More Than Charlotte Mason Moment
Children Ages 9 and Older Should Read Their Own Books
Charlotte Mason said children ages 9 and on up, who were able to read their own books, should do so. At Heart of Dakota, we follow this Charlotte Mason guideline, with the exception of Storytime. Charlotte Mason recognized not all 9 year-old children would be ready to read their own material. At Heart of Dakota, we recognize this too! This is why our placement chart includes age ranges. It is also why 9 year-old children might place in Bigger Hearts, Preparing Hearts, or Creation to Christ. Preparing Hearts is the first time “I” independent readings are assigned for science and part of history. These independent readings are fitting for this age, and the number of pages read are kept short. This helps children successfully take on reading their own books. Of course there are exceptions to this (for children who have special learning challenges), but this is a general guideline.
To understand this better, let’s imagine we are attending a class together!
To understand this Charlotte Mason guideline better, let’s imagine you and I are attending a class together today. As the class begins, the teacher holds up a book. He tells us this is the first of a handful of books we will read in class. We will be expected to share what we have learned each day from the readings in this book. Some days we will be expected to share what we remember orally. Other days we will be expected to share what we remember in written form. These oral and written responses will determine whether we pass or fail the class. Now imagine the teacher sitting down on a chair to begin to read aloud the book to us. A collective gasp goes through the class. One brave soul raises her hand and asks, But where is my book? Don’t I get to read my own book?!?
Why should children, who are able, read their own books at age 9?
The panic most of us would feel rising if we attended a class such as this is the very reason it is so important our children begin to read their own materials. We just remember what we read ourselves better. Not only that, we remember how to spell words better. Imagine the book our teacher read aloud to us was about Charlemagne. When asked to give a written response, who will spell ‘Charlemagne’ right? The person who read it themselves, looking at the word ‘Charlemagne’ over and over? Or, the person who heard someone else reading it aloud? Even for the child gifted in auditory learning, how practical is it to think everything will be read aloud to him/her? This is why Charlotte Mason believed in having children read their own materials as soon as they were able, with a guideline of beginning at age 9.
But, what about the value of reading aloud?
As homeschool moms, we often especially enjoy reading aloud to our children, and there is real value in doing so! However, once children can read their own materials, our reading role changes. The Storytime read-alouds are usually a grade level or two above the target age range. This is because read-alouds are meant to be a higher reading level with more difficult vocabulary. So, these books can be read aloud all the way through 8th grade, if we as moms (and our children) so desire! Likewise, books that focus on more mature concepts, such as devotionals, Biblical worldview topics, etc., work well to read aloud. I have to say, it has been refreshing that my reading aloud has kind of ‘grown-up’ right along with my kids!
What is the big deal if children don’t read their own materials?
It actually is a pretty big deal if children don’t begin to read their own materials, but why? The reason (other than those shared already) is fairly simple. It really is just a matter of time. Children will eventually have to read their own materials. Certainly by middle school and high school. The amount of time it would take to read aloud all that material (if it was truly grade appropriate) would be all day! For this same reason, having a child read aloud the material is no better (not to mention the child has to think about his fluency/pacing/tone, rather than just focusing on comprehending what he reads in his head). By following Charlotte Mason’s guideline of having children read their own materials, they can slowly learn to do so successfully – so much better than just handing it all over to them in high school!
In closing, there will always be exceptions to the ‘rule.’ If a child has special needs and is unable to read his own materials, then a parent reading aloud with the child following along in the book is very appropriate. Using audio book options, as long as the child is still following along in a book, is very appropriate in this situation as well. This More Than a Charlotte Mason post is meant to explain the reasons behind her guideline of having children at the age of 9, if able, read their own materials. I hope this helps explain her guideline, and I also hope you enjoy how Heart of Dakota has planned to gradually help this transition be successful – for both child and mother!