While we often tell stories to our young children without books, also be sure to read stories showing pictures in a picture book.
Read to your child stories of saints, stories of adventure, stories of exploration. Read non-fiction books, especially biographies of inventors and Indians and famous people from your city or state. Include picture books whenever possible.
Take turns reading with your child. Have him read one paragraph, you read the next paragraph. Discuss what you read, have your child talk to you about what you are both reading. Ask objective questions but also opinion questions. Make the questions personal, such as, “Would you have done that? What would we do today in a similar situation?”
As you go along, ask questions about what happened and why it happened? Could it have been different if something else happened first? Help your child think about cause and effect. Common sense thinking is not so common anymore; be sure you are teaching strong analysis skills even at an early age. Relate the events in a book to events in your family.
Repeat the title and author of the book or story you are reading. Ask your child to repeat the information, such as saying to someone in the room, “Yes, Jimmy and I are reading a really interesting book. Jimmy, tell Mrs. Smith the name and author of the book we are reading!” Talk about the book with Mrs. Smith, and ask Jimmy to tell a detail or two.
Remind your child of the time and location of the story as you read. Develop an appreciation and give thanks to God for what we have now in our own country.
Fill your home with good books. Visit the library at least once a week. Develop a love for good books, pretty books, illustrated books, books made with love and care, such as special edition Catholic Bibles and classics. Consider buying books, often clean and beautiful donated books, from library book sales. Check out used book stores for illustrated classics for a dollar.
Enroll your child in a book reading club at the library. Ask other home schooling moms if they would like to start a book reading club. Younger children and high school students could read the same book and discuss it. Encourage your student to talk about the books he is reading with other Seton students.
Encourage discussion of the daily Gospel readings as well as the regular Mass prayers. At Mass, the priest and congregation move along rather quickly. Take the time to discuss the Mass prayers. Purchase a Mass book for your child and help him to underline or highlight prayers important to him.
When your child is studying a school book, have your child record his own reading of the chapter, and then listen to his reading. This way your child is learning not only the importance of good expression and pronunciation, but also learning to listen and to “study” his lessons from listening.
Dr. Robert Rice of Christendom College wrote an article for Seton, titled “Why Study Literature,” which should encourage us to help our children learn to read and to enjoy reading both stories and non-fiction. In the article from our July, 1999, newsletter issue, Dr. Rice wrote:
“The student of literature vicariously experiences many lives in the comfort of his own home: the drama, excitement, and adventure of the lives of heroic explorers and missionaries on seven continents, the ordeals of questing knights and Crusaders in the Middle Ages, the suffering and glory of martyrs from first-century Rome to twentieth-century Sudan, the perspectives of artistic geniuses, the wisdom of great thinkers, the mystic insights of saints—in short, the misery and the majesty, the agony and the ecstasy, the squalor and the splendor of mankind in a multitude and variety of forms otherwise impossible for one person to experience on his own….
“Furthermore, literature and history are mutually illuminating. The authors of great literature are both representative of their age and agents of its transformation; they at once reflect and mold our civilization’s image of Man. The works offered by Seton’s literature courses will help prepare the student to form a critical taste, enabling him to deal later in life with influential but pernicious works of literature.”
The future of our children’s lives as well as the life of our American society hinge not only on their lives of prayer and reliance on God, but also on their determination to be mature and analytical in their reading and thinking. Reading is fundamental.