I once read about a certain culture which is known to produce an abundance of talented musicians. The children are observed playing instruments at a very young age. This is not to say that the parents enroll their three-year-olds in Suzuki violin lessons, but rather when the adults gather to play music together (which is frequently), the children are welcomed. They are encouraged to hold and experiment with various instruments, joining in while the adults play. By the time the children are of an age to receive musical instruction, they are familiar with the instrument; the way it feels and the sound it makes. People are amazed at the seemingly large a number of natural musicians born in this region, when in truth, the environment and early exposure to music must play as important a role as heredity.
Another example of this thinking was made clear to me during a conversation with my son, a college baseball player. We were discussing a teammate who had the good fortune of being drafted by a major league team. My son stated, “It was easy for this guy, his older brother plays in the majors.” I questioned him, arguing that the kid must be good, must have put in lots of hard work. His answer was, “Yes, but just knowing that it’s possible is huge. He grew up expecting to be drafted like his brother.” I see what he means. The more information and exposure a person has to an idea, the more confidence he has in pursuing it.
I share a similar philosophy when it comes to helping a child look at the world and all of its possibilities. What better way than through the reading of good books? A gifted writer can create a world that is so real, the reader joins in the experiences of the characters and learns lessons that he may take with him as he faces challenges and opportunities of his own. When my children were in the 7-13 year old range, we read every book we could find with a nature/survival theme. Sign of the Beaver, Tracker, Indian Captive, and My Side of the Mountain are a few that we loved. I feel certain the kids would have been fine had I turned them out into the woods for a week…in fact, they begged me to do just that! Such an appreciation of nature and of man’s ingenuity was fostered in them during that time.
We became absorbed by many other topics throughout the years of our read-aloud journey, and now that the kids are older, I sometimes see evidence of what we learned in their actions and choices. So, my challenge to you, parents, is to find out what captures your child’s interest and read about it! Read until his imagination is filled with possibilities. Then just sit back and wait for the music to begin.