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AmblesideOnline's Patio Chats:
23. The Double Duty of Books

When we talked about books, we focused on the ideas inside them. We also mentioned that we wanted "books that model well spoken language and teach vocabulary by using big words." We barely brushed over it before, but this week we're going to think more about that.

Have you noticed that the books you're using with AO are sometimes a stretch, sometimes even difficult to understand? That's not a mistake. That's by design. Books have a dual purpose here, a double duty -- besides giving your child something to think about, they're building vocabulary, modeling grammar, and stretching your child's ability to pay attention. It takes a bit of focus to figure out what's being said, and that's an exercise we want to happen. Your child is slowly learning to comprehend language that's a little over his head through stories like Robin Hood and Oliver Twist.

Wouldn't it be easier to use a paraphrase, or a retelling? Maybe, and sometimes we do. But doing that all the time won't build your child's skills incrementally. By taking it slowly, a step at a time, the day will come when your child will be able to pick up the Declaration of Independence, or Moby Dick, and not be thrown by the language. We're helping your child to build himself a key to unlock all the literature written in the English language.

Are you thinking you wish you could do this for yourself? You can! Read along with your child. Don't be surprised if it takes you longer to acclimate to the language; it comes to children quicker (this is why learning a foreign language is easier for kids than adults). But you'll get there. You may be reading a paraphrase version of Charlotte Mason right now. That's okay -- you don't want to wait to learn what she had in mind for education. But your mind can grow right along with your child's.

The key thought here is that reading comes by reading. If you're finding a book insurmountably hard, don't give up. Take it slow. Stop and untangle it sentence by sentence, trying to put it into your own words. Write your own paraphrase. If that means it takes you twice as long to get through a book, that's fine. It's a valuable learning experience. If you need help, we're happy to help you on the AO Forum.

Do you want to read more about this? Click on this archived blog post, "Why You Should Read Challenging Older Books"

"In general, for most people of all ages and classes and frames of mind, literary books are a necessity. They need them every day to satisfy the intellectual craving that everyone has." [from Charlotte Mason's Vol. 6 pg 333]

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