More on the Charlotte Mason Method.
Since Aristotle was little, I haven’t really given it a lot of thought about the sort of books we should have in his library. I guess I have been contented by the fact that he liked books, loved reading and preferred the book store to a toy shop. Our book purchases have generally been guided by his interests so we have a mixed collection of quality and “lesser quality” books – at least by the Charlotte Mason definition of a good book (thanks for the link Irene):
Text should be literary to prepare children for the challenging books they’ll be using for school, and cultivate a delight in beautiful names. Children should be discouraged from developing a taste for easy books that will undermine their capacity to read classics later. Books should be selected with the goal of decreasing dependence on pictures, and relying more on the imagination to envision pictures in the mind from the text.
Illustrations should “have a refining, elevating effect upon our coarser nature” and bring us into the “world of beauty” while helping our children develop an affinity for, an attraction to, the beautiful, the lovely, the pure, the refining–because “education is concerned to teach him what pictures to delight in.”
Stories should have the noble, beautiful, inspiring kind of living ideas that CM espoused, including “the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to ’cause’ and country and kind, to the past and the present.”
This may have some bearing on why I have been having so much trouble encouraging Aristotle to challenge himself when it comes to reading more complicated works – because he has already developed a taste for “easy books”.
Charlotte Mason never offered a booklist per se, but she did offer descriptions (such as the one above) on the sort of books we should be looking out for. As useful as it is to have such a guide, it is time consuming to look for appropriate books that fit the criteria. So if you want to save yourself some time and effort, there is an excellent recommended book list available from Ambleside Online, a free homeschool curriculum that follows the Charlotte Mason Method.
It was also a relief to have more guidance on book selections because hubby has been complaining that our book choices of late are not entirely appropriate language for a 4 year old. He was reading “Matilda” by Roald Dahl with Aristotle and was disconcerted to read a sentence like:
“Be quiet!” the father snapped. “Just keep your nasty mouth shut, will you!”
Hmmm… yes. I had read Maltilda in my younger days and remembered enjoying it immensely, but I’d quite forgotten that Mr Wormwood’s language could be a tad inappropriate at times – especially if you are 4 years old. Then again, the Rev W Awdry who wrote the original series of Thomas the Tank Engine and other Railway Stories had also used speech that would be construed as politically incorrect now.
Since we already have a lot of books and very limited shelf space (not to mention that the prohibitive costs of extending our library further, especially with books I suspect Aristotle may only ever read once, if at all), I was relieved to see links to various websites that provide online access to the full text. Here are some online links to the full text of recommended books for Preschool and Kindergarten:
- Winnie the Pooh series by AA Milne and Ernest H. Shepard – the entire collection is available for free on iBooks if you have an iPhone or iPad.
- Brer Rabbit books by Joel Chandler Harris
- Classic Stories and Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs – Part 1 and Part 2
- The Real Mother Goose illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright Mama Goose, a collection by Edelen Wille
- Nursery Tales Told to Children by Amy Steedman
- For the Children’s Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey
- Children’s Nursery
- The Rosetta Project
This is a great list if you can get through it all. If you would rather not have to read it from your computer, you can turn it into a PDF (if it isn’t already in that format) and use a reading program like iBooks, Kobo or Goodreader to read it from a tablet. And if you don’t like reading off a screen, you can use these links to test the water to see if your child likes the book before buying a physical copy for the home library. Of course, if you have access to a good public library (sadly, something we lack over here), then you don’t have to worry about it at all.
Even if you aren’t planning to follow the Chalotte Mason Method, these books are great if you are planning to teach your child to read using the method from the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease which requires reading at least one new book every day.