Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Book

Classic Greek and Roman Mythology as a Learning Tool

I found this wonderful book Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell, last year on amazon.com.  Even though my oldest two kids have each been reading since they were about 4 years old, we enjoyed reading through the book together, a practice that the author William F. Russell, as well as other educational experts have found crucial to improving children’s reading ability, in developing their interest in reading, and enhancing their vocabulary and their imaginations. 

The stories are from Greek and Roman mythology, a subject that my kids became more interested in learning about, as they started reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of books.  Russell has put Classic Myths to Read Aloud, as well as his other books for families, together in such a thoughtful and helpful way.  The book is divided into two different ‘listening levels’ – Level I is for ages 5 and up – Level II is for ages 8 and up. 

My favorite part of Classic Myths to Read Aloud, aside from the stories themselves, is the section at the end of each one called A Few More Words.  This one or two paragraph section is meant for the parent or teacher, to use as discussion material after reading aloud each tale.  A Few More Words is meant to deal with the origins of certain words and their meanings from within the story.  My kids loved this part of the readings almost as much as the stories.  We are all very interested in vocabulary and spelling and this really enhanced our discussion. 

A Thoughtfully Put Together Book for Parents and Children

Russell has put this book together so well and so thoughtfully for both parent/teacher and children.  He gives useful and practical suggestions for how to use the book.  I love that he recommends that you, as the parent or teacher, should “practice” reading through each story before reading it aloud with your children.  This may sound silly but his reasoning is spot on as far as I’m concerned.  Some of the pronunciations and vocabulary words for each tale are rather difficult and reading through them ahead of time – especially with the help of the pronunciation and vocabulary guides for each one, will make the sharing of the stories aloud, much more smooth and enjoyable for everyone.

The other reason for the parent/teacher to “practice” the story beforehand is that many of the classic Greek and Roman myths end in tragedy.  While the stories are still important for young people to hear from an early age and throughout their education, most of these stories are not what you would call great bedtime story material.  Once again, I just love how Russell is thinking about both parent and child here, in their relationship to how they share and learn these classic myths.

Classic Greek and Roman mythology is a subject that can enhance a child’s imagination and education.  The reading aloud of these myths, as well as other classic stories, can help to develop English language skills and vocabulary, as well as a lifetime enjoyment of great literature and reading in general.  Educator and author William F. Russell has written about this in Classic Myths to Read Aloud and in his other books.  His writing is backed up research findings and numerous studies on education over the years.

Greek and Roman Mythology From a Christian Perspective

A side note, as a Christian mother, I wanted to say a little something about the reading and learning about the classic Greek and Roman mythologies.  When I first started homeschooling with my children, which has been over a decade now, I was teaching them the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  I was still researching different homeschool methods and different schools of thought and came across the awesome book by Karen Andreola called A Charlotte Mason Companion.

The book outlines the principles of a Charlotte Mason education and Andreola’s own thoughts and reflections of using this while teaching her own children.  There is a great chapter about Greek Myth and why it is both important and useful in education and how we can deal with it as Christians.  Karen Andreola states that she found Charles Kingsley’s preface to his book The Heroes, which was written in 1855, helpful in answering if and why it is important to learn about the Greeks (this applies to the Ancient Romans as well).

What I got from Mrs. Andreola’s book is that the contributions of the Ancient Greeks and Romans over time has been so great in everything from literature and poetry, to mathematics and geography, to language and government.  All of this knowledge could only have been inspired by God.  The ancient peoples may have been heathens at times but they were still children of God who had to learn from their mistakes, as have Jews and Christians alike.  I am in agreement with this idea and believe that it will benefit us in our semi-classical education curriculum.

How do you feel as homeschoolers about including the study of classic mythology in your learning program?  Is it a subject that your children find more interesting due to the influx of books and movies about Greek and Roman myths and characters from them, that are available right now?

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