To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find. ~ Charlotte Mason, An Essay Towards A Philosophy of Education, p. 51
The aspect of the Charlotte Mason philosophy that appealed to me the most as a new homeschooler was the immersion into literature, but not just literature, the best literature. I have always been an avid reader and lover of books. My library is full of books. They overflow the shelves. They are stacked in baskets, in corners, on ottomans and occasionally in chairs. It took me many years to accept that I could read books on an iPad, but once I did, I found a whole new level of hoarding books. At least these books aren’t taking up seating room in my house. So, the Charlotte Mason homeschooling philosophy spoke to me in a way that no other philosophy had. I was hooked.
Unfortunately, my children were not.
How My Children Lost their Love of Reading
It is sad fact that we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought. ~ Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, p. 263
Let me back up a moment and explain. As babies, I read to my sweet children all the books I could find. Their libraries were full of classics and modern twists on the classics before they were even out of the womb. I was convinced that they would love literature as much as I always had. And, they did. They voraciously read all the books I could find. As soon as they could read on their own, they each begged for longer and more interesting books. And so, when my oldest (who could barely read) began to read The Chronicles of Narnia, I knew I had cultivated the proper love of reading in my home.
And then he started school.
Before the name Charlotte Mason had ever crossed my path, before homeschooling was ever a twinkle of an idea in my mind, my son set off for school with his brand-new Power Rangers backpack prepared to soak in all the knowledge his little brain could hold. His teacher assigned book readings every night and he quickly read those and moved onto books he wanted to read “for fun.” We were a happy, contented, literature-loving family — until those “fun books” became an assignment.
All of a sudden reading became just another assignment. One that was graded for comprehension based on what the teacher or the testing program deemed was the most essential part of the story – like the year, or the location, or what the author’s name was. Though sometimes those are important details, they are not always what might grab you and pull you into a story. You may not remember that a book is located in San Antonio, but you may remember the heat of the day, the sweat dripping down the main characters face, or the breeze from the river. By being tested over the details of his beloved stories, my son started to lose his love of reading for fun and began to read for specific details he thought he might be tested on the next day.
Perhaps, I could have believed that this was just a young boy who had discovered sports were more exciting than literature (and honestly, I did for a time). But, my next child developed the same “symptoms” in early elementary until she was crying over having to read and reciting to me the page numbers she had read that day. It took several years, but I finally realized that reading assignments had destroyed my children’s love of reading.
To read the rest of this article and “How Charlotte Mason Inspired a New Love of Reading in My Children” hop on over to 20 Days of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling.