My childhood home was a home of books; thousands of books, I don’t recall many picture books, but we had shelves of quality novels mixed with twaddle. These surrounds encouraged my own love of reading.
Making the decision early on to home educate our children, I began reading about home education approaches and knew our learning would not be reliant on text books. When I first read of Charlotte Mason I was immediately drawn to her love of Living Books, I had found someone whose experience bore out my instinctive thoughts! The past 17 years of parenting have been filled with reading, books are an integral part of our home and family culture. We talk about characters and plots together, we read together, we laugh and cry over books together. Well okay I’m the one who mostly cries (along with an unnamed child or two.)
When I think back over the years books are entwined within many family moments; numerous memories are centered around the times spent reading books and different books in particular hold a place in our family’s annuals. We fondly remember the many mornings we spent reading our Saint stories until Morning Tea when my voice begged for mercy, pleading with the children that I could no longer go on. St Pius X would have to be one of our very favourites from this time, we still talk and laugh about his humorous approach. Then there was the day we began Caddie Woodlawn and the children begged I continue, which I did all day until tea time, my voice was so hoarse. The series we read for pure fun that have become part of our family culture, Redwall and Ranger’s Apprentice are two that come immediately to mind. One of my dearest memories was the winter Michelangelo was a newborn; we spent weeks huddled on the lounge under a doona, reading the entire collection of Beatrix Potter. To this day Beatrix Potter remains a family favourite.
When all the children were under 11 years it was far easier to maintain a family read aloud and read to all. Now however our three oldest often prefer reading to themselves, sometimes they listen to snippets and reminisce or become interested, often they pick up the book I was reading and read quickly to themselves. For too long I grieved for the earlier years, in an ideal situation I could still read to my teens but realistically our logistics just don’t suit. My reading time is now devoted to our 11 and 9 year olds and trying to read picture books to our youngest three. All five oldest spend hours daily reading to themselves, if they are not outside after lunch then they will be found with book in hand reading.
As I’m currently updating our library catalogue I’m realising anew just how many wonderful books I have read to the older children and how many of these old friends I long to share with our middle children. The simple reality is it is much harder with the age dynamics to spend large periods of time reading together. What once came easy I now have to devise daily goals to ensure reading time happens. For our youngest I strive to read a minimum of three picture books daily, for our 11 and 9 year olds one chapter a day of two/three books; Faith, Literature, and History.
We have read so many wonderful books, the children have been immersed in quality literature and I know this has been a rich blessing. I hear it in the quality of their speech, in their vocabulary, in their instinctive knowledge of sentence syntax, and the crafting of their stories. Rich literature has been an extremely worthwhile and valuable investment.