I still have fond memories of my great-grandpa, Warren, reciting endless amounts of poetry to my siblings and I. Sitting around a warm fire on a cold dreary night, he could entertain us for hours with his recitations. He gave credit to his mother, who was a school teacher, for making he and his siblings practice reciting while they cleaned up the kitchen. (No dishwasher resulted in an amazing memory at 90 years old!)
As you already know, children have amazing memories. Their minds are like sponges, soaking everything up… both the good and the bad.
I have started to teach my almost 2-year-old daughter the 10 commandments. As expected, she has picked it up extremely fast. (On a funny side note, one time when I asked her what the first commandment was, she said, “You shall have no other god’s before Momma.”) We have also been listening to Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart cd’s which is a great way to remember Scripture verses. The cd’s have not only been beneficial to my daughter, but for me as well!
There are many proven benefits to our brains when we engage in memory learning. In some ways, your brain is no different than the rest of your body. If you want to strengthen your biceps, what do you do? You do specific exercises that will work the bicep muscles such as bicep curls.
The same is true for your brain. If you want to strengthen your brain’s ability to remember, memorization is a great exercise to accomplish just that. The brain has to be worked to be strengthened.
Today’s children have the attention of a “circus monkey” as we say in our family. In other words, our attention spans are extremely short. Staring at computer or TV screens, which consume hours and hours of the majority of children’s days doesn’t make the brain work.
When we engage our children in memorization work we are helping them not only strengthen and train their brains, but we are teaching them discipline and hard work as well. Plus, why not give our kids the other benefits of memorizing historical writings, Bible verses, or poems which include training the brain to focus as well as to just plain old remember things. (Again, memorization for the brain is like pushups for your arms and abs.) As I mentioned earlier with the example of my great-grandpa, memorization also helps delay cognitive decline that unfortunately occurs as we get older.
In the introduction to her “Poems Every Child Should Know”, author Mary Burt said, “There is a duty, even there; for every American citizen ought to know the great national songs that keep alive the spirit of patriotism. Children should build for their future—and get, while they are children, what only the fresh imagination of the child can assimilate. They should store up an untold wealth of heroic sentiment; they should acquire the habit of carrying a literary quality in their conversation; they should carry a heart full of the fresh and delightful associations and memories connected with poetry hours to brighten mature years. They should develop their memories while they have memories to develop.”
Last Christmas, my nieces and nephews, ranging from ages 8-years old to 3-years-old memorized Scripture passages relevant to the season we were celebrating. Before we opened gifts, these youngsters stood up in front of everyone and recited their appointed passages that they had memorized. It was impressive to listen to these young kids recite verse after verse of Scripture!
My challenge to you, parents and grandparents, is to set specific goals with your children in regards to memorization this summer and beyond. Don’t let your own tiredness, dare I even say, laziness, lack of time or child’s complaint of its “too hard” deter you from helping them train their brains through memorization.
Set a goal and reward your children when they accomplish it! Trust me, you won’t regret the work you and your children put in together.
Though the list is endless of what you may want your child to memorize, here are a few ideas that can help you get started!
- The Books of the Bible
- A Psalm. (Psalm 1 is a great one to start with)
- Verses in Proverbs. (Could be by chapter or by topic)
- The 10 Commandments
- The Apostle’s Creed
- Shorter Catechism
- New England Primer’s Alphabet Lessons
- Sir Francis Drake’s Prayer
- The Preamble of the Constitution
- The Bill of Rights
- Presidents of the United States
- States and Capitals
- “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson
- “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- “Father, We Thank You” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “A Bird Came Down” by Emily Dickinson