1.06.2014

23 Books You Don't Want to Miss Reading with Your Children



Some home educators love the thrill of creating their own curricula totally from scratch, or putting together a mix-and-match of several different curriculum companies...

I am not one of those home educators.

I have volumes of awe and respect for the parents who have the desire and take the time to develop and/or piecemeal their own curricula! If you've been reading along for any length of time here, you may have caught my numerous references to Sonlight Curriculum. Their pre-selected curriculum and scheduled Instructor's Guide is a perfect match for our family in this season of life!

{note: except where expressly noted, there are no affiliate links in this post} 

One of the zillion things I love about Sonlight is the incredible titles they include in each core. Many are classics but there have been a few every year so that I am confident that I NEVER would have picked out on my own to read with my children. They either look too 'old' for my girls, or the content does not interest me at all, or the subject matter is questionable.

And in five years and well over a hundred books later - there has been only one book that my girls did not care for. We have thoroughly enjoyed every other book we've read. Some have made us cry; some have been the catalyst for amazingly profound discussions; some have had us in stitches. I want to share the books that I would not have picked out for my daughters had I planned the curriculum myself, and the reasons why they've become a dear part of our home library.

Preschool (ages 3/4)
The Bee Tree, by Patricia Polacco. A sweet & adventurous story and wonderful lesson, passed down from a grandfather to his granddaughter. I have a soft spot for multi-generational stories. The illustrations are lovely, as well.



A First Book of Fairy Tales, retold by Mary Hoffman. To be honest, I don't care for fairy tales (it's not a spiritual reason - merely personal preference!). And this book is not one that I necessarily like, but my daughters all loved hearing the stories over. and over. and over (and still do!). I've seen their creative play soar, in part due to the variety of tales in the book (some are pretty standard, like Cinderella, but there are unfamiliar tales, too). I did find that I had to reword a few sentences because of our own familial convictions with words we didn't want the girls using, but it didn't outweigh the benefits of sharing the tales with the girls.

 

Pre-K (ages 4/5)
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty. Judging this book by its cover, I thought it would be boring. And there is a great deal of boring...through the earth's layers in a fun and totally unrealistic story. My girls really enjoyed the ridiculousness of this book (but remembered some of the terminology!)


The Milly-Molly-Mandy Book by Joyce Lankester Brisley. This book is wholesome, sweet, and really helped me talk to the girls about good character qualities. The little girl (Millicent Margaret Amanda, or Milly-Molly-Mandy for short) lives with her parents and extended family in 1920's rural America. One thing I really liked about the book was the map in the front cover, which allowed us to talk about basic map-reading skills as she & her friends had their adventures!


Eric Carle's Animals Animals. I highlighted this book in my post about teaching children poetry. It is Eric Carle's wonderful art with some great poems about animals - tongue-twisters, haikus, couplets...all kinds of poetry. My older girls still pull this one off the shelf and look at it often...and maybe I do, too!


Stories from Around the World, retold by Heather Amery. Along the lines of not caring for fairy tales, I don't necessarily find fantastical tales or fables interesting. And when I opened this book and found that some of the stories contained witches, mythical creatures, and alternate creation stories, I was considering shelving the book until the girls were older and could better understand reality vs myth - but I took a breath and we dove right in. I didn't like all of the stories but overall it was a great way to introduce the girls to the many belief systems of the world. And they mostly enjoyed it, too - especially the vibrant pictures and map in the inside cover. (If you're interested, you can order this book here, and support my home-based Usborne business. Thanks!)


Kindergarten (ages 5/6/7)
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I had never heard of this book before, but it is easily one of our top ten favorites that we've ever read for school. Adventurous little boy - unbelievably fun tale - brilliant illustrations. The girls had opportunity to practice critical thinking and hypothesizing at each stage of his journey: bonus.


Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. This was one I was sure the girls wouldn't understand, because it takes place during World War II, and tackles the Nazis and the Jews. Even though much of the politics and evil went over their heads, we had some deep discussions (in a 5 & 4 year old sense) about right and wrong, loyalty, disobedience, and courage. This is one of my personal favorites. Beautiful and based on a true story.


Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells. The true story of Mary Breckinridge, who founded the Frontier Nursing Service in Appalachia in the 1920s. A powerful example of a life poured out for others, and the legacy she left behind.


The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I cried while reading this one! A wonderfully-written/heart-wrenching story about bullying, repentance, and not being able to reconcile. My girls & I talked much about how to treat others with compassion and kindness even when we don't understand where they are coming from.


