This year, for beginning rhetoric literature work, my oldest daughter has been assigned to study Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), and Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) to name a few. While she reads the books in their entirety, I am fortunate enough to have teacher’s notes to gain a reasonable enough grasp of the plot in order to enter into discussions about the the form and content of the said literature with her. It’s too bad I didn’t have these teacher’s notes back when I had to make a book report on either Grapes of Wrath, Anna Karenina or Wuthering Heights in high school or when college philosophy classes required that we read Les Miserables. I have to admit, I don’t think I ever got through any of these books completely.
It is very different with my children though, even at a surprisingly young age. I was quite amazed at how my 9-year old son listened in when I was reading Jane Eyre to one of my older daughters a month ago. Even our 7-year old laughs heartily whenever we enjoy watching a film adaptation of our copy of Much Ado About Nothing (thus, we had to own the original text as well). Exposure to easy translations have made it quite easy for them to take on original versions of the great books. This has been one of the benefits of the literature-rich education we have endeavored to provide them at home.
Picture book editions usually begin our reading adventure (these were found in what used to be our favorite section of the library). Then, as soon as the children are reading with ease, the adapted versions (we used to get from Walmart and I didn’t even think too much of) become enjoyable. In the same way, listening to audio book versions during our long land trips during the summer as well as the reading aloud at home served to familiarize them with literature well beyond their reading level.
All but one of the children have gone through most of the Classic Starts as well as the Great Illustrated Classics series between the ages of 6-8 years (outside of our school curricula). I often hear them talk among themselves about characters in these books. Just the other day, I asked my 7-year old daughter (while we were both sprawled on the bed) to tell me back what she has read from Sign of the Beaver (a Sonlight Core 3 book). As she was narrating to me from where we left off, she animatedly talked about the 12-year old protagonist having read Robinson Crusoe several times and how he talked about this and that character. It was obvious that her familiarity with the book mentioned within the book increased her appreciation of the story at hand.
As years went by, when the original publication caught their eye in one of our library visits (and now in our shelves), there was no stopping them from amusing themselves with those as well.
And when these have proved to be painless enough to pore over, not having been acquainted with the younger editions did not become a stumbling block to understanding the unabridged volumes of other titles either.
This was true for any book and in whatever field. Interestingly, this is quite the case with how the children delight in reading the Bible as well. Here are some of the Bible versions we have managed to collect.
My prayer is that their appreciation of the written word will be an aid in their understanding of God’s precious Word that they may love Him with all their hearts. all their strength, and all their minds.