Many of us were introduced to reading with fairy tales. Little girls with dreams of white knights on beautiful steeds were considered normal. I freely admit that I always loved them and was enchanted when Disney took these beautiful stories and illustrated them so well in film. I’ll give away my age here by remembering that I’d go see these movies for thirty-five cents and loved every minute of them.
What magic is in a story that makes people want to read it for years and years after its release? I read all the Hardy Boys mysteries, and I’m delighted that my grandson enjoys reading them too.
My oldest son had an English teacher who apparently thought the classics should be crammed down the throats of her students at a staggering pace. She had them reading David Copperfield at night and studying Great Expectations during their daily classes. Then they had to study for an exam that covered both books. When I mentioned that I thought this was a bit much considering the kids had six other classes throughout the day, she snapped at me that if she had her way, they’d be reading and studying a new book every week. Needless to say, her methods did not instill a love of the classics in my son. He simply counted the days until he was out of her class.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s vital that students study the masters of great fiction. I can’t imagine my life without reading Lord of the Rings, The Pearl, Animal Farm, or the wonderful short stories of Flannery O’Connor. I have always been an avid reader and didn’t find it a hardship to study literature.
My son, however, struggled because he was always lacking in reading comprehension. We worked on it at home and sometimes I even read his assigned stories out loud to help him understand them better. He always scored well in math, science, vocabulary, and the rest of the achievement tests, but his score was usually lacking in reading comprehension. Though he is a highly successful adult, he still freely admits that he wishes he could read better. Now he gets most of his information from journals and on the Internet and seldom, if ever, picks up a book.
I tried to make a difference for my sons so they would read more. I subscribed to Sports Illustrated and Baseball Digest just so I could get them to read. They may not be able to quote Shakespeare, but they can give you all the stats on their favorite players, which I think takes a lot of reading too.
I enjoy the classics but I admit I don’t read them very often. I’ve usually got a stack of recently released books that I’m working through, and I get email notices when my favorite writers have a book coming out so I don’t miss it.
But I do remember what made them so valuable. I read Little Women and Five Little Peppers so many times my books were worn out. I still occasionally pick them up just to read a passage or two even though I don’t take the time to read the familiar stories from start to finish. I love the books of Agatha Christie and still enjoy Sherlock Holmes.
Hopefully all of us who wish to be authors will be sitting in someone’s library one day gathering dust in the form of a favorite book. With what I have in my house right now I could probably stock the mystery section of a small-town library. But of all the many activities I participate in, reading brings me an absolute sense of pleasure and enjoyment.
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.”
Four comments from four great characters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Available from the Free Books app for absolutely nothing.
Maybe that’s what I’ll read tonight . . . as soon as I finish the latest Linda Fairstein.