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AmblesideOnline's Patio Chats:
29. What's in a Book?

Have you ever heard that "it doesn't matter what your child reads, as long as he's reading"?

That's only partially true. Reading is a useful skill, but it's not an end in itself. The point of reading is to follow someone else's train of thought, or be inspired by an example of heroism in a great story, or be amazed by a concept that never occurred to you before. Reading is only a tool to broaden the mind with new IDEAS.

Imagine if you could give your child the gift of being able to pick up anything as an adult -- Descartes, or The Brothers Karamazov, the US Constitution, or Aristotle -- and read it without intimidation. Guess what? You CAN. You can give your child the key that opens the gateway to a whole new world of ideas -- the greatest ideas the world has ever known, and is still talking about.

That gift isn't something you can hand your child in a box. It's a process, and it comes by slowly stretching his mental muscle, one step at a time. The Robin Hood he hears at age seven is what prepares him for Robinson Crusoe at age eight, and Ivanhoe at twelve. Yes, these are tough books, but this is where he'll pick up advanced vocabulary, complex sentence structure, and an ear for rich language -- book by book, a year at a time.

Don't be discouraged if you start a book and neither of you can make head nor tails of it at first. Just go slow, take it in small "bites," and you'll find yourself getting used to the flow after a while. Your child will probably catch on before you do because kids pick up language much quicker -- we've known of parents who only understood what they had just read out loud after their child narrated it back to them!

This gift will benefit you as much as your child: you'll find yourself slowly gaining an ear for the richness of this kind of language yourself, and finding that books you never thought you'd ever be able to understand aren't as hard as you thought -- not because the book has changed, but because your own mental muscle has grown.

Do you want to read more about this? Click on this archived blog post, "What If We Just Don't Enjoy That Book?"

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