Dear Classical Families and Friends,
During the past week I finished reading aloud The Lord of the Rings to my ten year old daughter, and I thought that as an educator I should share and promote the joys and benefits of this bonding family tradition. If you stopped reading books to your child after picture books, you ought to give yourself permission to reengage in this worthwhile experience and extend this meaningful endeavor into your child’s later years.
Besides being one of the more satisfying connective traditions, reading aloud increases both a child’s listening comprehension and vocabulary acquisition, develops concentration skills, teaches character lessons and models exemplary writing. In today’s technological world, the overreliance on visual media can train a child’s developing mind to work in fits and starts and the result is that a child’s ability to listen with a purpose and mentally create pictures is not as finely honed as in previous generations.
Stories introduce children to places and characters that they could never experience in their own short childhood. On a comfortable sofa in my childhood home, my older sister Robin read to me and I can remember slowly learning to follow the words as she read classic adventure stories to me that I was too young to read to myself. I begged her to continue to read whenever her teenage generosity began to flag and through this mutual experience we have remained closely connected despite the difference in our ages.
Good books teach character lessons to children in very meaningful ways. J.R.R. Tolkien describes villainous characters, deeds and creatures in The Lord of the Rings that he adeptly contrasts with the more noble qualities of mercy, courage and diplomacy shown by the fellowship of companions who strive to overcome the malevolent and powerful dark lord Sauron and his forces. Certain passages in this book allowed me to explore complicated, nuanced situations with my children from the warmth and security of our home.
Listening comprehension is a precursor to reading comprehension and should be refined at throughout childhood. Children learn to wrestle with ideas and draw inferences from the stories they hear and this learned ability can lead to the types of critical thinkers and thoughtful leaders whom we hope to inherit our roles for later generations. Children who are read to have robust language abilities – greater vocabularies and enhanced recollection and sequencing skills. They learn to read challenging books earlier and acquire a wide variety of vicarious experiences through these literary engagements.
Reading aloud to your child can also lay the foundation for better writing. Listening to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan imprints his whimsical style in a child’s memory and this memory can serve as a template for your child’s later writings. Unabridged pieces of classic literature that have thrilled our parents and their parents before them are usually works of great intellect and gifts to all who read and listen to them. Listening to these literary treasures imbues children with the cadence and structure of what exemplary writing sounds and looks like and this can the foundation of continued later academic achievement and inquiry.
Create a memory… pick a book that you are enthusiastic about to read to your child over the upcoming winter season and see if this experience doesn’t lead to another and another.
Mr. Thomas L. Bomann