“So long as they are reading?” Content matters.

“The habit of casual reading… is a form of mild intellectual dissipation which does more harm than we realise. Many who would not read even a brilliant novel of a certain type, sit down to read twaddle without scruple. Nothing is too scrappy, nothing is too weak to “pass the time!” The “Scraps” literature of railway bookstalls  (and airport bookstores) is symptomatic. We do not all read scraps, under whatever piquant title, but the locust-swarm of this class of literature points to the small reading power amongst us.

The mischief begins in the nursery. No sooner can a child read at all than hosts of friendly people show their interest in him by a present of a “pretty book.” A “pretty book” is not necessarily a picture-book, but one in which the page is nicely broken up in talk or short paragraphs. Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for the lightest novels on the library shelves of new books; the succession of “pretty books” never fails us; we have no time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes.

We have reached the point where to most readers, Scott is dry as dust, and if you can believe it, even Kingsley is “stiff.” We remain weak and poor readers all our days. Very likely these strictures do not touch a single reader of this page, and I am like a preacher inveighing against the ways of the thieves and drunkards who are  not in the pews. But the mischief is catching, and the children of even reading parents are not safe.

 

Guard the nursery; let nothing in that has not the true literary flavour; let the children grow up on a few books read over and over, and let them have none, the reading of which does not cost an appreciable mental effort. This is no hardship. Activity, effort, whether of body or mind, is joyous to a child. Those f an oolder generation who went out of their Robinson Crusoe into our Scott did not find the strong meat too much for them.”

 

Volume 5 of Charlotte Mason’s series, somewhat adapted by myself

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