Friday, 21 January 2011

Literature Education

One of my favourite methods of teaching is through reading. If you love to read, you can learn just about anything. On a basic level, there are non-fiction books that give you the facts, and, if they are well-written, also give some personal stories that help make the topic interesting and accessible. One step from that would be fiction in which there is an important component of research. Historical fiction is the most obvious genre in this category, however there are many authors who research fastidiously on their subjects, and you can learn the ins and outs of everything from police work to world religions to science and engineering.

But there is a more subtle form of education you can learn through reading; it is this that has been influencing me as of late. Immersing myself in classic literature as I have been, and particularly into novels whose authors have a brilliant command of the English language, I have found my personal vocabulary and ability to comprehensively express ideas has been improving by leaps and bounds. There are so many wonderful words created to express all the minutiae of emotions and experiences in life, of which we don't avail ourselves often enough.

When you thinking of all the synonyms that exist for words, we have the ability to be so precise in conveying our meaning.

Instead of simply saying I'm happy, I could say content, pleased, joyful, cheerful, elated, blissful, ecstatic, delighted. Think about each of those words; each one is a synonym for "happy," and yet each one expresses a slightly different aspect. It's amazing that we recognize the difference between pleased and ecstatic, and yet don't often choose to use one over the other.

I've also noticed that I have slowed down my speaking process. It isn't that I'm losing the ability to express myself (although Mommy Brain seems to have settled in permanently), it's just that I'm taking the time to form my ideas and then choose the most appropriate words to convey them to others. It's kind of nice. There is a lot of word pollution spewed into the air, times when we talk just to fill up the silence, or times when we stutter and stammer our way through unformed thoughts. Reading through books like Jane Eyre and The Scarlett Letter have enriched my language skills, taking them to a whole new plane.

This has also reinforced to me the importance of learning to love reading as children. I'm not talking about early reading, because knowing how to read at a young age and love books at a young age are not in the least the same thing. A child forced to struggle their way through word recognition and painful exercises of sounding out letters might very possibly learn to hate reading. But a child who is read to often and uses their imagination in story telling will be taught to love the world of literature, and that should be the true goal for teaching your kids how to read.

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