When my 10-year-old student found out that Beth died, Jo refused to marry Laurie, and then just a few years later Amy swooped in to marry Laurie herself, the waterworks came a flowin’. See, we were reading Little Women: one the greatest classic novels ever written, and a requirement for young girls making their way towards womanhood. In the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, Little Women makes its mark on young girls today, even though it was written almost 150 years ago.
Little Women is a tale of four sisters, each personally navigating their own destiny with the intuitive guidance of their Marmie. The characters are bright, funny, and layered with complex emotions of the world outside their attic playhouse windows. Together they experience joy, fear, friendship, loss, love, pain, and internal triumph over struggles with gender norms and social status. It was a time when educating a woman was secondary to husband-hunting and learning how to keep home. This book, however, bucked tradition, and instead encouraged young girls to make their studies a priority, an ideal that gave the main character, Jo, permission to become lost in the art of the written word– a nod to the author’s own life.
There’s something almost cathartic about reading a book written long before technology took over. Now, I’m a fan of my gadgets just as much as the next but I didn’t grow up with information overload via iPads and cell phones. When my students find out that fact, oh the gasps of horror that wash over them followed by looks of pity as if to say, “You poor, poor Tutor. How did you ever survive?” Balance, my friends. It’s all about balance.
I ask all of my students to incorporate some classic literature into their nightly reading because I think somewhere along the way of trying to make Young Adult books interesting with vampires, alternate worlds, and magical potions we’ve overlooked the simplicity of writing an everyday, complex character with everyday, complex relationships. Nothing blows up in Little Women, except for Jo’s temper. Yet, my student came to me emotionally distraught over Jo’s choices. That’s a true testament to a story that will stand the test of time because it appeals to our most deepest emotions.
Little Women is one of my favorite stories because it pulls at my heartstrings and reminds me of the importance of family, friends, love, and laughter. It will most certainly continue to be a staple of sisterhood and an insight into the bonds of those relationships.
So don’t be alarmed when your child comes crying to you about Beth’s death, Pollyanna’s accident, or Anne’s initial refusal to marry Gil. Crying means that they’re invested in the thought-provoking, ethereal world of classic literature.
A few classics that will make your kids cry:
- A Little Princess
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- Anne of Green Gables
- Charlotte’s Web
- Great Expectations
- Little Women
- Oliver Twist
- Pride and Prejudice
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Call of the Wild
- The Diary of Anne Frank
- The Giving Tree
- The Grapes of Wrath
- The Velveteen Rabbit
Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com