Every year in MoDG, there is a “dreadfully hard” book. It’s taken me years to get a handle on WHY it’s there. Especially with all the talk about developmental levels and not introducing books to early so as to ruin them. So what’s up with the “dreadfully hard” book each year?
As I understand it right now, there are two kinds of “advanced” books:
One kind is advanced ideas. Stories with themes and commentary on society. Levels of meaning. These are NOT appropriate for anyone who hasn’t reached a particular developmental level, since they won’t hear all the levels and it will seem uber boring. It’s like getting on the rides at the amusement park, nothing you can do will make getting taller happen faster. You can’t “practice” being taller. That is how it is with developmental levels. If the kid isn’t 13-ish, he can’t analyze. It is what it is.
The other kind is advanced language patterns. A concrete story, told in difficult language, stretches the child’s ear without asking him to do mental gymnastics that haven’t “hooked up” yet. Hard language, if the material is still concrete, is great exercise.
Growing up in the Church of Christ (now Catholic since 2002), we read a LOT of old language patterns. I hadn’t realized until recently how good that was for my ear to hear the same Bible stories over and over from all different translations of the Bible. They read to us from King James, NIV, New American Standard (which preserved a lot of the original word order, so was still challenging). In any Sunday School class, three or more translations would be read aloud. “Who has the NIV? KJV? Read us that one.”
And as CoC churches are interested in replicating 1st century Christianity, there are a lot of ancient text references floating around in any discussion. “But the Greek here means _____.” In many modern Churches of Christ, there are at least a few folks that have Greek or Hebrew interlinear translations on their lap.
So our school does intentionally what happened to my ears by virtue of the culture of my upbringing. Most years, there is something “dreadfully hard” that our school cheerfully calls a “stretch text.” This is the text that regardless of how great your child is as a reader, you probably need to read aloud. Not for content, but for the language patterns.