One of our favorite evening pastimes has always been reading aloud. In the old country, when I could do it in German, I would read what amounted eventually to a small library, while the family would be knitting, darning, or whittling. Among the books were historical novels, which led quite naturally into talking and discussing the period of that time; short stories; and one or the other of the great novels of world literature. Stevenson’s Treasure Island , Kipling’s Kim and, of course, his Mowgli Stories delighted the younger listeners. Such readings would go on over several weeks; we would hurry from supper into the library and settle around the fireplace for a few hours’ intense enjoyment of one of the world’s literary masterpieces. (In this way a great many Christmas gifts got finished, too.) Quite apart from acquainting us with the best works of the world’s great writers, it cannot be stressed enough that reading as a group is altogether different from reading for oneself.
Family reading provides another valuable thing in great danger of dropping out of our lives — the ability to form an opinion and state it — which is the very essence of group discussion. As the children grow up, the books will change in character. There will be biographies of saints, books on the spiritual life, and books of philosophical character. The discussions that grow quite naturally from our readings may later be long to our children’s most cherished memories.
[Maria Trapp, Around the Year with the Trapp Family]