I love Classics, I should rephrase that. I love some Classics, Dickens still causes me to shudder with horrible memories of reading Great Expectations.
But, I love the vocabulary they expose my kids to. Reading higher level books is why my kids will say something is “hilarious” not funny. Or tell you they find an item amusing.
That or because I talk from a century earlier. You take your pick.
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I often wonder how to adapt classic books to younger children
Here is my best stab at it.
I’ve been having a blast using our Early America Library from Heritage History. As part of our preparation for studying the Civil War, I wanted to make sure they understood how terrible slavery was, and how books were used to show this.
So we read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin*.” This was such an iconic book to its’ time and made such an impact that over 100 years later it’s still used to represent the evils of slavery. As you can see from this clip from the King and I.
It’s not a book for young kids, there are scary scenes in it, and the language is complex.
So I broke it up into shorter segments and stopped often to talk about what we were reading. We read a very abridged version.
After each time we stopped they drew a picture as part of our discussion. I could have required writing, but I wanted to know comprehension, not writing technique. My kids’ writing skills are still rudimentary and they tend to get overwhelmed easily. I want to set up where they can succeed with writing, and the vocabulary and words would have daunted them.
They each came up with different pictures for each section. They were also true to their personality. Princess concentrated on the relationships. She showed Tom being happy with his first owner, and sad in chains with another owner.
We also used this as a chance to learn about newspapers of the time. They used pictures to help tell the story, just as ours today do. Only then they were illustrated. The illustrators would put their initials or name in their picture, trying their best to make it naturally part of the picture. The boys loved this part of the challenge.
Do you adjust books for your kids reading level or read books to them? My kids loved this assignment, and I have to say it was a great fit for them.