First Grade (ages 6/7/8)
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. While we were having a blast reading Gooney Bird Greene's unbelievable (but true!) stories, the author sneaks in wonderful lessons on how to be a phenomenal storyteller. I think even middle and high school aged students would benefit from listening in on this book! Added bonus: Gooney Bird's fashion sense matched my daughters' sense of style, so they looked forward to seeing what GB would be wearing in the next story!


It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach. A quick read with a powerful lesson. Fun illustrations with a happy ending. We giggled our way through this one!


The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. The characters in this book are lovable and memorable and the ending is absolutely worth the time it takes to get through the book. It took us 4 or 5 chapters to even begin to like the story (I almost stopped reading it because we were kind of bored after a few days!), but it really took off and we loved the rest of the book. It's illustrated by Maurice Sendak (of 'Where the Wild Things Are' fame) which was sweetly nostalgic for me.


The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill. As a teacher-at-heart and former public school teacher, I LOVED this book. I cried, I laughed, I sympathized, I cheered. How one compassionate, bold, and observant teacher can change the course of a community's future. My daughters loved hearing about the fun projects and ways she got her students to learn; I loved the entire book.


Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates. We all cried at the end of this book. It is a beautiful, beautiful story of a shepherd boy and his sheep. I'm starting to get misty now just writing about it. I thought it'd be too over my girls' heads but I was totally wrong and we are better for it.


Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. A coming of age story. A overly-protective aunt from the city must send her niece to be raised by faraway family...and the girl not only survives but comes alive! It is set in rural New England and is a wonderful portrayal of NE mindset and lifestyle (I think that's the main draw for me). It is a long book and not fast-paced by any means, but one of those books that we just looked forward to reading before bed to wind down.


Second Grade (ages 7/8/9) - Our Current Core
Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil. I thought this one would be dull and uninteresting to my girls (men planning to explore caves & coves?), but the main characters are so delightful that the girls soon started begging me to "keep reading, Mama! What happens next?" We just finished it today and while the ending is great; we were disappointed to be done!



A Story of Denmark: Sticks Across the Chimney by Nora Burglon. We will be starting this book tomorrow. The story of two children and their widowed mom in the 1900s, struggling to survive. It is a long book and again, I wonder if the girls will understand much of it. With Sonlight's near-perfect record, though, I am feeling confident that we will enjoy and/or be moved this story!



Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. We've not read this as a family, but I borrowed it from the library last year to read it ahead of time. It is meant to be read aloud - the dialogue is written with a heavy Southern accent (and spelled accordingly). It follows a family struggling to make ends meet during the Depression and it's a thought-provoking story that deals with some significant trials and hardships while capturing the distinctive culture and era. I am praying that there will be rich discussion as we read.


Hidden Tales from Eastern Europe. We haven't read this one yet, either, but just flipping through it I am hoping the girls will enjoy the stories. We don't hear many tales from that history-rich region of the world!


Philomena by Kate Seredy. I am a huge fan of Kate Seredy's book The Good Master but didn't know she'd written other books. I am pleasantly surprised. We'll read this story aloud before the end of the year! Deals with differences in cultural expectations.


Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. We'll read this one later on in the year. The reviews online are polarized - apparently the book deals with some heavy issues and sensitive topics. I'll read it ahead of time and talk it over with Will, but Sonlight's selections - though sometimes edgy - have always had a reason for being included in the core.


Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from the Middle Ages by Laura Amy Schlitz. Again, judging a book by its title and cover, I would have suspected that this book was not written for second graders. We'll be reading it sometime in the next few months and I'm hoping that it follows suit with the others and delights & enriches our lives as we study the Middle Ages!


What about you? Have you ever read a book you weren't sure about, but ending up really enjoying? Please share! (Our family thrives on great book recommendations!)

Enjoying the gift of great literature,
for His glory!
~Lisha

I may be sharing this with these incredible Link-up parties!

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! We haven't read some of those books and they look great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Helene. Let me know what you think if you happen to read any of them. :)

      ~Lisha

      Delete
  2. Wow, what a great resource list! I'm pinning this one. I've heard of The Hundred Dresses but never read it. Sounds like I need to get it to read with my daughter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing this, Gabby! The Hundred Dresses is such a wonderful book! I hope you like it :)

      ~Lisha

      Delete
  3. Oh, I love The One Hundred Dresses! I read it as a child and adored it! This is a great list of books. Thanks for sharing.

