Friday, April 20, 2007

Should I read ALL my children's books?

I am hoping to start doing narration with my 9yo son. My question is if he is reading a book to himself and I ask him to narrate a chapter, how do I know if his narration is correct if I haven't read the book myself?

Ideally, I really, really think a mother should try to read as many of her children's schoolbooks as possible. We can hardly be qualified to teach if we don't know our subject matter. Miss Mason agrees with me on this. If you make this a priority, I believe your children's education will be richer because you will be empowered with the knowledge you need to have important conversations that continually pop up in the schoolbooks- conversations about relationships, morals, war, prejudice, etc... And this is where the real learning takes place. Some people believe Miss Mason was against having such conversations with the child. This is simply a misunderstanding of her ideas. I actually thought this at one time, but have learned not to pull a single quote from her writings, but rather look all she had to say before drawing such conclusions. She thought discussion was vital to the child's growth. She was against being preachy and drawing the conclusions for the child, in short, thinking for the child. But guidance- ahh... that's another matter. Guidance is good.

The key is not to get behind in your readings. It's really not that much, actually. Even though I have four children, I only have to read my oldest child's books because I read the other children's books years ago when my oldest was in that particular year. Now, I read along with my child but I stay one week ahead of her (unless I've already read the book before) Occasionally, I only skim a particular book. Reading the books is really not a chore for me, but an enjoyable learning experience. I make time for this each day. This is the ideal.

Life sometimes gets in the way, I understand. Illness, travel, etc... are sometimes unavoidable. (But some of us are just too busy and need to slow down.) And there are those who may have switched over to a new method or curriculum and all the children have new books. It is quite impossible to read all those books before the children get to them. In these cases, for the younger children, you can have the book open before you while your child narrates, glancing over the first lines of each paragraph and grasping the general idea, places and characters' names. I have been known to do this while pregnant and confined to bed rest. For older children, you can go to and read the cliff notes for the chapter. This is an immense help for busy moms, especially for those larger volumes. I would like to emphasize that Sparknotes should be for teachers, NOT students. However, this is not the ideal. If you make the reading of your children's books a priority, then, come what may- it will get done and years down the road you will thank yourself.

one step at a time...


  1. Maureen20.4.07

    I can no longer keep up with my three kids' reading .....they are junior high age. They've probably read over 125 books this school year. At the age I couldn't KNOW the plot/story line of every book anymore, I just let them tell me the story as they related it. I transitioned into analysis questions: "why do you think....?", "what if....?"

    There is a stage where some kind of transition from recalling facts to analysis is necessary. Use any form of their narration as a springboard.

    And ENJOY!

  2. I like to preread all of my children's books so I know if it's something I want them to read. I've weeded out a few dubious choices this way. I don't need them learning about the world in a way I don't agree with just so they can say they've read a certain book. I'm sure it will get harder as they are reading more books, but for now, prereading works!

  3. If you make the reading of your children's books a priority, then, come what may- it will get done and years down the road you will thank yourself.

    This is really my goal from now on. We use Sonlight for History/Literature so there are a lot of books. I haven't always made the time to read ahead of my DD, so we go really slow when I have to catch up with her. That really makes things take much longer than they need to. Thanks for the encouragement to make reading a priority. -- Beth

  4. Anonymous20.4.07

    Thank you for this post....your advice as always, is very helpful to us moms just starting to implement Charlotte Mason's methods.


  5. carrielouise20.4.07

    I think this is a great idea, and one I've only recently started. I had intended my 9 yr old to read Bridge to Terabithia, and he was having some issues understanding, when I really just got the urge to read it to him and my 7 yr old. I'm so glad I did.

  6. Anonymous20.4.07

    Thanks for answering my question! I really need to make reading those books a priority. I don't want to look back and regret that I didn't put forth more effort. I tend to waste time in other areas - computer time for one.


  7. I am constantly seeking to improve on this (narration).
    We have our school lessons in the morning, in which time, my children aren't always narrating to me as well as I would like them to. However they will 'narrate' to me, on a good book that they read on their own or a good classic they listened to the night before.
    Do you think random narration is acceptable? Should we expect narration on every lesson?
    Also, what about just 'sharing' what they learned or read that day with their father?
    How structural does narration need to be to be effective?
    I am seeking your wise advice!
    Thank you Linda.
    Sincerely, keri