Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Classics As Part Of Your Reading Diet
With Summer coming soon I will doing some blog posts that focus in on reading. I have several clients in my counseling practice that are telling me they will have their children involved in Summer reading programs at their local library. I often encourage them in doing so. As I have mentioned before libraries and reading has always been important in my life.
In considering reading material I read a short book recently from a teacher encouraging the reading of classics by children. The title of the book is Classics Why we should encourage children to read them. It is written by teacher and author, Fiza Pathan. Knowing that a teacher has a passion for encouraging young people to read literary classics was a pleasure to read about. So many of my teen clients and college students paint a picture of schools K-12 being about standardized tests which actually turn them off to learning. We need more Fiza Pathan’s out there in the schools stretching the minds of students in writing essays and reflective papers on literary works as she describes in her book.
Reading through her book made me to think back over my reading history when I was younger and some of the literary classics I had read. Titles such as The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and my favorite The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis were a few a my favorites that I reflected upon. Fiza’s passion for the classics reminded me that I need to incorporate some of the classics from her list that I have not read into my present and future reading. Most likely future; with my next year being inundated with my PhD dissertation work. She reminded me that there is profit in re-reading old favorites as well; as at a different age and context, I may gain new insights from stories like The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells for example.
Fiza also develops an argument for young people reading of the classics by emphasizing how this can develop their minds. One of the first aspects of development and I feel the most important is how reading the classics develops the imagination. She makes an important statement, “In my teaching experience, I have realized everyone has an imagination; whether the student is an honest first ranker or a sports freak… one has to make a student aware of his or her capabilities. With a rich imagination, a person can do wonders with one’s life.” (Page 9) An imagination and creative mind can be built up as the stories in the classics encourage the mind to take the reader into the story and visualize what they are reading.
She goes on to discuss what I call the addictive levels of young people watching tv and computer videos. As a teacher she has seen the creative powers of students limited and stagnated by their almost constant visual attachment to a video screen. That is because the video spoon feeds their minds the visuals and information in a passive manner. Their minds are not stretched to visualize the scenery themselves. Their minds are not transported into the scene as they are mere passive observers. I have had young children as counseling clients who say their teachers do not read to them in today’s schools. Instead the “book” is shown in class on a screen with an unseen narrator reading to them. The schools are turning reading into another movie/tv experience. That is why I am not really keen on ebooks for children. It is just reinforcing an addiction to staring at a screen. How I remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Clifford reading books to us. I believe that helped encourage me in my reading.
Fiza also moves into how reading books aids in vocabulary building and general knowledge about life and the world. Some of the great works like the writings of Dickens transports the mind back to historical times and can make history fun. Science fiction and futuristic books can encourage a young mind that is interested in science. There are a myriad of benefits to encouraging young people to read the classics. This does not rule out those of us who are not young people. As I mentioned she has an extensive list of classic books. Go to your local library and ask a reference librarian to help you look into some of the classics they may have in their collection. Or most libraries can get about any book you are looking for by their library loan programs. You may also wish to check out Fiza’s website www.fizapathan.com that connects to her blog to find other ideas about encouraging your children in reading or developing your reading diet.
Reflection: Think back to your favorite literary classic. Which is one of your favorites? Do you remember when you read it? Why did it impact you? Go to your local library and pick up a literary classic to read.