Teaching My Baby To Read

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Inspired by Stanford’s SLE Program Part 2: A Reading List for Children

(Please note that this post has no official affiliation in any way shape or form with Stanford University. I am however, a Stanford and SLE alumna.)

In college I spent my first year at Stanford in the Structured Liberal Education program, which is perhaps the most rigorous curriculum in Classical Education a freshman can take. At 9 units a quarter, SLE is a year-long course where students immerse themselves in literature, philosophy, art, and the humanities. Ninety freshmen live in the same residence hall, eat dinner three times a week with their professors, write a ten page paper a week, and have a private SLE writing tutor to critique their work. There is even a resident SLE tutor to assist in the evening hours. At Stanford, “SLEeezers” are nerds among nerds!

This is the “SLE Inspired” reading list I’ve created for Bruce (age 6.5) that is inspired by the Winter syllabus from my freshman year in SLE. (For the Fall List, please see here.)  I plan to read the books one by one with Bruce at bedtime, so that we can thoroughly discuss them over the next six months. In the future, I will review each book separately, so that I can share my thoughts on whether or not it is worthwhile checking out for your little one too. Some of these books I have purchased, and some we will check out from the library.  I’d like to create a movie list too, but haven’t thought of any titles yet.  I welcome your suggestions!

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

Texts for Children:

(An incomplete picture because they haven’t all arrived in the mail yet.)

The Actual 2012 SLE Booklist for Stanford Students:

  • Utopia, Moore
  • Prince, Machiavelli
  • Adventures in Unknown Interior of America, Devaca
  • Rameau’s Nephew & Other Works, Diderot
  • Don Quixote (New Trans Grossman), Cervantes
  • Confessions (Trans Pine-Coffin), Augustine
  • Rumi: Swallowing the Sun, Lewis
  • Discourse on Method & Meditations etc., Descartes
  • Divine Comedy (V1:Inferno), Dante
  • Freedom of a Christian, Luther
  • Interesting Narrative etc., Equiano
  • Second Treatise of Government, Locke

Additional Winter Quarter Texts from When I was in SLE:

  • The Decameron, Boccaccio
  • The Koran
  • The Analects of Confucius

Initial Thoughts 11/10/11:

The Winter SLE book list is very challenging to begin with, but finding kiddie versions of all of the texts took me a lot of effort and thought. Machiavelli for children? —Artemis Fowl. John Locke for children? —- Disc 4 of Story of the World #3. I was unable to think of anything that could recreate Dante for children. Thinking about nine circles of Hell really isn’t appropriate for kids, although I often think about the concept of purgatory while I’m at Chucky Cheese’s. The Candlewick edition of Cervantes looks amazing. I’m holding this one back for a Christmas present.

Looking at this picture brings to mind the question, What the heck am I thinking? Even though all of these books are for kids it seems like a motley and bizarre grouping of children’s literature. These are not your average books from a Scholastic book order. But maybe, just maybe therein lays the magic. This is a group of thoughts and ideas that is going to take regular bedtime read aloud to a whole new level of conversation. Let the reading begin!


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