It was cold and wet outside and he was bored. So, I handed him a library book and he read exactly two paragraphs before declaring it boring, and headed off to play.
I picked up the book and flipped through the first few pages. No wonder he was bored. It was a typical easy chapter book—a mystery story from a popular series—which I chose based on the reading level, wrongly assuming that he would enjoy a book he could read easily over good literature. I quickly noticed a lack of descriptive words and more elaborate sentence structure as I skimmed through the first few pages.
Upon further questioning, I discovered that he would rather struggle through “harder” books and ask for help when he cannot decipher a new vocabulary word or becomes confused by a long sentence. He rightly recognized that the difficult stories are much more interesting and worth the extra effort.
More than once, experienced mothers (and some of their older children) advised me to read books to my children that were “above” their level. I am constantly amazed at how much information young children can understand and retain. Their imaginary play is filled with adventures mimicking stories in books we have read, and their vocabulary often surprises me, until I recall reading the new words only a few days earlier.
I recently read through some books written by Charlotte Mason (a 19th-century British educator, whose ideas are often promoted among home-educators) that had some fitting observations.
“We find on the other hand, that in working through a considerable book, which may take two or three years to master, the interest of boys and girls is well sustained to the end; they develop an intelligent curiosity as to causes and consequences, and are in fact educating themselves.”
“No doubt, we do give intellectual food, but too little of it; let us have the courage and we shall be surprised, as we are now and then, at the amount of intellectual strong meat almost any child will take at a meal and digest at his leisure.”
I love that—courage to challenge their intellect…
So what did he end up reading? I handed him the book I been reading aloud, supposing that it was too complicated for independent reading. He read for 30 minutes, concentrating intensly and giggling on occasion, proving that good literature can even captivate the mind of a busy 6 year old boy.