The main reason we had lots of time to read was because we homeschooled our four boys during those formative years. None of our children went to school or did much academic work at all until they were ready for middle school (or for no school at all in the case of our second son). We had the ability to do that- it’s not for everyone, but it helps with the reading, which I think is the most important thing in giving a child a love of learning and respect for the opinions of those both alive and long gone. It also helps that I really love to read aloud and can read with energy and considerable speed. Since I don't like to be bored any more than my children do, the books we read were those I loved and wanted to reread or those that I had an interest in reading for the first time. Thus, my younger children haven't necessarily gotten all of the same books as the older ones. In all things, such as museum trips or vacations, it is always best if the parents’ interests guide those of the children. If I take them to a museum or to the opera, it’s because it’s something my wife and I are doing that we want our children to share in, not an activity focused on them. They see these things (reading, theater, historic houses, the Virginia countryside) as important in themselves, not as part of any educational program.
Stephen is in seventh grade. Veritas has been very valuable for him, for a number of reasons. I still manage to give him a lot of literature by rewarding him, if possible, with reading aloud when he has finished his homework- even if it is very late. We are reading Bevis, the Story of a Boy- a rather rare and very early book of boys’ do-it-yourself life in the country- the inspiration for Arthur Ransome (The Swallows and Amazons- the best English adventure series) and Kenneth Graham (the unmatched Wind in the Willows) in much the same way that George MacDonald was an inspiration for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. (Another book that inspired numerous children's writers is Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat.) We are also reading (I like to cycle in and out as it occurs to us) Hereward the Wake by Kingsley, which as I said before, has turned out to be a really good bit of literature. We also read short stories like those of Saki, Conan Doyle, and P. G. Wodehouse and a certain amount of poetry as a family at regular intervals.
Friday and Saturday nights can be a big book nights. If you throw away your television (assuming that you still have one) it will help immensely- there are no really good excuses for having one at all and several good reasons for not having one. The resulting "boredom" will help propel books into the void.
I am sure I have overdone the advice, but, as usual, I found the writing up of what we do to be helpful in understanding it myself. Some of the Freddy the Pig books are in print- others may be hard to find- the downtown RPL has most of them in the same copies that I read as a child.
If your family would like to see how we do it we would love to have you over for supper and a read some weekend.
All the best,