Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Fun Reads

Thinking about summer reading?  I am too.  I liked this general thought of what to "feed" our 10 to 13 year olds.  I read lots of Babysitters Club and worse at this age.  I wish I would have spent time with more substantial works. 

Although this isn't "substantial" it is fun for the early elementary crew, the Julian series.  I actually remember being read this at school when I was that age.  I am a little disappointed that it appears the "early reader" labels have been stuck to it.  Our library has the older version.  My younger boys (4 and 6) love the stories.  Her writing mirrors the way kids think - making small things big adventures. It also offers up kids sized moral issues and the Dad is a great caring, funny character.

As the kids consider how "far" is too far on their bikes this is the conversation in Julian, Secret Agent:
"Look at it this way," Gloria said.  "We won't go to New York.  We won't go to Paris. If we find a criminal leaving for Tokyo, we just won't follow her.  So, we won't go far from home."
I thought about it.  I thought about accidentally going someplace Dad wouldn't like - and then saying, "Dad, we thought far meant Tokyo."  I didn't know how he would take it.  
I don't know if the early readers have been updated from the original.  Most of the Secret Agent book is about the kids criss-crossing town on their bikes.  I remember riding to my friends houses when I was that age (sometimes it was a pretty long ride too).  However, today our friends don't live close enough and even if they did it is hard to know if it wise to let them have that much freedom. This is why our friends meet at parks and let the kids play in "the woods".  We just finished the Penderwicks on Gardam Street and the kids are allowed to roam in that one as well.   It makes me sad.

By the way, my 3 boys LOVE the 4 girls in the Penderwicks.  Don't discount it just because the characters are different genders.  The first book is about summer vacation.

The second series - actually two by the same author, Gerald Morris are a retelling of King Arthur stories.  We are reading the younger series, The Knight's Tales.  I checked out the first book in the "tween" age series - The Squire's Tales - for my son.   He hasn't started it yet.  The Knight's Tales are well done, funny and unconventional stories about King Arthur and the Round Table.  Sir Lancelot becomes the incognito "Knight of the Pillow" when a lady accidentally shoots his hind quarters.  It's that kind of fun, kid humor without being crass.

The older series seems to be, well, older.  I haven't read it but it appears to be a more traditional telling but from the point of view of a squire.  There are 10 books in this series.  I am hoping to get him hooked so he will read through them this summer.  I like Riordan (sometimes) but we've had enough around here.  The author of these series writes as a side job - his day job is as a pastor.  He is not heavy handed but he does highlight chivalry without disparaging it.

One reason I recommend King Arthur is because I have been reading Chubb in The Teaching of English in the Elementary and Secondary School where he offers a detailed outline for composition and literature.  He suggests for the fourth and fifth graders they should read epics and ballads.
It is this literature of the distinctively epic type that will interest him more than any other, and be good for him. This is our best clew (sic). Adventure and romance, heroism and daring, the wonders and excitement of travel and exploration, of march and siege, —upon these we may feed him; and upon these, as sure foundations of the superstructure to be raised in later years, we may build.  
I recognized most of the epics (Odyssey, King Arthur, Norse mythology).  However, I was painfully unaware of any of the ballads.  This struck me especially after the thoughts Angelina Stanford offers about poetry and music at Circe's blog this week.   I plan to get to know some of the ballads that Chubb recommends.  His hope was that students would eventually develop a ballad culture - where students around the country had memorized these songs/poems and that this would be part of the common culture  Well, songs are common culture but they aren't ballads about heroic men of long ago.

In a later work he dedicates a whole chapter to how and why we should introduce epics at this age. He also comments on the role of the English teacher in general.
The teacher must be governed by an imperious sense of her task as that of developing character in the broadest sense, and of using Literature as she uses all other studies, — only more powerfully because of its greater emotional appeal, —to illuminate and enhance the worth and glory of life and living, while training the pupil to the correct and effective use of language as a medium of communication.  
What if this was still the case?  Let's just say that populating English classes with modern literature does not meet this standard of the role of story in the life of a student.

I like his estimation of the role of the parent in developing the reading habit.
Short of courting obvious danger, the child should have a chance to select its literary pasturage, unconscious of the peeping parental eye; browse at will, explore and taste, try and judge for itself. The best that can be done is to put the child by one means or another in the way of the best books ; to give him a sense of being (subject to parental veto in extraordinary cases) a free agent in the selection of them ; to open up suggestively new realms to him ; talk over his reading with him ; and enable him to possess those books he likes, among the really good ones, to re-read and read again, until he accumulates a select library of his own that has just the distinctive character of reflecting his deeper and more stable interests. 
It becomes a more delicate balance when you are the homeschool teacher trying to determine what is assigned reading and pleasure reading.  This was actually a recent topic on Read Aloud Revival. 

All that to say our summer reading will include more epics and myths and the like.  What are you hoping to read this summer?

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.

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