Ishel was putting the book, Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott back on the bookshelf.I asked, “How did you like it? Was it good?”
“Oh yes, very good.”
“What did you like about it.”
She told me a few things. I probed more, because I had not read the book… "who were the characters?" "Was there one that mirrored you—you found yourself in that person?" She went on telling me about certain characters and what she liked and identified with.
“Remember the papers you are working on about what makes a good mother for your personal progress? What did you learn about being a good mother from Jo?”
Thoughtfully she responded, As she was speaking, I stood up and found a yellow pad of paper and started talking notes—just jotting down main ideas that she was telling me.
Her face scrunched up. “Oh no, Mom, it’s Saturday! I don’t want to get sucked into a project!”
I immediately stopped, and said, “You’re lucky! I am already doing a project! We can talk about this another day!”
Require or Not?
I want my kids to do more than just read good books. I want them to think about them. I want them to take notes in the margins, ask questions, apply them to their life. I guess in short, I want them to walk around in their shoes for a while—see things differently, experience a new perspective and glean everything they can from that book.
Ok, ok, I don’t want them to analyze a book to death. That would destroy the fun and love of reading quickly! One of my favorite books I read as a child was A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy. I read it so often that the library let me pay for and keep the book because I had checked it out so many times. I never analyzed it. I never had to write in the margins or think about character development. I just loved it and took strength from its characters and the insurmountable courage that Peter showed. I just knew that I could count on the friend that I had made in that book, by reading it over and over again.
It was not until years later, in college, for a Children’s Literature class that I wrote about it, analyzed it. It brought tears to my eyes to write about what this short children’s book had meant to me as an awkward 14 year old in a new state and making changes to grow up. My typed paper was stained with tears in a few spots and only the professor read how that book had sustained me through hard growing up years.
I guess that I will not require that my children mark up their books, unless they choose to. Who knows what they are getting out of the book. I will still ask questions and probe deeper thought, but making kids analyze their books I’ll put on the shelf for another day. Something more significant may show up later in their life—I just hope that they share it with me!