Classic literature has staying power because of some innate beauty within.
Classic Children’s Literature — Kenneth Grahame’s, The Wind in the Willows
Parents and teachers looking to increase a child’s vocabulary need look no further than Kenneth Graham’s, The Wind in the Willows for nighttime bedtime stories.
A child who listens to the adventures of Rat, Toad and Badger will experience not only the complex themes of sharing and interconnectedness of all creatures, but he will experience words. Grahame’s golden words and mature vocabulary will serve him well over the next fifty or sixty plus years.
Children–Born Lovers of Classic Literature
Most, if not all, children begin their lives as bibliophiles. They love stories. Stuffed bunnies, bears and black-eyed beasties provide evidence. When nurtured by adults who evince a love of books and words, children will imitate those behaviors and become readers, too. Similarly, they will detect and mimic any trace of anti-intellectualism or bibliophobia in their role models.
Parents Must Demonstrate Their Own Love of Classic Literature
Parents must develop their own love of reading and demonstrate that respect for the written word if their children are to keep and grow in the wisdom classic literature provides.
Parents can help instill a love of words in their child by using words from any classic work of literature. Grahame’s, The Wind in the Willows provides a superior example of a jumping-off point for reading discussion and learning activities that no mimeographed or photocopied word list or workbook activity page can duplicate
Improve a Child’s Vocabulary Skills by Exposing Him to Classic Children’s Literature
Children who read classic literature develop their abilities to absorb mature vocabularies and to learn subtle differences in synonyms, a skill a memorized vocabulary list or SAT preparatory course can never teach. Good words abound in the classics. Children bump into words in profound and complex ways and within a multitude of contexts.
Take the word profound, for instance. Gifted educator Michael Clay Thompson points out the use of the word profound by Melville, Hawthorne, Kipling, Dickens, Twain, Lee and many others. Atticus Finch has a profound distaste for criminal law. Henry Fleming feels capable of profound sacrifices. Thomas Hardy’s Eustacia Vye bends to the hearth in a profound reverie. Daisy Buchanan notices that her husband is getting very profound from reading deep books with long words in them. . . .
Introducing children and young adults to mature vocabulary from a young age is the only real way to teach SAT vocabulary, not by late catch-up memorization of mass produced word lists, but through a child’s inundation in a beloved work of art. As Walt Whitman observed, a child goes forth and becomes that which he experiences.
Children’s Literature Develops Character and Turns Play into Learning
Reading enables children to develop character as he experiences profound ignorance, profound homage, profound silence, profound distress, profound change, profound ideas, profound grief. Michael Thompson observes that reading classics gives children “a more profound education than can be obtained otherwise.”
A minute sampling of Grahame’s vocabulary in The Wind in the Willows includes: brandish, circumscribe, conjure, emancipate, gesticulate, minion and prostrate. Parents and children can revel in delight as they play with action words such as these.
Dramatic renditions in the form of child’s play with their parents will glow as countenances seek to demonstrate looks that are affable, crestfallen, dejected, doleful, exuberant, wistful, querulous, sanguine, incredulous or beneficient. Any kid will love acting out a mini-scene in which he gets to be “incorrigible.” Just look to The Sound of Music’s Kurt Von Trapp, who proudly announces, “I’m Kurt, and I’m incorrigible” to his soon-to-be governess Maria.
Kids can go into paroxysms of laughter, be insatiable at the dinner table or follow a father’s stringent rules. They can retell amusing anecdotes or paint a vivid picture. Life is good. Even better, it is splendiferous and magnificent.
Words are fun. Kids young and old love having fun.
Enjoyable becomes the journey as a family delves into a classic book, follows the bread-crumb path or yellow brick road and travels so much further than merely once upon a time.
Michael Clay Thompson. Classics in the Classroom. Unionville, New York: Royal Fireworks Press, 1995.
Related works by this writer:
Teaching Kindergarten Students to Read: Sight Words
Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Children — Knowledge, Comprehension, Application
Teaching Critical Thinking Skills–Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation