In our digital age we’re becoming used to sound bites. Writers are encouraged to put more “white space” on the page and to cut their paragraphs down to just two or three sentences. Increasingly we want things to be short and snappy, quick ideas, snapshots, just one bite, not a whole sandwich.
But literate adults want to pass on the timeless books of past years. We want our children to be well-read in the classics. How in the world will we accomplish that? What grand themes do the classics offer that shorter works do not? Why is it important to read from the long lists of yesteryear?
The classics have stood the test of time. They offer a look into the culture of the past and an opportunity to explore the great themes of life—justice, freedom, courage, honor and beauty. The challenges come in the fact that the classics are often filled with unfamiliar words and lots of them. But the Harry Potter books have proved to everyone that a long book is no deterrent to a reader who is in love with the story. The classics have story.
How to encourage readers to tackle a classic? You can read to them from their early years. Read a chapter at a time, and discuss the meanings. You can model reading classics and you can allow television versions, movie versions and even comic book versions into your home to make sure the story lines of the classics are familiar.
The glory of classic literature is strong characters, strong themes and great story. Once children “get the reading bug” they’ll be more willing to work their way through a book that is dense in words. Begin with a theme that fits your reader’s style. Boys often love stories filled with adventure such as Robin Hood while girls may prefer The Secret Garden.
Start them early and they’ll never tire of reading great stories.