Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage was not an easy choice for our Civil War study. I first read the book in graduate school and in graduate school you never read a book without completely deconstructing every sentence. This being said, I could not visualize the book as a good read aloud for my nine year old and possibly my six year old -- way too much allusion, impressionistic daubing of words, too much symbolism. I pulled the book off the shelf after a discussion at The Denim Jumper and read it again. It was a good read and I enjoyed just reading and noticing. Then, I struggled with the thought of reading it, not studying it, with my children and finally decided it was certainly a worthwhile book, possibly the best book for the topic, and I felt I could read it without pulling out my notes and "teaching the book." (This is my most difficult home school mom job.) I felt they could enjoy and learn from the book at the story level.

We read the book, a couple or three chapters a day, and guess what? My children noticed many of the literary devices even without my babble! My son, early on, said, "Why do they call Henry the youth so much?" and "Why don't many of the other soldiers have names?" I asked what he thought and he said he guessed Henry felt lonely and didn't know anybody and they didn't know him. My son also noticed the recurrence of the color red and the monster motif. My daughter was able to keep up with the story line and was concerned about Henry getting back home. They also learned about the reality of war. They learned Henry was lucky to get out alive.

Yes, I had to bite the pages of the book in order not to point out every single clue leading to a deeper understanding of the writing, but I learned to be quiet and let the book speak.

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