feel guilty. I feel excited to be learning along with my children. Even though I have only done first grade, I have read a lot of good literature that is new to me, and as a result, I am even more excited to be homeschooling than I was before I began.
I don’t want my own kids to miss out on that excitement of finding good books on their own. Sure, there will be plenty of good books we read together, and lots of things I will be assigning them in the future, but I’m not going to be standing behind them at the library, pointing out the books they ought to read for their own enjoyment. I think that would cut down on the enjoyment part. I hope my own enthusiasm for good literature is contagious, but even if it isn’t, I know there is always hope that they might start reading Shakespeare at their own supper table with pizza and a pile of napkins.