Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The absolute pleasure of reading.

Each day, we encourage the children and challenge them to enjoy a reading time for a minimum of one hour. This "required" reading time usually happens in the mid afternoon, a "quiet time" which includes various readings, assigned to specific days within the parameters of the school calendar. But it also continues beyond a general time period (especially on rainy days) with the children also adding their preferred pleasure reading into the book stacks. Not limited to a one hour period however, there does come a time when the older children cross the threshold of a "must" reading time, and enter into the love or reading - for fun. To witness them choose a book from the shelves, or lift one from another surface around the home, peruse it's covers, note the elegance or art types of pictures gracing it's covers, and enjoy more reading later on as the day progresses, leaves a smile on my face. We have never been short of book lovers in our home. I remember well when Alyse once said, "Just give me a book, and I'll be very content." Most of us here feel that way too.

There are many quotes on the importance of books. Here's one;

"Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill." - Barbara Tuchman.

What a better way to learn about the people who lived before us. They roamed the land we live on, lived and breathed our air, staked their homesteads, and there were those who made the rules, the laws of the time, taught us great things, invented items to enhance our lifestyles and so much more. Read, for your very life will be richer and blessed with knowledge or the journeys you tap into while doing so.

It is my belief children should be taught that books are a treasure. Did you know books were confiscated, burned and banned by law to possess or to own in other lands? Whole libraries were burned to the ground, one being the scholar's library in the great fire in Ancient Rome. Imagine what was within the rubbles and piles of ashes!

Books should be loved, cherished, respected and never pushed aside or mishandled. Even a wee babe can learn how to hold a book, and delight in the plethora of pictures directly at his fingertips. Illustrations are a feast to the eyes at any age, for a babe though, simple stories could be conjured up by the parent and finger pointing to the pictures as the story time moves along. Ensure little ones too have a book time scheduled within their routines each day by simply placing a small pile of "safe" books by their side. They will eventually begin to look forward to their "quiet time" with their new book buddies. Our little grandbabes all have reading times, and were read to a lot from a very early age. As evidence, how many of you still own your very favorite books from your own youth still, and cherish them deeply in your hearts?

Reading aloud as a family or listening to the drama of books on tape, at home or while traveling, these ideas offer the simplicity of curling up together and to create a memory you'll one day reminisce about later in life. No matter the age of a person, there should always be a time carved into the day for reading. Over the years we've read whole novels together, a few chapters each day, and we've collected an incredible library of books on tape, cd's and now mp3s.

As each of our children has been thrust into the wonderful vast world of books, they were first introduced to pictures for remembering the main characters in stories later on, no matter if they could read the words or not. Though new challenges were introduced when formal reading lessons began, I always suggested after the lesson of the day, to simply take a few books and have a quiet time with their new friends. There are no shortage of books to grab and cuddle up with. Our library is well stocked with some 3000 plus books gracing our shelves. Over the years, I've found many long out of print and hard to find treasures, to add into the fold and hope that someday, our grandchildren will inherit this library for their children to enjoy just as we all have. Our children have always had books in their bedrooms to curl up with before bed, books in almost every room, even some "Family Circle" books in the bathroom for a quick giggle.

Since moving east, the back acreage welcomes the children on nice days, and they've been known to hustle their books out and climb into a tree, sway on a swing gently, lay on the trampoline, or sit cross legged in a lawn chair while petting their pups to read. Reading is an integral part of our lifestyle, something to bring to the table over a meal and catch the family up on "what happened next".

Our local librarian was so happy the day we dropped in on her. Then she saw the piles of books we were heading up to the desk with to check out. She smiled and almost bursted with excitement, informing us the library circulation is so important in rural areas, to the point where funds for new books only comes if the circulation is high. In fact, these libraries just acquired those new printer machines for noting books one checks out to refer to and keep as a future reference for returns. Our stacks have always exceeded the machine's alloted amounts, so we are the lucky folks who get two ticker tapes of books borrowed.

My grandmother used to tell me to read alot. She said you could go anywhere in the world by simply reading a book. She herself always had a "stack" somewhere in her home. With these, indeed she traveled the world, imagined the sights within the book's novel descriptions and visual stimulations. She learned of cultures, geography, history, architecture, biographies, social sciences, and of course, we all know that Mamere liked her "Harlequin romances", but only those she said, with a prior copyright to 1968. During one of our excursions with her while living at her old folk's home, she requested that I bring her to her favorite used book store so she could trade in some books for others to read. Happily I watched her walk up and down aisles, checking for copyright dates, touching and feeling her way around the stacks, glancing over book covers, appearing to be absolutely in her element browsing the shelves. Her pile set aside on the counter, the trade off began, and with a smirk on her face (and a few Harlequins in her bag), off we went for our ice cream afterwards.

She was choosy with her books, specially after being the main librarian for so many years at the church parish library. Amongst those parishioners and within the family, her recommendations (aside from the romance) were sought after, respected and taken with gratitude. The question always arose while visiting; "what are you reading right now?".

So, here's a list of what we're reading right now, at least the books within my view on the coffee table nearby...

- Man for all seasons
- Richard Haliburton's "Book of Marvels"
- Adventurers - The Epic story of the Hudson's Bay Company
- The lost wreck of the Isis by Robert Ballard (Discoverer of the Titanic)
- Clare's Gift
- Dear Princess, stories for girls
- Siberian huskies for dummies
- Dominic Hasek, goalie stories
- 1000 hockey point players
- many other hockey books
- Illustrated stories on the lives of the Saints
- Little stories of Christ's miracles
- Young boys of the Bible
- many other assorted library books on ballet, kitten care, hamster care, pony riding, horse breeds and more.

Lots of math books;

- Mathematicians are people too. (very good)
- The King's Chessboard
- Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
- Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone
- Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland

My night table is full, so are the children's with more for that evening last read. I've been known to buy "special books" and set them aside for family member's birthdays, ones that I personally treasure and wish to pass along. There are lists of good books on the internet to tap in to. There are reading clubs to participate in at local book stores and libraries. Ours here has a monthly meeting to discuss theme topics. This past month was "biographies", and all shared those they've read. It's a chance to widen the scope on topics out there in the big, wide world of literature. Here's a great link to browse through, specially categories with ages of the children, or beyond;

1000 Good Books list, in the style of classical reading literature

Around here too, some of our mandatory highschool literature readings come from "The Great Books", a set of books produced by Mortimer Adler. I remember some of these same reading selections myself from my high school years and if only I could have learned this way too, the challenge wouldn't have been so great to understand their contents. Strange but true, over the past fifty plus years since those "Great Books" were published from the original written classics in unabridged versions, a revival has taken place, and small "socratic discussion groups" are being formed, both in general locales, and on the internet, to discuss and appreciate this type of literature. Ashley was the first to tap into the internet's offerings, by attending live classes online, with a microphone, speakers, class of fifteen fellow students and a moderator, who encouraged authentic responses and dialoging, within the socratic discussion realms. She attended for three years, read an average of 7000 pages a year of difficult literature and actually enjoyed it all. Younger siblings are now following, challenged by the reading of course, but everything comes alive making you "think" and participate with an eager fervor. Here's a link to great classic reads of the Western world;

Great Books Index

Here's another. My friend Valerie has built up a fabulous site loaded with out of print and library recommendations. See her big beautiful family too while there on the main page, then scroll through the left bar area for more.

Valerie's Living Books

So, go on, go get a book, with a cup of steeping tea and take time out from your busy schedule and read. :-)

Drift away with a great book today !