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Catholic Activity: Reading Aloud

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Maria Trapp emphasizes the importance of reading good literature aloud in the family from the children's earliest days.

DIRECTIONS

One of our favorite evening pastimes has always been reading aloud. In the old country, when I could do it in German, I would read what amounted eventually to a small library, while the family would be knitting, darning, or whittling. Among the books were historical novels, which led quite naturally into talking and discussing the period of that time; short stories; and one or the other of the great novels of world literature. Stevenson's Treasure Island, Kipling's Kim and, of course, his Mowgli Stories delighted the younger listeners. Such readings would go on over several weeks; we would hurry from supper into the library and settle around the fireplace for a few hours' intense enjoyment of one of the world's literary masterpieces. (In this way a great many Christmas gifts got finished, too.)

Then we discovered the great pleasure of reading plays together, each one reading a part aloud. Some of Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies should be read this way in every home.

If the children are led by stages from the fairy-tale age to Winnie the Pooh, Little Women, Oliver Twist — to mention but a few of the childhood classics — they will come to demand another such session every winter. In later years they will refer to those times as "the winter we were reading Great Expectations" or "that winter when we were plowing through War and Peace."

Quite apart from acquainting us with the best works of the world's great writers, it cannot be stressed enough that reading as a group is altogether different from reading for oneself. Family reading provides another valuable thing in great danger of dropping out of our lives — the ability to form an opinion and state it — which is the very essence of group discussion. As the children grow up, the books will change in character. There will be biographies of saints, books on the spiritual life, and books of philosophical character. The discussions that grow quite naturally from our readings may later be long to our children's most cherished memories.

Activity Source: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, Pantheon Books Inc., New York, New York, 1955

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