When you mention reading a classic, most people cringe. The image of boring reading you are forced to do in school comes to mind. They might even start to yawn at the very mention of it. Very few people actually have their eyes sparkle or their heart quicken. Yet these are works that have value and are being forgotten by the younger generations.
They shouldn’t be ignored. The classics should be explored along with the books of today. Yet we run from them. So how do you make them more interesting and get us reading them?
Don’t Read Them…at First
Picking up Moby Dick and trying to read it might have you swear off reading for the rest of your life. It’s not one of those books that has you up all night to finish it. In fact, many classics can be like this and for a very good reason. They were written in a different time period for a vastly different audience. Today, most of them would not even be accepted by publishers. Watch the movies first. They tend to be more interesting.
Movies bring the classics to life. Reading is one thing. Seeing is another. I know I have struggled with reading Shakespeare, but when I see it acted out I get it. Everything makes sense. I’m a very visual person. Reading it doesn’t give the same effect as a talented author with the same words.
The more modern versions might be the best place to start. They are more visually appealing to the younger generations and many times the interpretations are more modern which the younger ones can relate to.
Study the History
Look at the history surrounding the story. If your child likes history, they might enjoy the classics more when they understand what period it was set in and the culture it represents. Otherwise, it is just a story set in a strange setting. How else will they be able to understand the Scarlet Letter until they understand the world it is set in?
If possible, go to the sites and visit where the story was set. That can be hard as so many are set in other countries, but if you have the chance, go do it. For me, I am very near to the stories of Laura Ingells Wilder. In just a few hours, I can visit where she lived and where her parents are buried.
You might be surprised how many stories are located near you. Check out tourist info and read about literary history in your state and country.
See into the Culture
Explore the culture of the story. This can make for some interesting conversations and even debates. The classics can be more interesting when the student can get emotional about a topic. They become personal which always get a person more involved.
Maybe it is Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the Scarlet Letter or even Oliver Twist. Play devil’s advocate and get the student thinking about the characters and the world they live in. It is not just a story. It becomes real with the student, as though a veil has lifted for them to see the characters and events in the time they were written.
When they can get involved in it, they get interested. They might not fall in love with the story, but they will appreciate and learn from it.
Always discuss the stories. They are more than just words on a page. Bring them to life by talking about them. Talking about a story gives it an opportunity to take root and inspiration. It might even become a part of you. Discussions have me thinking about a book long after I closed the last page.
When my children read books, we talk about them when they are done. I ask questions that make them think. I challenge their ideas and get them to think deeper. Playing devil’s advocate can really get them going on about the story and talking about scenes they might normally have forgotten about. Getting a good discussion going gives the story a new dimension that will open the student’s eyes to what the classic can bring to their life.