Do you preread all of the books you give your kids? I try. This week I was caught off-guard by two instances of books I should have preread. One turned into a great opportunity and the other was a missed opportunity.
Let's start with Cinderella. There are hundreds of versions of this tale available. I have several of varying quality. LB asked me to read her one that I hadn't read before. It had cute pictures so we read it. It was terrible. It was just a summary of the plot with no depth or beauty. I've had this book for about 2 years and never read it. CC had told me it was terrible, but how bad can Cinderella be? It is that bad. At the end of the story, I asked LB what she thought of it. She made a horrible face and declared that it was the worst version of Cinderella ever and isn't even fit for babies. She asked if I could read the good version instead so I pulled out our K.Y.Craft version. It is everything that the other was not. The illustrations are amazing - they aren't just cute. The story is complex, rich, satisfying. At the end, we decided the bad version is going in the charity box.
The Cinderella incident turned out okay and gave LB and I a good point of discussion because if I had preread that book, we wouldn't have had something so terrible to compare our favorite Cinderella to. The next incident didn't turn out so well.
I ordered a couple of picture books about philosophers for next school year. When CC saw them, she pulled them out and read them. Last week she read the Diogenes and this week read the Socrates. I asked her how Socrates was this week. She started a conversation, "At first they seemed to be the same, but once you thought about it more their philosophies were very different. I thought I'd like Socrates better because BB does, but I really prefered what Diogenes said about virture." Great. She is starting a conversation comparing two brilliant philosophers, and I haven't read the book. It could have been a wonderful opportunity to discuss something meaningful. I could have been a lot of things that it wasn't.
If she had waited until I had read them... If had already had a deep understanding of them ... If I had just been better prepared...
I think a large part of learning takes place in interactions between people. It is forming ideas and opinions and discussing them with others that is one of the key ingredients to learning and one of the best parts of homeschooling for me. I love having things like this to share with my kids. I love watching them get excited about learning. I am a much better teacher if I have read their books so that I can share the learning with them and have those discussions that naturally follow.
There are lots of reasons to preread books including making sure the content is suitable, but prereading so that you can share the joy of discussion should not be forgotten.