Books. They hold a special place in our hearts. As young children, we discover the world between their pages–animals we have never seen in real life, other kids and families that we haven’t experienced, and possibilities like school, parties, and holiday celebrations.
As we grow, books take on new meaning. Characters we can relate to, places we’ve never been, experiences we might never have.
Books inspire us and make us think, they help us escape and remind us of home.
Reading for pleasure does all of those things. It can be easy to forget that reading also has a place in education, but I can’t stress the importance of literature in your homeschool enough.
The importance of literature in your homeschool
Books have lifelong impacts on them
When your kids first start reading, it’s the stories. They are very young, with no experience in the world outside the walls of their own home. Hearing and reading stories teach them what’s going on Out There. Books spark their imaginations and teach them possibilities–what they might see if they squint their eyes and avert their gazes in just the right way. Fairies, elves, dolls that come to life, talking elephants, bears, squirrels, lions… You get it. If you have any fond memories of a book you read as a child–or of hundreds like I do–then you know what that impact can do for a person.
Books take them back in time
I’ve said it before, but books are the best way to make history lessons come alive for your kids. Reading a story set in another time period can teach them so much more than just dry text. How people spoke to each other in the Victorian era, what behavior was acceptable during the time of the pilgrims, the fears that beset people as they left Europe and sailed to Ellis Island.
Books take them to other places
Reading teaches your kids about places they might never get to see. When the boys and I read Oliver Twist, they learned so much about 19th century British politics, the geography of London, the history of Britain. They may never get to see Britain, but reading books about it can help them feel less like they’re missing it.
If you encourage your kids to read books about other lands or written by authors from those lands, you are encouraging geography. You’re making the world smaller for them in a way the interweb really can’t. You’re putting it at their fingertips and in their minds. Literature touches our brains differently than images do. So send them to foreign countries. Often. Through the eyes of all different kinds of characters. They will appreciate you for it all their lives.
Books enrich their vocabulary
To this day, I still sometimes come across words I don’t know in novels. You probably know by now that I’m not a fan of reading levels, and this is one of the reasons. Especially if you’re reading aloud with them, reading classic novels or novels that may seem ‘advanced’ for them is going to widen their vocabulary immensely.
Books teach them to think critically
Making connections, understanding symbols and themes, and getting to know new characters all help your kids think more deeply. When they think with depth, they are better able to read between the lines and find hidden meanings. That helps them draw conclusions. Once they learn how to do that with a book, they will be better able to apply critical thinking to real-life situations.
Books remind them to pay attention
The more years there are behind us, the less we notice things. We’ve seen them before. A Lot. Think of how often you pay attention to the landscape when you’re driving to work or to the same grocery store, department store, post office. Life kind of gets like that too, doesn’t it? It might be a beautiful morning, but you’ve seen them before and you’re pretty sure you’ll see one again, and you’re just too busy to really stop and appreciate it. Right? It happens. Even to young kids.
But books remind them to pay attention. Ever notice how a really good description puts a picture in your mind? You can see it, smell it, taste it, even if all the author has given you is a visual. Those descriptions can make your kids want to experience that place again in real life. So they start to pay attention.
Simply put, if an author describes a country lane to me in full detail–the periwinkle of the roadside flowers, the heat of the asphalt, the shade of the overhanging trees–the next time I leave my driveway, I’m going to look at my country lane as I drive down it, not think about the dozens of things I have to accomplish that day. Books bring us back to our senses, literally.
Books help them understand human nature
Books can remind your kids to have empathy for other people’s motivations. To remember that every story has multiple points of view and every character they meet in real life is seeing that story in a different way. Think of the differences between The Wizard of Oz and Wicked. Of course the wicked witch had her own side of the story. Everyone does. Books remind us of that. And that is a Very Important Thing.
Books help them write better
Seeing how a published author uses description, character growth, and even grammar will help your kids write better. They learn figurative language just by reading stories, which makes teaching metaphors and hyperbole a whole lot easier on you, mama.
Books slow them down
Reading also helps combat the whole ‘instant gratification’ problem that technology is causing. It helps kids learn to appreciate anticipation. You can’t cheat your way through a book or you’ll miss something. In fact, in this era, that may be the most important reason to read. It teaches patience. You can’t get from this page to that page without reading every paragraph. Kinda rocks, doesn’t it? They can get instant gratification later. For now, let them slow down.
So go pick a book. Make reading together part of your homeschool day. And learn so much more than just what’s going on in the story.