Captain Long John Silver Vs. Captain Underpants
One thing homeschoolers are known for is their above average reading skills. Why is that?
Reading is one area where homeschoolers seem to particularly excel, reading on average two grade levels above their peers. In one U.S. study, Dr. Brian Ray utilized 15 independent testing services, to obtain information from 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico, who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test. The study found that while public school students scored at the 50th percentile, homeschool students cam in at the 89th percentile. Interestingly, the findings also revealed “that issues such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students.”
So what accounts for this difference? Here are some likely contributors to higher reading achievement:
- Homeschooled students often simply spend much more time reading,with 60 min. at the lower end, some spending 2 to 3 hours a day.
- Importance of Literature and Language Studies
- Language studies frequently play a central role in the curriculum and a generous portion of school time is dedicated to reading and language.
- One-on-one attention
- Students receive one-on-one attention, allowing for close support in reading development
- Parental influence
- Parents of homeschoolers are often avid readers themselves and thus provide an ever-present role model. In addition, books often are a central part of home furnishings (our modest home sports 17 bookshelves).
- Type of books
- The kind of books students read make a profound difference. For many homeschoolers that will include stacks of classics.
How are the classics different from ordinary more modern books?
A classic is something everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read.”Mark Twain
A classic book has the ability to capture the attention of generations of readers succeeding its creation. There is a continuance, a consistence, a timelessness about it. As it is read throughout generations it has the ability to produce unity and tradition. It enriches the human mind. However, often classics are subjected to endless, minute dissection which ends up destroying the unique pleasure that mere enjoyment of a work of literature can hold.
Classics differ especially in the attention that they demand from their readers. They require the brain to work harder and better. Deep reading of dense, complex prose is demanding, but provides rich rewards cognitively, aesthetically, and emotionally. They also provide a measuring stick for the depth, language, and complexity that makes a book worthwhile. This is in stark contrast to modern books, which are often filled with twaddle.
Twaddle is to literature as a Twinkie is to nutrition; maybe tasty but would you feed it to your child as a wholesome diet? Twaddle is reading-made-easy, second-rate, stale, predictable, scrappy, weak, diluted, silly, insignificant. You get the idea.
Consider the first sentence of Treasure Island compared to the first sentence of Captain Underpants. Case in point.
Squire Trelawney, Dr.Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17__ and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.
Meet George Beard and Harold Hutchins.
Where can parents get started if their child shows no interest in classics?
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Lead by example. By putting away a device or turning off Netflix and instead picking up a book, you set a tone to be followed.
- Make books available in the home. The library lets you check out 100 per customer – that’s a good start.
- If the reading level seems to complex for your child, try Classic Starts which provide a simplified version of the story.
- Use Librivox and allow the child to listen to the story (while maybe reading along).
- Read aloud to your child.
- Try altering the reading diet bit by bit, while still allowing for a Twinkie from time to time.
Use these Readings Lists as a starting point.
The Mensa Reading for Excellence Program will even send your child a free T-Shirt when a list is completed.