So the WSJ editorial got me thinking about children and classics and reading.
What makes a classic, particularly when it's a children's book? Does the definition include adult books? This can go on and on, looking at how something was originally published, who reads it now, etc. Not to mention various editions: to pick on Little Women, are you talking about the original version? Or one of the many edited down abridged versions?
Will a child love a book that he has been made to read? I tend to think not; especially if it's a child that is not a reader.
Is there value to reading classics? Yes. (I imagine that answer shocked some people!) I think it's good to read a variety of things. Just as "old" doesn't mean "better," "old" doesn't mean "of no interest to today's kids."
So the question becomes, how to introduce classics to kids in a way that does not turn them off reading and that does not turn them off classics? Because that is one of my big problems with the WSJ attitude: I am concerned that "force feeding" of classics results in hating both reading and classics. I want kids to read because the want to; and I want kids to read the classics because they want to.
So I throw this out to you: what do you suggest works for introducing kids to classics? What will make a kid "want to" on their own?
In looking back at myself as a kid, here are things that worked for me:
* Finding the book on the shelf. I read both Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice because they were on the shelves at home, minding their own business, and I was bored and out of books. Loved them both.
* Watching the movie/TV version. The BBC version of Brideshead Revisited is why I read the book, and then pursued other works by that author.
* Comic Book versions. This is going back a while, but there was a series of classics turned into comic books, fairly faithful to the originals. When I read the same books later on, in original form, it helped to know the story already, especially with some of the denser books.
* Good teachers. When I did have to read a book for class, for the most part I was fortunate and had teachers who didn't drain the joy out of a book. But, I also didn't have to read books for school (outside of book reports) until High School; before then, we had text books with short stories and excerpts from books, but I don't remember everyone reading one book in third or sixth grade.
* Books mentioned in books. If I was reading a book that had a character reading a book, I wanted to read the book.
* What my parents read; but I put this down rather reluctantly. Because it was never, oh, I see Mom reading this so I will; it was rather, because of what my mother read, they were in the house and available.
For those of you who read classics as kids: what worked for you? What made you pick up that book instead of something else? For those of you who have kids reading classics, what is it that made your child want to read that book?