Friday, November 23, 2012


This is the final post in the series of "A CASE FOR READING...."
"A CASE FOR READING HISTORY" is written my me.
" My earliest memory of actually tuning in to history was at age 13, when I began my three-year study of Asian Social Studies. It was a new subject in the curriculum and it 'worked' for me because history was connected to art, to politics, to geography, to culture ..... It seemed real and it truly lived for me. 
1.  In the words of Charlotte Mason, "To us in particular who are living in one of the great epochs of history it is necessary to know something of what has gone before in order to think justly of what is occurring today." 'A Philosophy of Education': Charlotte Mason
This is so true. We regularly react to international news items on face value, totally or partially ignorant of background or events leading up to today. How can we "think justly" on today's happenings, when they are delivered to us by biased news media, unless we read history for ourselves. 
I have recently been reading about the Vietnam War with one of my sons and happened on the books "Witness to History The Vietnam War":Michael Burgan. It wonderfully gives a brief history of Vietnam from the beginning of time through to the 20th century. We felt informed, understanding the aggressions and choices especially as we read the many personal interviews with people of all positions from both sides. 
2.  A second reason to read history is that it provides vivid and substantial material for children  to bring into play. As children read about the lives of great people throughout history, they naturally want to try-it-out to get a sense of how it feels to be the one who brings freedom to the besiege city, or finally navigates the way home out of the perilous storm, like Odysseus in "The Wanderings of Odysseus", and it's previous book, "Black Ships Before Troy", both by Rosemary Sutcliff, and fantastically illustrated by Alan Lee. 
Even as adults we often continue to ponder over a crisis we read about in a book, trying to make sense of it for ourselves.
3.  Reading history gives growing children an appreciation and connection between themselves or their culture and people or cultures of the past. Charlotte Mason again says, "We can not live sanely unless we know that other people are as we are with a difference, that their history is as ours, with a difference, that they too have been represented by their poets and their artists, that they too have their literature and their natural life." 'A Philosophy of Education':Charlotte Mason. Historical fiction is great for this reason, putting the reader along side the characters of the book. Books that we love in this category, are, "Joseph Haydn The Merry Little Peasant":Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher and "Handel at the Court of Kings":Opal Wheeler, "The Usbourne First Book of History" and the "Usbourne Book of World History"
4.  Reading history enriches a child's mind and imagination, giving a great storehouse of ideas from which they can judge the behaviour of nations and govern their own conduct. A person's mind is built, Charlotte Mason says "feeds", on well written history, because it provides an assortment of important and trivial human experiences. Through reading this kind of history we get to see the consequences and results of behaviour and decisions. In time we weigh things up and form opinions and judgements which we apply to our own time in history and our own lives. "The Golden Goblet":E.J. McGraw and books by G.A. Henty - there are lots to choose from, some of our favourites are "Beric the Briton", "The Cat of the Bubastes", "Saint Bartholomew's Eve", are this style of book. 
This brings us back to where I started at the start of this series, with  Virginia Woolf's comments on reading - the collecting of thoughts, allowing time for them to sit in our mind and then "come to the surface" in the form of our own views, opinions and choices in life.
Many of the books I have mentioned are historical fiction which is an easy way for people of all ages to get into history.
Two other series in history I think worth mentioning are the "Horrible History" books which give bite-sized information often presented in humorous ways, and the "My Country" series of New Zealand history which are concise, perfect for someone to get a feel for NZ history.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ start thinking how you can introduce history into your soon-to-be-here summer holiday months (if you are here in the southern hemisphere), or into your months around the fire in the evening (if you are in the northern hemisphere). Could some history books be a good item to write on the Christmas list?

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