This series of articles will ask 12 questions of curriculum. These are questions that you ought to ask when assessing your school’s curriculum to know that the course your students follow will truly take them where they need to go.
“She’s reading at an eleventh grade level.” A parent bubbles as they observe their seven year old decoding words far beyond her understanding. Immediately, you rush to caution the parent.
“Yes, but WHAT is she reading? You’re certainly not letting her read things at that level, are you?”
Our present society struggles between two extremes—not pushing children enough (I call this the wildflower principle—let them grow freely wherever they happen to sprout), and pushing children too much. For our purposes in la petite dissertation, we will address the side of the pendulum which swings toward pushing children too much.
CLSA schools using First Start Reading will see great success in early reading skills, often producing students who can phonetically decipher words far beyond their understanding. Parents and teachers are amazed at the student’s ability to sound out words they may never have seen before. This is indeed a wonderful thing. This is our goal, the result of the use of phonics, the very best way to teach reading skills.
Often, our students begin to devour books, reading voraciously, bringing great joy to the adults involved in their education. It is a great temptation at this point to encourage the student to progress to books that may be above their given grade level. We all know that third grade child who races through Charlotte’s Web on her way to Little Women. I know this child too because I raised her. But wait! Before you place large and voluminous tomes upon her desk, remember the beauty of childhood. Let us not rush our accomplished readers past the joys of experiencing age appropriate reading materials which they will understand far better and which will help them as they mature and progress in their God given stages of development.
It is good for a third grader to read of pigs and spiders and to view the sacrifice made in the development of friendship through the eyes of a little girl. She may be able to read the words of Little Women, but she is not yet ready to understand the complicated relationships in the book. There will be a time when she is older when you may spy her reading Little Women, tears flowing down her cheeks as she reads of Beth’s illness, but the third grader is not ready for those heavy emotions just yet. Let us allow her to enjoy the more gentle entrance into relationships seen in books that are oriented to the younger mind and heart. She will then be ready for Lassie and Anne and, eventually The Iliad and then she will walk into Dickens and Shakespeare and find herself deeply enraptured with Tolstoy. But we must not rush the learner. Allowing time for mental and emotional development is an important part of creating a well-rounded and truly literate student. You may have a class of advanced readers, geniuses all, but they will be far better served if they are encouraged to enjoy reading that is age appropriate, not only to their reading level, but to their level of emotional, spiritual, and mental development as well.
Kathy Becker leads the Western Schools Division for the Classical Latin School Association. Prior to her present role, she taught literature for the logic and rhetoric stages in a classical Christian school, and then served on the school’s administrative team. As an educational consultant, Kathy works with schools to promote the growth of classical education by meeting curricular and teacher training needs, while her college major in Biblical Studies informs her dedication to all things classical.