A Mama friend recently asked me to recommend some books for her fifth-grade daughter (who is reading at a ninth-grade level, but the teachers apparently want her to stick with fifth-grade books, which sounds to me like some sort of crime against learning, if not against humanity, but never mind.)
The number one thing that fostered my interest in reading, as a child, was something that is not (I’m sorry to say) very practical for the modern family. And that was this:
We didn’t have a television in the house. Ever. From the time I was born, until I went off to college.
This arrangement posed some minor problems, of course. Whenever we went to a friend’s house, we kids would park ourselves in front of their TV and stare, slack-jawed, as though it were a five-headed creature from another planet. We absolutely could not be pried away from it, for love or money or new bicycles or anything.
The trade-off at home was amazing, though. My brothers and I read and read and read until our eyes went bad, and then we got glasses and kept right on reading. On Saturdays, or during the summer, we sometimes spent all day reading. We developed a love of books that is ferocious to this day.
My own boys have a TV in the house – that’s non-negotiable to my husband, I’m afraid – but I’m hoping they will love books, too. And I am planning to introduce them to some of my childhood favorites, when they are old enough.
Below is a list of some of the stories I loved the most when I was between the third and ninth grades, and if you’re looking for some books for your kids, you can scarcely go wrong with any of these. Most of them are considered classics, and are still in print; the others could easily be found on-line at establishments like Powell’s.
(The nice thing about series books – besides their being very lucrative for the authors, of course – is that kids get hooked on the characters or stories, which makes them more eager to go back to the library and get the next title in the series.)
Pippi Longstocking series, by Astrid Lindgren
Amelia Bedelia series, by Peggy Parish
Ramona the Pest series, by Beverly Cleary
Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, by Betty MacDonald
The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis
The Black Stallion series, by Walter Farley
The Wizard of Oz series, by L. Frank Baum (yes, there is a whole, terrific series of these)
Anne of Green Gables series, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Littles series, by John Peterson
The Five Little Peppers series, by Margaret Sidney
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
Stuart Little, by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
The Gifts of the Child Christ, volumes I & II, by George MacDonald
Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss
The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
We owned many other classics, including compilations of Tales of The Arabian Nights (which were a tad ghastly, but wonderful) and Tales From Shakespeare. Such books are an excellent way to introduce those beautiful stories to children.
Giving us access to literature was the best thing our parents did for my brothers and me, next to introducing us to God.
I’m sure my list has left out quite a few great books. What are some of those you loved most, as a child – the ones you want to introduce to your kids? And let me know about any great children’s books from the last 25 years. I am not up-to-date on those!