On a scale of 1-10, how addicted are you to children’s books? How much do you love reading with your kids?
Even though I’m on a mission to declutter, books are something that I keep buying. I love sharing new books with my little ones, and some of our most precious memories involve being curled up together, reading a story.
So, as I’ve been on this journey to learn more about using the Charlotte Mason philosophy in the early years, it has been a little disheartening to read that she didn’t think young children should be put in front of books.
One thing I find amazing about the Charlotte Mason philosophy is that it lines up with so much of today’s modern research about education and raising children.
This is not one of those areas.
Charlotte Mason’s views on books in early childhood don’t line up with modern-day research.
Charlotte Mason’s Views on Books
I can think of at least three instances where Charlotte Mason spoke against books in the early years:
Away with books, and ‘reading to’– for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature.” Formation of Character, page 216
He has a thousand questions to ask, he wants to know about everything; he has, in fact, an inordinate appetite for knowledge. We soon cure all that: we occupy him with books instead of things; we evoke other desires in place of the desire to know; and we succeed in bringing up the unobservant man (and more unobservant woman) who discerns no difference between an elm, a poplar and a lime tree, and misses very much of the joy of living. Parents and Children
It’s Nature’s lore, and the children take to it like ducks in the water; the first six or seven years of their lives are spent out of doors– in possible weather– learning this sort of thing, instead of pottering over picture-books and A B C.” Formation of Character, page 166
Instead of reading lots of books in the early years, Charlotte Mason said that children should spend their time outside observing, using all of their senses to take in the world around them. She viewed reading lots of picture books as unrelated tidbits of scenes that don’t give a child a solid foundation to grow upon.
However, she did recommend that parents have some fairy tales memorized so that they can share them with their children. So, her problem wasn’t with stories, but with the books themselves.
What Research Says about Reading To Young Children
My sister-in-law took her newborn baby to the doctor last year for his one-week visit. She and my mother-in-law were a little surprised when the doctor asked them if they had been reading to him every day. Here was a new family, just trying to get adjusted to life with a precious newborn, and they had been so swamped that they hadn’t read to him yet (understandably!)
In 2014, the AAP wrote a policy advising pediatricians to promote reading to their infants during their very first preventative visits.
According to the AAP, reading aloud to young children on a regular basis
- Strengthens the relationship between a parent and child
- Builds language
- Develops literacy
- Builds social-emotional skills
- Promotes “school” readiness
- Cultivates an interest in reading
These findings aren’t based in a single random survey with sketchy origins. The results have been repeated over and over again, even in different countries (here’s an article from Australia).
What’s A Mama To Do?
Here’s my plan: I’m going to keep reading. Every chance I get, I’m going to snuggle up to my two little sweet hearts and share stories with them. Charlotte Mason loved research (about the brain, at least- I’m not sure how much education research was out there at the time!) and she loved studying other great thinkers. I am sure that if this research had existed during her day, she would have definitely considered it while writing her philosophy. We have to use our common sense and our instincts when we’re educating our child, and my instincts tell me that reading with my little ones is important. Very important.
I’ll still make time for the other things that Charlotte Mason said are important during the early years, like playing outdoors and observing objects. But I think a modern Charlotte Mason education also has room for plenty of beautiful, well-written books.
I have some roundups and other resources to help you pick high-quality books for your little ones.
Follow my Instagram feed for the occasional amazing thrift store book find 🙂