    I'm wondering what level of Sonlight you're using. My sister in law used K & then 1st grade and liked K but not 1st grade. I'm considering the 1st grade set for my oldest next year, but if you're using it, I'd love your thoughts. Or direct me to a post if you have one. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right now, we're using Core C but we just finished up Core B (1st grade). We loved it. Lord willing, I'll be a Sonlighter for life. :)

      My girls enjoyed every book except one of the science titles (about Louis Pasteur), and the 'natural language' approach Sonlight uses from grammar works well for us (some people don't like it at all and end up supplementing with added grammar work). The only book I would be hesitant to recommend would be Detectives in Togas, which is the last book scheduled only because it references soothsayers, burglary, and the death of the bad guy and can be kind of scary to a sensitive kid (like Abby). I had to do a little skimming over and rewording.

      The Bible, history/geography, and science packages are all stellar. I wouldn't change anything about them. I saw my girls grow leaps and bounds spiritually this year. Some of it was our unique circumstances but the books we were reading definitely played into it.

      I hope that helps, but feel free to ask more questions :)

      Delete
  4. I saw your list on a couple of link-ups and had to come and check it out!! So glad I did! I pinned this and will definitely be using it as a resource - I LOVE finding great recommendations (many of which I haven't heard of) that aren't necessarily mainstream but come with such high praise! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Becca, and for sharing the list with others. There are so many powerful books for children out there - I wish we had time to read all of them. :)

      I'm so thankful you stopped by!
      ~Lisha

      Delete
  5. This post was a delight! I am a stay at home mom, but not a homeschooler, since our children attend an excellent Christian school. I was a teacher before I was married, and children's literature is one of my passions. So I was surprised that your list contained only two or three that I've read. My children loved Strawberry Girl, and I read The Wheel on the School to my students. Thanks for sharing some new ones with your readers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The Wheel on the School was a total surprise - I'm so glad we persevered through it. Janus is probably one of our top ten most memorable characters so far. Sticks Across the Chimney begins by referencing storks nesting on rooftops, and my girls flipped as I read the first chapter yesterday. We're already loving it.

      Which grade(s) did you teach? I was a 7th grade math and world history teacher before we had children. :)

      Blessings!
      ~Lisha

      Delete
  6. Wow! Thanks for all the time you put into compiling that list. I haven't heard of any of those books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa. It was a joy for me - there's a special thrill in sharing great books with others! :) I hope you have a chance to read some of these soon.

      I'm thankful you stopped by! Have a sweet day :)
      ~Lisha

      Delete
  7. What a great list of books! Most of these I haven't seen yet, so I'm pinning it for later use. However, we love My Father's Dragon! This was one I really wasn't sure about, but it turned out to be an awesome book. Makes me want to read it again now... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My Father's Dragon was so good! I hear there are two more books by the same author that make up a sort of trilogy, but we haven't checked into it yet.

      Thank you for stopping by and for sharing the list, Caroline! I hope you have a blessed week :)
      ~Lisha

      Delete
  8. Thank you for sharing your link @ A Nurse's Wildflowers linkup. I love these book ideas. Pinning this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so welcome :) Thank you for hosting and for the pin - I really appreciate it!

      ~Lisha

      Delete
  9. Surprisingly, I don't recognize any of those books, but they sure look interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    Keik
    The Loquacious Square

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'd not heard of any of these before we started homeschooling, and we are avid readers so I was surprised, too. I hope you are able to find and read some of them!

      Thank you for stopping by, Keik! I hope you have a blessed week!
      ~Lisha

      Delete
  10. Thanks so much for sharing them with Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party.
    Have a great week.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is an excellent resource Lisha. Pinning and sharing. Thanks so much for linking up this fabulous post with us at the #homeschoolliinkup.

    It's fabulous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lisa! When I come across great books, it's so hard not to share. I'm thankful you liked it! :)

      Delete
  12. Great books! I don't make my own curriculum but I do use curriculum from a variety of sources. I tried Sonlight and found it restrictive. I guess I enjoy the hunt for that perfect book. :) Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday. Pinning this to my kid's books board!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm curious - what did you find restrictive about Sonlight? I've heard from other moms that it is overwhelming or too much work, but this is the first time I've heard restrictive. It is fun to find outstanding books. Thank you so much for stopping by and for the pin! :)

      Delete
  13. Great list! I read about half these books when I was a girl. My Father's Dragon was a new one to me when someone re ommended it a few years ago, but my son loved it! Here are our favorite chapter books for reading aloud:
    http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2009/09/09/great-chapter-books-for-kids/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'll stop by and check out your list; now that my older two are readers, we are always looking for book recommendations :)

      I'm so grateful you stopped by, Becca!
      ~Lisha :)

      Delete