Thursday, April 12, 2007
Reading at the breakfast table
If you call our house before 9:00 AM, you will probably be sent to voice mail. Sorry about that, but we are reading. We gather around the table and while I finish fixing breakfast or getting out the cereal boxes, Coty starts reading our current chapter book. I sit down and eat and then pull out my knitting. After the chapter book, we read the Bible and pray. We talk a little about prayer concerns and everyone prays. For the last year or so, we've been praying through our church directory. When we get to the end of the list, we start over again...but this post is not mainly about prayer, but about our chapter book reading.
One day last week, we finished A Tale of Two Cities. Over dinner on the deck that evening, we were talking about it and our discussion led to memories of other Dicken's novels we've read and then on to other books. I proposed starting a list. I grabbed paper and pen and began jotting down titles as fast as the boys mentioned them. The conversation lasted all evening. We moved from the deck to the screen porch and made phone calls to our two oldest, who are far away, to probe their memories. One recollection led to a string of others and the list grew. It continues to grow. I've been keeping it on the hutch in the kitchen and adding to it as we remember more titles. A word to the wise here - if you are a reading family, go now and buy a hard bound journal and start recording the books you read together. You will treasure that little record. I sure wish I'd done that long ago!
I am not including homeschool read-alouds in this list. This is simply the breakfast table list. These are the books that Coty reads to us. He is, in fact, the driving and sustaining force, the guardian of breakfast reading in our home. He eats early so he can read to us while we eat. And what a reader he is! We get accents, voices (he almost went hoarse doing Magwich from Great Expectations), and correct pronunciation of difficult words, unless they are French, and then Andrew helps out.
We have read novels, biographies, great literature and children's books. We have been encouraged, inspired, enlightened, and taught. We have learned history, geography, science, and even a little math. We 've had a few flops and a few books that we wondered if they would ever end...whew, glad that's over!
Mostly, we have grown as individuals and woven our lives together as a family with this reading. It was extremely precious the other night to hear the boys talking about the books - ones they loved and ones they didn't - and to hear someone say something like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that. I loved that book!" and to have five voices concur. Yes, this reading weaves our family fabric together tightly. You might not laugh if someone mocks anger and shouts "Guts!!" at you, but we will all chuckle because we know Ramona thinks its a bad word.
I could go on about how much better this has been for us than television, the computer, or even good movie adaptations of great books. I could tell you how much they have learned to think and how their imaginations have been nurtured by reading aloud. What in their mind's eye does Madame Defarge look like as she sits in the wine shop knitting? How do they think John Paton felt up in that tree all night as he listened to angry cannibals hunting for him? Why do some of us always cry when we read Patricia St. John?
Here then, is the list. It is far from complete. It is heavy on books from recent years and heavy on novels. It is light on historical fiction and biographies of famous Americans because we read those aloud in our school time. I have only categorized it broadly and not always listed authors. If you are curious about a particular book, leave me a comment. The list will continue to grow and we will continue to read. I expect that even after our children are all grown and gone, you will find Coty and me at the breakfast table reading, and the phone ringing on....
Novels - what you would call literature:
Great Expectations; David Copperfield (twice); A Tale of Two Cities; A Christmas Carol; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Hobbit; The Talisman; Fair Maid of Perth; Ivanhoe; The Heart of Midlothian; Alice in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass; Pilgrim's Progress; Pilgrim's Progress:Christiana; The Holy War (also by Bunyan); Red Badge of Courage; The Old Man and the Sea; the first book of Les Miserables; Tom Sawyer; Huckleberry Finn; Silas Marner
Children's chapter books:
Call it Courage; Strawberry Girl; Roller Skates; Lyddie; Johnny Tremain; Heidi; Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates; all the Haffertee Hamster books; The Jungle Books; The Jungle Doctor books; Treasures of the Snow; I Needed a Neighbor; Three Go Searching; Twice Freed; The Tanglewood Secret; The Secret Garden; The Railway Children; Five Little Peppers and How they Grew; My Side of the Mountain; all the Narnia books; Ramona books by Beverly Cleary; The Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome; several books by Madeline L'engle
Missionary biographies and autobiographies:
Bruchko; The Good Seed; And the Word Came with Power; The Autobiography of John Paton; Mountain Rain; The Little Woman; Green Leaf in Drought Time; Mrs. Howard Taylor's biography of the Stams in China; Shadow of the Almighty; William Carey; Adoniram Judson
Never Give In (Winston Churchill); Carry a Big Stick (Theodore Roosevelt); biographies of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; selections from the John Marshall biography by Smith; Aim High, Dave Johnson's Story; Ed Viesture's No Shortcuts to the Top
Doctrine, devotion, and the like:
Redemption Accomplished and Applied; Don't Waste Your Life; A Godward Life Book 2; The Moral Compass; The Book of Virtures
Ring of Bright Water; Eats, Shoots, and Leaves; Haroun and the Sea of Stories; The Royal Road to Romance:Travel stories by Richard Haliburton; Longitude; short stories by various authors including Poe, Flannery O' Connor, O'Henry and others
The current breakfast chapter book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, perhaps the most well known Nigerian novelist. Never heard of him. Now you have! And after that?? Well, suffice it to say that the list will grow on...