Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cultivating a Love of History and Literature


For as long as I can remember, I have loved books and reading. For the past 23 years I have been cultivating a love of reading in my children.


When my oldest child was a toddler, I read children's books to her by the hour, until she had them all memorized and would stop me if I left out a single word! When she got a little older, we started reading "chapter books". Our early favorites were the Box Car Children Mysteries and The Little House Books. Later, we read the Grandma's Attic series, the Mandie series, The Bobbsy Twins, The Happy Hollisters, Horatio Alger and Oliver Optic books, books by Louisa May Alcott, many Childhood of Famous American's books, and many other biographies of missionaries and great Americans.


Through the years, we have spent many hours cuddled up in my bed or the childrens' beds, snuggled up on the couch, or just sitting around the meal table enjoying a book together. Often, I nursed a baby while reading aloud. Sometimes, I read the children to sleep, but more often, I read myself to sleep! Currently, I try to sneak in bites of food while reading to the children during our lunch break.

I have recently realized that my younger 5 children (ages 4 to 13) have not heard or enjoyed many of the books that I read aloud to my older 5 children (ages 14-23). So, we are starting over! I am re-reading some of the great books I read to my older children when they were young. Currently, I am re-reading The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. I had forgotten how much I loved that book! Interestingly, I was reading that book 13 years ago when I was pregnant with my son, Christopher. He was born on October 1st, but his due date was October 12th -- Columbus Day. While reading about Christopher Columbus and learning that his name meant "Christ-bearer", we decided to name our son, Christopher, in hopes that he would live up to the meaning of that name.





I also believe that our reading times influenced my oldest son, Taylor (18), who loves History and hopes to major in History and Political Science. He did not read on his own until he was 8 years old, but he listened to many great books prior to that time, which fed his rich imagination. He loved stories of the great frontiersman, such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. As soon as reading "clicked" for him, he started reading chapter books, such as Box Car Children Mysteries and Childhood of Famous Americans.


Then when he was ten, his love of history exploded. I never knew why, until reading this essay, which he wrote last week for a college admission essay:







The Gift



Childhood birthdays typically bring gifts that are soon outgrown and discarded; however, one gift I received was different.  When I turned ten, my grandmother gave me a computer game called Civil War Generals.  I thought at the time, "Oh, that will be fun to play."  Not only did I enjoy playing the game, but battlefields arrayed wtih Union and Confederate troops fascinated me.  When I managed to beat the game after a couple of months, I thought that was the end of that.  Little did I realize that this circular piece of software would change my life forever.


Suddenly, history captivated me. I would spend hours reading about Civil War heroes, such as Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jeb Stuart – all of whom I had encountered on my computer screen. Late into the night, I sat in bed reading until my eyes grew so weary that I had to sleep. When I wasn’t reading about these great men and their exciting exploits, I was acting out their battles with my brothers in the back yard.

My interest spread from the Civil War to other wars, like World War II, the American Revolution, the Alamo, Vietnam, the War of 1812, and the French and Indian war. Then, my love of war expanded to every facet of American history. Instead of asking for the usual array of toys and games for birthdays and at Christmas, I began asking for biographies and history books, so I could learn more about the men I admired and their adventures.

These heroes captured my imagination and ignited in me a love for my country. I was inspired by their courage in the face of death. Consider Patrick Henry, who stood and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Then there was Nathan Hale, who became a spy for his country, knowing that if he were caught, he would be executed. There was also defiance of death, like when Custer was surrounded by the Sioux at Little Big Horn, and he stood unmoved as he was killed by the berserk Indian hordes. I longed to be brave and courageous like these men. Their devotion to the causes they believed in inspired me to become patriotic and passionate about my country. I even wished that I had been born to a previous generation, so that I could have been a part of the wars that were fought to keep our country free.

As I headed into high school, my love of history continued to grow. While I wanted to make A’s in all of my classes, I wanted to do more than that in my History classes. I had to know every answer; I could not miss a single test question. I wanted to know all the stories that make up our history. What happened? What was the cause and effect? How did it change the world?

Now, as I prepare to graduate from high school, history still captivates my mind and drives my interests beyond the school day. That is why I know I must study history in college and beyond. I want to learn as much as I can about our nation’s history and to visit as many historical sites as I can. I want to see where Pickett led that fatal charge. I want to see where 55 men put their name to a document that changed our destiny. I want to see where two lamps hung as riders went to warn the colonists of the approaching British. I want to see the beaches where Americans died to defeat the Nazi regime. I want to know what made America great, and then share my passion with the next generation, so they, too, can enjoy the gift I received when I was ten – a love of America and her history.



I love that essay, because it gives me a window into his soul! It also explains why he has spent the last ten years reading every Landmark History, GA Henty, and every other history book that he could get his hands on!! It also illustrates another way I've helped instill a love of history and literature in my children -- by having well stocked book shelves!!! :)






2 comments:

Jules said...

Like you, I read to my children when feeding. And I re-read books to the younger children that I'd read years earlier to the older children. Some of our best memories are sitting together in my bed and reading a few chapters of a book before bedtime ""Just one more chapter, please mum!"). Now that the boys are older we've discovered audio books. We've found that these are great for all the family to listen to and at the same time my hands are free to do handwork and I never get a hoarse voice!

Laurel said...

I just found your blog, and am so looking forward to reading more about your family.

This post was so ME. I am beginning to look through all of the things I did with the older 6 (ages 18-24), and have started pulling them out for the younger 6 (ages 6-12). We also have one in the exact center of the bunch (age 15), so we never quite know whether to lump him with the upper half or the lower half. He's also the tie breaker ... the older 6 are 3 girls and 3 boys ... and the younger 6 are 3 girls and 3 boys.

Blessings,

Laurel
http:ajourneyoffaith.net
(my ministry website)

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