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simplest story in the volume, with sufficient deliberation to be understood, in a clear, pleasing, cheerful tone of voice. At the end of every third or fourth period she should pause, for the child's comments or questions; or to give him explanations if she see him distressed or puzzled. A good-natured child often displays great feeling on these occasions, and sympathizes with all his heart in the joys and sorrows of the hero of the tale. It is not prudent to excite his sorrow too often, nor should he ever be caressed for such amiable dispositions. The modesty of virtuous feeling in uncorrupted natures invariably seeks to elude observation. A tender child, of even three years of age, will turn away his head to hide the tears which spring into his eyes, on seeing the pretty redbreast he had two or three times fed, frozen to death in the
A very fine little girl, the daughter of J. E., Esq., of four years old, shed many tears on hearing the ballad of The Babes in the Wood read to her ; but she did not boast of her grief: her head was turned aside, and the tears were silently and privately dried with a corner of her frock, as her aunt went on with the story. This retirement, this delicacy will always exist, where artlessness and simplicity are preserved.
But never can we hope to preserve these qualities in purity, unless a steady and general attention to cultivate such charming blossoms of sweetness as they put forth be our constant aim. Sympathy is a gracious feeling of our nature, and is so agreeable, even though it may for the moment raise a gentle sorrow, that it is in itself a reward for its own transient pain.
Children should never be praised for these feelings, nor should we ever presume to tear away the veil of modest nature, and force them to exhibit her finest feelings to the gaze of even an admiring mother. Her countenance need but express calm satisfaction when the child turns round and ventures to seek it. When his tears, or the agitation of his sensibility, is visible, he is immediately in distress for shelter, and the mother's eye should be artlessly but instantly withdrawn from him. She may look very earnestly at a picture, or read to herself, as if led away by the interest of the subject, but in reality to give her child an opportunity for regaining some composure, which he must do before he can find voice to request her to
This short pause she should the more readily make, if she have reason to think her little one possessed of a sensibility too deep, and too easily roused by trifles. In this case it would be well to read or recite tales of a more mirthful cast.
In the first six or eight years of life, every thing should tend to use which is offered to the senses and the faculties; every thing that children hear, see, or learn, should be for use. Every tale they read, or that is read to them, should have a moral; and that which the mother may purchase in which she cannot find one, should be committed without ceremony to the flames.
Thus the body of morality which has been given to childhood in practice, is again presented to him in a most engaging form by fiction. Many little tales there are for children, which convey the most beautiful and touching lessons of virtue to the heart, through
their understandings and memories; and which are the more valuable as they work unseen, and teach unsuspectedly. It is astonishing to us that so great an interest can be excited by such tame performances, yet with some of the plain and simplest stories children are so delighted, that before they can read a letter themselves, they will carry the book with them for days and weeks together to all parts of the house and grounds, and will even put it under their pillow at night.* They will ask every person with whom they are walking to read a bit, and will be as charmed with Miss Jane or Master Harry, the hero and heroine, on hearing their history for the tenth time, as they were the first ; nay, perhaps more so, because many terms are cleared up to them, and many expressions are grown familiar and easy, which in the beginning puzzled them not a little.
But the most valuable fruits of reading are the questions and remarks to which it gives rise. He starts the characteristic quality to view. Every child
* The little daughter of Mrs. M-, a fine intelligent child, used last year, when I saw her, to carry an old story book from room to room, under her arm; repeat, for her own amusement, great part of a favourite story, and opening it at the right place, as she could not read herself, ask any friend to read the rest, to which she listened with the most eager attention. I know also another remarkably clever child, who at three years of age was very fond of a little book, which, when it was read to her by her friends, was purposely blundered orer; a word here and there being misplaced. She invariably called out very loudly that that was not right, and supplied the exact word herself without hesitation. Children are much more disposed to love than dislike books, if books are not made disagreeable to them.
will survey the personages of the tale with a reference to himself. Thus one and the same hero shall strike upon the minds of twenty different children in twenty distinct ways. How important, then, is it to gather up these fragments, that the mother may find the bias of her child's nature, the peculiarities of his future character. Here, as on other occasions, the golden rule is to keep back her own thoughts and words, that his may advance. The genuine ideas and opinions of childhood come forward with timidity, like the salutes of the winter robins: we should meet them gently and cautiously, or they will fly away. It should be an invariable maxim with every mother, to consider one native genuine idea of her child, drawn fresh and unsolicited from him, as worth a hundred of any she may
take from her own mind and offer to his ; for, we may remember, an idea is not a fact. If the child is puzzled by doubts or ignorance, she may and ought to help him ; but her ideas and opinions, she will also recollect, are very artificial, and very little founded in nature; hence her child's mind is, as it were, chequered and distorted, rather than enlarged by them; more especially, too, if her opinions are warped by prejudice, and her ideas contracted through want of culture. The principal art of a good instructor is not to give the idea, but the germs from which the idea will spontaneously arise ; as a nice observer of character will be more apt to look, and Jisten, than to talk, without heeding inquiry or remark which is offered in return.
The first question asked by a child who reads, or is read to, is this : “ Mamma, was it a real little girl or
boy that did or said so ?" Which, in other words, means, is it truth or fiction that I am interested about?* Now the mother has either to reply in the affirmative or negative. It is an awkward thing to tell a little child that the tale is'a “make believe" (as the infant term is) performance, because the respect which he has borne it is thereby greatly diminished ; though he may still be much amused and improved by the story and moral.t But if it be not true, a mother, it is to be hoped, would not dare to utter a falsehood. She may, however, take a middle course, and say, “I cannot tell, for certain, whether this story be true or not, because I never heard; but I think it might be, for I have known a little girl or boy who behaved very much like him or her in the tale.” The mother can, of course, only make the comparison when the simplicity and probability of the tale admit of her doing so.
Narrations, however, of which it seems astonishing that there are so few taken from history, sacred and profane, and general geography of nations, fall
* It secms a pity that the expression “ telling a story" should be applied equally to the relation of amusing and instructive fictitious adventures, and the uttering of a shameful falsehood. “ A story teller" is either a liar, or a person of good memory, or pleasant invention, who recites his tales.
+ Three or four little children at play will take upon themselves the character of as many grown persons; and the eldest child, or he who has most energy, and assumes the authority, will issue his commands to his obedient little votaries thus : “ You make believe to be mamma, and I will make believe to be papa, and you shall be my aunt,” and so on.