Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Introduce Great Literature:

        So I've got this problem. I love epic novels and I love classic works of historic fiction: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Great expectations, The Three Musketeers. There are so many gems of classic literature that must be read and enjoyed by the masses. Kids are young, they've got time. My 13 year old sister is zooming through the children's section of the library like a hungry cheetah. She needs new books, better books, deeper books, harder books. She has got more time then she will ever have in high school, college, or the "the real world." So is now the time to start her off on my very favoritest of classic literature? Or will reading it too early ruin her appreciation and love of these great novels?
     I certainly don't want to have her read "To Kill a Mockingbird" when she is too young and just never really get it. But I am aching to let her dive into my favorites. When and how is the best way to wean children from children's literature to more substantial more complicated stuff? I started David Copperfield when I was twelve and enjoyed it thoroughly, but my 13 year old sister seems to think it is a little too much. Thus I am sure there is no set age for the transition. But what are the signs that a child has developed the necessary attention span, knowledge base, reading level, and maturity level to enjoy classic literature?

    While there are a lot of open questions in this topic ( and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts in the comments), I thought I would go ahead and make a stab at the problem by composing a reading list ( surprise, surprise, I tend to cope with problems this way). I was inspired and excited by a little book  I read last week: The Scarlet Pimpernel.
    I cannot believe that hadn't read it before. I've seen it around for a while, but never opened it. I am so glad I finally did. The story is set in England during the French Revolution. It has all the character development, political intrigue, historic setting, slightly old fashioned diction, and epic adventure that you would expect in a typical classic historical fiction. It even takes place in 19th century writer's playground - the french revolution! And yet the story is clean, complicated but not overwhelming, historic but not confusing. I feel it is one of the best transition books I've ever found. It prepares and equips children to enjoy the great classics. I decided to do some thinking/research and come up with a reading list of other children's books that have so much depth and artistic value that you could almost consider them an adult novel. I also added a few "adult" books that are simple and clean enough to be read by children on their first ventures into the world of literature.

I hope you enjoy my

Transitioning Classics List: 

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orzcy 
Prepares you for:  Classic Historical Fiction, Epic Novels.
Read Before: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Three Musketeers,
Queen Margot.

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Prepares you for: Charles Dickens and other 19th century classics.
Read Before: Great Expectations, The Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Bleak House.

Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
Prepares you For: American Literature
Read Before: A Conetticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, Huckleberry Finn, The House of Seven Gables, The Last of the Mohicans.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelly
Prepares you for: Horror fiction.
Read Before: Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry - Virginia Hamilton 
Prepares you For: Modern Historical Fiction.
Read Before: To Kill a Mockingbird, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Grapes of Wrath, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Upstairs Room - Johanna Reiss 
Up a Road Slowly - Irene Hunt
Prepares you for: WWII Historic Fiction, Books with deeper emotions,
Read Before: A Separate Peace, Diary of A Young Girl.

Does anyone have any other ideas? Please feel free to discuss or comment below. I would love your input!

1 comment:

Sarah Olson said...

This looks like a great list! Thanks!