Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dictation Symptoms

I love words. I especially love words that are strung together in perfection. And I really, really love words that are strung together in perfection . . . for the benefit of a child.

C.S. Lewis said:

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

It has been a joy-filled journey these last twelve years of mothering as I've uncovered dozens upon dozens of books that fall in this category -- books that are written for children, but bring just as much (and probably even more) delight to my soul as well.

One of my children's weekly assignments is to take dictation. As we read various works of literature together, I frequently find passages that take my breath away. Because I want to train my children to appreciate excellent writing, and because I want them to have the ability to put their own words onto paper, I read these noteworthy passages aloud for their little hands to copy. They write the words of the master writers, and their minds learn to anticipate the beauty of a well-chosen phrase, the power of metaphor and the comfort of rhythm. Slowly but surely, these words will become their own, equipping them to one day write with feeling and clarity.

Since we've done this for a while, my children (Drew in particular) are starting to key in on mom's "dictation symptoms." As I'm reading along, I'll suddenly find myself in the midst of a particularly well-written paragraph. I want to savor it. So I do. I ease up on the tempo. My voice softens, my eyebrows lift, my chin rises. The book, too, is raised a tad higher that I may elevate that perfect moment in every way possible. And they know. I blindly reach for the nearest pencil and make a faint check mark in the margin. That clinches it. "Mom? You're gonna have us write that stuff, aren't you?" Why yes, my darling children. I am.

Mother and Daughter Reading by Jessie Willcox Smith
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  1. "Into the cavern rushed eight of the strongest miners carrying an immense caldron which bubbled and sizzled and sent great clouds of savory steam spiraling slowly to the ceiling."

    Savory steam spiraling slowly to the ceiling.

    One of my favorite lines in all kid lit.

    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

  2. I am reading Phantom Tollbooth with Simon right now! I remember sitting in "The Unit" at Minnehaha in 5th or 6th grade having our teacher read it to us and am so excited to read it through again. I love words! Except when I'm pretending to be Eliza Doolittle. ;)

  3. Drew enjoyed the P.T., too. (Sounds like I should read it! I can't keep up with Drew -- I still have the Tolkien and Harry Potter books to experience, along with several others he's recommended. So many books, so little time!)

    G -- I love alliteration. Gets me every time.

    Don't loose heart, Eliza! "'Artford, 'Arrisburg and 'Ampshire" -- it definitely has a ring to it!



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