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Classical Reading Program

Updated on October 9, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

What exactly is a classical reading program? You might have heard it referenced through an educational system such as homeschooling. Is it just reading what someone has called a classic? Is it reading works from hundreds of years? A classical reading program is not what most people imagine. It is a program that stimulates the mind.

Classical Education

A classical education is one that makes the mind think deeper. Instead of just remembering names and dates about events, classical learning prompts the student to ask “why?” and “how?” A classical reading program is one that has a child reading and thinking beyond the story. It explores logic, teaches the basics of our language to understand it better, and even explores debate and rhetoric.


Classical reading programs expose your child to works of literature that are contemporary and “classical”. The programs are designed to get children thinking and pondering what they read. Enjoying the story is important, but understanding the story is just as important. “Why did the character act that way?” “What would make someone do these things?” Reading between the lines, exploring characters, and understanding scenarios is asked of the child.

There are various classical reading programs available for your children. They will have your children reading Shakespeare and Plato in grades six through eight as they read books written in the last ten years and connecting them. Exposure to classical literature will have your child’s mind expanding and growing.

What advantages does your child have by having a classical reading program? They are exposed to great writers, prompted to think deeper, begin to understand and complete logic problems, master rhetoric, and learn to use their minds that will take them far in life. Classical reading programs are wonderful tools in your child’s education.

Attributes of Classical Education

What makes up a classical education? It is not the education most people receive today. The focus on a classical education is one designed to make someone able to reason and interact with nearly anyone. It teaches them logic, rhetoric, and problem solving. A classical education looks at more than just spelling a word. It shows the student where it came from and how to decipher what a word means by learning Latin and Greek which form the basis of so much of our language.

Think of it as the basis for understanding the world around you and for conquering it.Through a classical education, children are given the chance to lead instead of being led. The key points to a classical education typically are:

- Study of Latin - mainly to understand the English language better.

- Logic - to encourage self-thinking and reasoning

- Rhetoric - how to talk in a way that is clear and precise as well as how to pull information and communicate it clearly.

- Philosophy - encourages students to think outside the box.

What to Read?

What should you put on your reading list? It can depend greatly on the age you are looking at. Middle school aged children might struggle with college level pieces. I've pulled from various places a list of suggestions for each grade level. These are not set in stone. Every child is different. Even if you are wanting to do this as an adult, you can jump from level to level. Go with the abilities of the reader.

Setting Yours Up

If you are still interested in setting up a classical reading problem, you might be wondering how to get yours set up. First off, access your situation.

Are your children in public or private schools, or are they homeschooled? If they are being taught in a traditional school, check their reading lists so you don't overlap and try to work with their program while expanding your child's education. If they are homeschooled, you have free reign to decide on what they are learning.

Now consider their age and abilities. Just because Junior is 10 years old doesn't mean he has to study at the 4th grade level. Maybe in reading he is more a third grade level or even as high as ninth grade. Every child is different. It doesn't matter what the guidelines say. Work with your child on where they are right now. If the traditional school keeps in his grade level when he obviously is not in the right place, then you can teach him outside the school to give him the complete education he needs.

Keep in mind that with any program you can be flexible. If your child is a science lover, pull in more of the sciences. Pull in contemporary books as well. Don't just stick with the list and never deviate. Follow what your child likes. You'll more success that way.

Pros and Cons

There is no perfect reading program or educational curriculum. Success varies based on students, needs, and parents. You might even find that what works for child one might not work with child two. So I am not saying this is the prefect program for everyone. But it might be a program for you.


- Better grasp of learning and thinking. Instead of just repeating what you learn, the child is taught how think on their own.

- Exposure to the classics at an earlier age. I think too often children are exposed too late in life which makes them more unappreciative of them.

- Flexible. While there are many programs out there based on classical learning, you don't have to be rigid with it. Go with the flow of your child's abilities and interests.


- More Parent/Teacher hands on - As this is more intense than most programs, you might find that the student needs more attention to help them. Yes, much of it can be done on their own, but it is a different approach than what is traditionally done. So in the early part of implementing a classical reading program, you might have to be there with them more.

- Can be more religious based. This can be a pro as well, depending on your acceptance of religion within the school work. Not all reading is religion oriented, but some are. Since this is flexible, you can pick which ones to bring into your program and which ones to keep out.

- Focus on Classics. - This sounds contradictory, but some people don't like the fact that the books are usually those written generations ago. It is true that more contemporary books are not usually in the reading program, but that doesn't mean you can't bring them in yourself. You can see what books are comparable and use them.


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