Creating the Literature Core
I've arranged the list of books for each year in this curriculum in order of increasing difficulty so that first a core is built and for each year thereafter another circular level is added, creating the concentric circles of literature. Classic children's literature, poetry, fables, tales and myths create the core and are fundamental to the growth of a student in literature for the following reasons:
1. Tales, myths, fables, poetry and children's classic literature books have significant literary value, are able to appeal to all ages and are from all times in history, encourage great thoughts and ideas and endlessly stir up the imagination. These are living books and offer the child opportunities to venture into literary worlds.
2. All of the literature selections from the above five categories build a child's vocabulary and ability to handle increasingly difficult sentence structure. Take a look at Peter Rabbit and Friends and then compare this to The Secret Garden and then to the Portable Renaissance Reader's essay by Erasmus entitled "On Free Will". Or try comparing poetry by starting first with a poem from A Garden of Verses and then compare this to "The Eve of St. Agnes by Keats and then to The Iliad. The levels of difficulty must be arranged so that each year challenges the child anew, forming another concentric circle to be added to the core. Each circle builds on previous ones.
A child new to this type of reading will need time to grow their skills and stamina. The mind takes time, a lot of consistent time, to find a place for all of this vocabulary and then to see it often enough that it no longer considers new. Unfortunately, the time it takes for these results to be seen can be wearing on both the parents and the students. The student, especially if placed with the wrong level of books, will be frustrated and will dislike the selections and the effort it takes to work through them. This is disheartening to the parents, who then, in turn, often decide this approach is not working.
3. All of the literature selections from the above five categories contain the literary illustrations they will encounter countless times in works such as The Divine Comedy, The Odyssey, any of Shakespeare's plays and so many more. I should add here that a background in the Bible is important for literary illusions too. The references to core literature such as mythology, fables and tales permeate more than just the subject of literature;they are found in music and art too.
The arrangement in level of difficulty is important because the idea is to build your student's stamina and skills to handle the upper level books with ease and attention. If your student is feeling the affect of the work needed to handle complex sentence structure, vocabulary, literary allusions and figurative language, then the ability to focus on themes and meaning will be all the more difficult. Writing these ideas will be even more difficult. A student attempting to understand the books of the upper years without this structure in place will, most likely, struggle. This struggle will impede the student's ability to discern truth, beauty and good as it is revealed and, in turn, prevent the student's ability to communicate this, especially through writing.
Some interesting articles/posts to read:
Books to Feed the Moral Imagination from the Circe Institute
Teaching Shakespeare to Children also from the Circe Institute