Our family consists of 5 tiny people who enjoy books and consume literature as if it truly sustained their lives and well-being. We blaze through audiobooks, have stacks and stacks of children’s books beside every bed in the house, and books litter the floor and flat spaces of our house like sprinkles on a celebratory cupcake.
Caregivers constantly tell me how much they’re surprised at how all of my children love books so much and that it’s basically all they spent doing with my children.
We read the unabridged version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when our oldest were just 4 and 6; I didn’t think they would be able to follow well or get much out of it, but they were captivated.
It opened my eyes to the fact that our children may not have robust, collegiate vocabularies or experiences with many of the things certain literature discusses, but it doesn’t mean they cannot get anything out of it. And there is absolutely value in introducing a few more vigorous or full-bodied books in the mix of what even the youngest among us are ingesting.
Books worth placing on a family library shelf that aren’t necessarily classics
In the last several years I have started shifting away from the public library more and more while thoughtfully curating a home library and book collection that feeds my children’s minds well. It’s like going to a buffet and having a smorgasbord of both good and bad options to eat (usually bypassing the salad) vs having a family feast of delicious and nutritious food like a Thanksgiving dinner. I will always want the feast.
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A Place to Hang the Moon
Set in WWII England, a set of orphans moves to the country with other wartime reugees in search of a forever family. It is heartwarming and very real-to-life. This book is genuinely so well-written that it is captivating from both a story standpoint and from a living-literature view. It does such a great job at introducing children to new-to-them concepts while weaving the explanation into the text.
Sweet Home Alaska
Another modern book marvel in my opinion is Sweet Home Alaska. It weaves together a great historic fiction story with real life events and occurrences when families went to Alaska to settle with their own homesteads. All of my children were absolutely crushed when the book was over, even the 3 year old.
This book I believe borders on being Modern vs a Classic. I think many know about the title but maybe haven’t actually read it. It is worth listening to the audiobook too; I rarely get goosebumps in books, but the narration of the race scene near the end was one of the best book experiences almost any of us have ever had.
Again, I am not sure if these fit under classics or not, but they are so cute and packed with information that I could not pass up his wonderful stories. Animals come to life and have interpersonal relationships with one another, but the most captivating and compelling part of the books is that each animal also interacts with the others as that animals would. Children pick up on so many fun animals facts from what feels like a fairy tale or fable. They are read over and over in my home and often on repeat as audiobooks too.
The Green Ember Series
This series of books was a huge hit with my second child, the reluctant reader. It was the first series that I saw her absolutely devour. She especially loved the display of courage, bravery, and fighting for what was right as themes throughout the books.
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While many adults have seen the movies, the books have a more light-hearted feel to them than the dark theatrical shows. A bit of fantasy and a bit of humor, this book is one where I often hear my children quoting or singing parts of it, meaning it has left a true and lasting impression.
Peter Nimble & Sophie Squire
These two books go hand in hand with each other. Peter Nimble is a tale of adventure and courage while finding his way in life and making better decisions. Sophie Squire is similarly a book full of adventure and bravery. The two are stand-alone books but share characters.
Misty of Chincoteague (+ Series)
Marguerite Henry was a master author especially when it came to horses. This entire series is heartwarming and so informative when talking about horses in general. They are historic fiction books and absolutely must-reads in my opinion.
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
I only chose one other Marguerite Henry book to add to this list, but we have over half of the literature she ever wrote on our shelves. The reason this title won out over others is because it traces some of the early colonial history in America and the introduction of the Morgan Horse, making it an American treasure.
The Wingfeather Saga
These books are full of adventure and fantasy and a great introduction for children around the age of 10 into worlds similar to those created by C.S. Lewis or Tolkein that are longer than the average novel. There is a subtle Biblical/Gospel allegory component to it as well.
My Side of the Mountain (+ Series)
This trilogy is inspiring in that it teaches a love for nature, the outdoors, and wildlife. We paired it with a North American Bird unit study and read them again during a Botany and Foraging homeschool unit study. There is adventure, but it’s also a wholesome story.
Where the Red Fern Grows
Growing u p in Oklahoma, I read this in 2nd grade as did I think everyone else in the state. It is heart-wrenching and there’s a part that we contemplated skipping for our children; however, it is true to life that there are accidents, hardships, and loss. It was a great opportunity to thoughtfully dive into those topics as a family.
A Nest for Celeste
This is a book of friendship and loyalty, two very important topics to introduce our children to. My oldest enjoyed that it was a tale of a mouse making baskets and foraging for food and that there aren’t really any other books like it that she has read.
Mysterious Benedict Society
These are robust books full of adventure, mystery, and riddles. The puzzle element to the books keeps children engaged, especially those learning to read longer books. They are stories of both courage, skill, and teamwork. They are expecially great as audiobooks in long family car rides!
What an amazing story about community, building trust, and learning to forage for natural medicine. It’s like no other book i can think of and we all enjoyed it. My children are living on a farm so there are certain experiences that they have encountered that aren’t so normal for the average child. That being said I have seen it recommended for kids 11 or 12 and up. All of mine 4-10 did fine though; it’s dependent on life experiences though.
James Harriot’s Treasury for Children
Especially for animal lovers, there are such heart-warming tales from the UK countryside. Jame Harriot was a traveling vet and spent time writing his experiences into cute and engaging stories and his treasury is a beautiful addition to any family library of all ages.
Sign of the Beaver
This is another book of historic fiction set in Maine. We loves the story of both survivalism and relationship building between cultures. There was a theme of persistence too that we often talked about as family while reading. It was especially exciting to trace the journey from knowing nothing and being dropped in the woods to having a full set of skills, knowledge, and appreciation of the wilderness he had come to know.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!