There are a lot of things that don’t come naturally for me as a parent: housekeeping, discipline, creating routines, establishing healthy boundaries, I could go on… But one thing that does come naturally, only because it is a passion of my own, is sharing a love for reading with my children.
As a young girl, I enjoyed immersing myself in other worlds filled with vibrant characters, colorful scenes and vivid images that would linger in my dreams at night. Now, as a mom, I get to enter that world with my kids as we snuggle together and read at bedtime.
What to Look for in a Book
When it comes to selecting books for my children, I have found that some are better than others at inspiring the virtues we value as a family. These virtues include, but are not limited to, the following: a love of beauty, goodness, courage, perseverance, patience, kindness, forgiveness, an appreciation of nature and especially, a reverence for God.
Choosing books with high quality illustrations also helps to further expand their little imaginations.
After numerous trips to the library and culling through lots of books of mediocre quality, here are some of the ones we keep coming back to again and again (and should probably just go ahead and buy them off Amazon!):
1. Robin Hood – Daniel San Souci
This adventurous story of Robin Hood is a HUGE hit with my 5 year old thrill-seeking, adventure-loving boy. From the archery contest to the final scene, his eyes light up every time we read this.
2. The Children’s Book of Virtues – William J. Bennett
Note: I initially felt this was a little ‘high level’ for my 4 and 5 year old. But I was amazed how they asked for certain stories again and again. Our favorites: The Little Hero of Holland, St. George and the Dragon, and The Stars in the Sky.
Tip: On a first read-through, I tend to paraphrase or skip paragraphs that are exceptionally long, but focus on the basic storyline to keep them engaged. The second time I read through, I include a little more of the detail and add more with each reading, until I am reading the entire story.
3. Beowulf – James Rumford
Note: This is a classic tale that I think every kid should benefit from reading, but it has some graphic/gory detail of flesh ripping and dead bodies lying around. My daughter would have nightmares if I read this to her at this age (4). My son, on the other hand, is inspired by the bravery and perseverance of Beowulf.
4. The Clown of God – Tomie DePaola
Note: The protagonist dies at the end of this story, so use discernment about whether your child can handle that. But it is a charming tale of grace, redemption and a touch of humor.
5. Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett
Jan Brett is an author/illustrator who writes fun little tales about animals in most of her books. My kids are animal-lovers, so these are a hit! Other favorites by her: The Mittens and The Hat.
6. The Alfie Series by Shirley Hughes
Shirley Hughes is a British author with beautiful illustrations and adorable, sweet stories of fun adventures. Our favorites are: Camping, Bonting (the story of a pet rock), and The Shop (all included in the book above “The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook”). My daughter also loves the Bobo series, especially Bobo Goes to School. Sweet, fun, innocent stories your kids will love.
7. The Lion and The Mouse – Jerry Pinkney (illustrator)
This is one of my daughter’s absolute favorites. And what’s so funny: it doesn’t have any words! I am not usually a fan of books with no words, but the illustrations are so captivating, the pictures say it all.
8. William Tell – Margaret Early
This is a story of bravery and courage involving a young boy and his father standing up to a mean ruler. Note: there is some suspense and death that could be scary for a certain children. Use discernment.
I don’t know how I missed this one as a child, but I did. So when we checked it out, that first night we started it, we couldn’t stop. A simple tale about an orphaned family who lives in a boxcar. Some parents may feel that the initial opening that mentions their parents being dead is disturbing, but I think the way it is presented as a sidenote makes it appropriate for most children.
10. Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder