Some of the dearest memories, I have from school, are the shelves of books that lined the wall of the classroom under the windows. There were collections of biographies and a large collection of the Classics. You know the ones… Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth…the list could go on! Now days the typical classroom does not have this large reading treasure trove instead they have Diary of a Wimpy Kid and every book written about a mouse and his motorcycle. What About the Classics?
This has been a burning question recently. My youngest continues to ask me if I have read certain books. I love to read and he knows this…but the titles are books that have been written in the past 10-12 years and well…I don’t read baby books! I have tried to explain to him the fact that these books were not written when I was little. When I was his age I was reading The Classics! I start telling him about the wonderful and exciting adventures I had while reading them and the dreams that came from these great books. I told him…Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of my favorites and the dreams I had…”Oh, I saw that movie! You got to watch DVDs in school?”.
After he got over the shock that we did not have DVDs when I was in school I told him these books were written before there was television. Then he tore into a discussion about no television.
My question is: If these children are not encouraged to read these great masterpieces then how will they find their adventurous spirit? How will they find the passion to question the extraordinary and use their imaginations? What About the Classics?
The relationships formed and alliances made between characters as they were forced to make life and death decisions gave us hope. Hope that if they could find a way in a tough situation we could find a way. The times I escaped to Oz with all it colorful creatures and fantastic scenery…the unique plant life in the middle Earth that stood high above the characters…wonderful memories that filled my childhood.
How big can your imagination grow in a book with 50 pages…where the only dilemma is limited to one day at school! Our children have lost the desire to explore and fight giant octopi or build a raft and sail the Mississippi, or find the buried treasure while fighting pirates? Do they realize the joys they have missed not learning to fly with Peter Pan?
Before I could read these fantastic works of art my mother introduced a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson to me when I had the chicken pox. It was called “The Land of Counterpane“
When I was sick and lay a-bed
I had two pillows at my head
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of Counterpane.
What child could not dream with a poem like this as a foundation. I read it to my older boys and the battles the army men would have with the Teenage Mutant Turtles was truly Epic! The reading assignments given to our children today are not using these treasures. Very few of the assignments call for biographical reading. How do we learn about the great men and women who shaped our world? There is no way to understand where we came from if they don’t read about these great people and their lives.
I will just keep trying to introduce my youngest to this world from home…I can’t wait for him to have an adventure while reading one of these Classics!
As for me…I will step off my Soap Box…sip on my coffee and fall back into Victorian England. Time for some Jane Austen! What? Don’t you like to dream? Have a great day…and enjoy that lovely cup of coffee!