Right now I'm reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. This is his "easy book." Charlotte Mason recommends it for young readers often. It has been an easier read as far as Dickens goes, but I'm ...mmm...well....35 and it is still harder to read than many other books out there.
In the story young David Copperfield is reported to be a poor student. In his free time he does enjoy the easier reading of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, Robinson Crusoe, Arabian Nights and Tales of the Genii. That's his list. Oh, by the way he is eight.
I know this is just a fiction book and that David Copperfield isn't real. However, I think it's safe to say that in Dicken's world kids read those books. In Louis L'Amour's world his boy hero's read those books too.
Why are we adults struggling through these books now? Our children aren't even close to digesting this level at eight. I've turned off a lot of headgates for my children in the book department. Liberty does well I think. She's 12 but she has already read The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Walden, Plutarch, Robinson Crusoe, Silas Marner, The Red Badge of Courage, essays by Emerson and poems by Whitman to name a few. But those are still hard for her and she struggles through them. My boys are doing well by reading Narnia I think. They ae no where close to Liberty's reading level or Dicken's boys.
What has happened to our society? I've read that the common New England farmer at the time of the Revolutionary War could read the Federalist Papers with ease. Why do we have a harder time now? It seems that we have been dumbed down as some have said. (Gatto book link). I was thinking why would our children ever want to read these classics though when they can read the watered down abridged version, graphic novels, and simplified, yet high excitement books, etc. etc. etc? Or better yet watch the movie version. Another thought is that I think we place so much emphasis on fun and entertainment. This might create a desire to not do hard things like read hard books. In our fast food world where everything comes quickly it takes patience and practice to find enjoyment and pleasure from the slow moving books of long ago. I can't imagine most youth taking time to read the sewer scenes in Les Miserables or wading through the language in the opening scenes of Ivanhoe. It's hard!
I've wondered if there were many kid's books several hundred years ago. They had the McGuffey's but those didn't show up until the 1800's. They had some abridged Tales of Shakespeare from the Lamb's in the early 1800's. What else did they have? It seems like mostly there were the books they learned to read from like the Bible and Robinson Crusoe and then there were harder books. It reminds me of my Idaho grandparents (Great Depression era) who only graduated from 8th grade but were better educated than I am now.
I am just thinking. It really hit me hard when I saw all of those book titles in Dicken's book. Satan has done such a good job lulling us into mediocrity that we don't even realize it. So now what am I going to do about it? I'm not saying it's depressing me or anything, it's just more things to think about. Does it matter? Should I worry about it?