Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Doing Hard Things With Dracula
Have any of you ever taken a look at readers or school books that were used back at the turn of the century? OOPS...I mean the end of the 1800's and beginning of the 1900's. (NOT the y2K...although that will apply later in this post.)
Children were assigned classics...Robinson Crusoe, Around the World in Eighty Days, Treasure Island. The original versions. Nowadays kids are handed the same stories, but in an overly simplified version. It's the literary version of the mother gull pre-digesting the fish for the young. Sure, the young get fed, but it's no substitute for flying out over open waters and diving for a fresh, wiggling fish of your own.
The whole thing is a pet peeve of mine. When you lower your expectations, you are lowering the bar.
Now, I am all for building confidence in struggling readers. Let them read what they want to and what they are comfortable with. But don't be complacent in the safety of the shallow waters...
Dive in to the deeper realms.
We are studying the 1800's in history and around mid-October I thought we should all sit down and read Dracula. Round robin style, as we do when books are long or somewhat difficult in nature to comprehend or with vocabulary words that may need clarification.
So we started reading one chapter a day.
The language is a little archaic at times. It took us up until today to read through the entire thing.
But, oh, did we enjoy it.
We spent a lot of time with these characters...Van Helsing, Mina Harker, the curious Renfield, and of course, the Count.
Reading Van Helsing out loud is somewhat akin to speaking like Yoda. But we pressed on.
My son loved everything about it. My daughter, who is ten years old, had only one complaint: it was too long she says. But we became very engrossed in the story, despite looking up words and having to discuss what was happening and why at certain points.
Sure, I could have handed them the Great Illustrated Classics version, condensed and pre-digested.
But I don't think we would have enjoyed it quite as much.
And a little lesson within the lesson...every once in a while, do the hard things. See it through to the end. Battle the demons of self-doubt and claim your victory.
It's all the sweeter that way.