Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - November/December 1995

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

Wide Reading Opens Many Avenues

by Dorothy Moore

Almost every subject ever studied in schools, with the exception of sequential mathematics, can be learned by wide reading of real books in contrast to textbooks and workbooks, especially if in connection with real-life experiences in the home. This has been proven by children who have passed standardized tests, including college entrance examinations, with a high score. In addition to the limitless information contained in a variety of good books, the most obvious subject is language arts, including vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation, listening skills and comprehension. Yet, because of their high-interest appeal, biographies and the illustrated experiments in science found in the colorful Usborne books for children and young people give them a tremendous store of information on history and science the painless way.

After Dr. Matt James and his wife, Barb, pulled their oldest daughter, Jenny, out of public school, he reported on the results of her favorite pastime of reading books from their home library:

It was a challenge to keep up with her vocabulary, and the dictionary became our friend. I can't help but compare this situation to the stated philosophy of the public schools in our area at that time, which was that their Reading Series were carefully designed to introduce no more than 500 new words per grade level, beginning with the first grade, as if more words would be a danger to the intellect. With that philosophy, I imagine a parent would worry to turn a child loose in a field of wildflowers, lest she be exposed to too many new species. I recall thinking that 12 grade levels at 500 word increments would leave our high school graduates 10 or 20 thousand words short of adult vocabularies.

She is a flawless speller today, and this cannot be accounted for by her accumulated spelling lists over the years which represent a small fraction of the words she can spell. Phonetic instruction is essential but Jenny, like the rest of us, spells most of her words from her reading- acquired visual memory...Progress in the areas of grammar and punctuation proceeded in proportion to her reading. While her mother, Barb, used some workbook exercises to further her skills, there is no question that her visual memory facilitated the mastery of grammar and punctuation, and this visual memory was a happy by-product of her reading.

You might agree that the value of reading, where it is voluntary as in Jenny's case, is so much more than an enhancement of spelling or punctuation or grammar. It is intellectuality. It is another window into the world of thought and ideas and imagination. Like our child in the field of wildflowers, what a person finds in books and stories depends upon what he searches for, what grabs his fancy, and what fascinates him. Every person in that field, as in literature, will have a unique and individual experience. What Barb and I were sure of in Jenny's case was that the imagination and wit in our home library, along with the distilled wisdom of the ages, gave her a chance, through reading, to be enthralled. This is what we owe to our children, and it is a shame when they have to stay out of school to get it.

By the end of her first school year at home, Jenny was reading, according to the silly standardized tests, at the high school level. She was, to our observation, the happy and bouncy child she had always been. Crying was not a problem. She belonged to no reading group. She was not a Pony, not a Turtle, nor a triumphant Eagle. She felt no guilt as she greedily explored the enchanting stories of the present and past, and, through the miracle of the printed word, engaged some of the great minds of the ages.

Most responsible parents know that reading to a child as soon as he can sit up in your lap is the beginning of teaching reading. My children were very ready to look at large pictures of animals, flowers and people, particularly those which they had seen in real life. I usually accompanied my very early reading with little nature songs, which I adapted or made up from my experiences with young children at church, with words which gave credit to God as the Creator of these things because of his love for us. This is elementary science as well as spiritual training. As they grew older they learned the sounds made by animals and later became acquainted with factual materials about these favorite things. These are generally, but not always, the children who love to read in later life. In most cases, children who don't like to read are those who have been pressured too early and though they ultimately learn to read, do not find pleasure in it. This is a very sad result, for reading is the avenue to all knowledge, and should be a delightful experience.

Bible stories, beginning with those about babies of the Bible   Moses, Jesus   and then other simple accounts of Jesus' ministry are appropriate. As soon as children can talk fairly well, they can memorize simple Bible verses. In connection with these simple stories, reading can branch out to include good social skills, more true information on nature and character qualities. I well remember a children's rhyming book which said, in part, "Like little boats go out to see, I push my spoon away from me." We also read little books on helping mother, putting away toys and other constructive activities.

Even at their beginning level, children can learn good character traits by reading and hearing read to them good books on people who are models of behavior. The syllabus in the Basic Curriculum Guide on "Young Witnesses" is written to accompany character-building books to help with this for children ages 5-8. For older children, it is called as a major part of a homeschool program for the year. The themes of the three books listed as a set of Character Books by the Moores in the catalog are on manners, kindness, and perseverance. The Moore-McGuffy Readers and the books listed for "Family Reading" also are intended to teach good character traits.

Biographies are the very best way we know to enhance information on social studies. The interesting accounts of the lives described in the Godly Heroes books listed in our catalog, for example, encompass many years of history and information on names, dates and places which would be much more boring and harder to remember from textbooks. Whatever these Godly Heroes' accomplishments, whether in science, discovery or inventions, the information is clothed in interesting details attractive to the children. This information is accompanied with a portrayal of character traits for children to emulate. So encourage wide reading of quality books and reap the benefits of the wide knowledge acquired.