Category Archives: Literacy

Why Read the Classics?

I love to see what’s new in the world of children’s literature, and I’m so excited about the new ebook revolution with its possibilities and opportunities for new authors.  But I am and always will be a great proponent of the classics.  These are stories that have stood the test of time.  They became classics because they had something fresh or valuable to say, something worthy of remembering and passing on.  Because they’ve been told over and over – some to generations of children – they have entwined themselves with the definition of our culture.   Becoming familiar with such works is part of becoming educated in one’s own heritage.

Drawing on several sources, I’ve created a list of classic children’s stories.  I cut off my list at 1977, but we must remember, children will define their own classics.  Stories that are being written now will long hold a place in their hearts.  They will be passed down from our children to our grandchildren with fond memories.  This list could be added to every year.

Earlier than 1900 – These are what experts tend to agree on as the most noteworthy in history, those we should be familiar with on an academic basis. They are included on high school and college reading lists. They have become stories for adults more than for children, due to the challenges of passing time and changing language. Yet they are still a valuable source of adventure and imagination and history. I’d recommend them as read-alouds, so parent and children might enjoy them together.

  • Arabian Nights
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe – 1719
  • Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – 1726
  • Tales of Mother Goose – Charles Perrault – 1729 (English)
  • The Swiss Family Robinson – Johann Rudolf Wyss – 1812-3
  • The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – E. T. A. Hoffman – 1816
  • Ivanhoe – Walter Scott – 1819
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving – 1819  Review
  • Rip Van Winkle – Washington Irving – 1820
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – 1823 (English)
  • The Night Before Christmas - Clement Clarke Moore - 1823
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo – 1831
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – 1843
  • The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas, père – 1844
  • Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen – 1846 (English)
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne – 1864
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – 1865
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott – 1868
  • Lorna Doone – R. D. Blackmore – 1869
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea – Jules Verne – 1870  Review
  • At the Back of the North Wind – George MacDonald – 1871
  • The Princess and the Goblin – George MacDonald – 1871
  • Through the Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll – 1871
  • Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne – 1873  Review
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain – 1876
  • Black Beauty – Anna Sewell – 1877
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood – Howard Pyle – 1883
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson – 1883
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain – 1884
  • Heidi – Johanna Spyri – 1884 (English)
  • The Adventures of Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi – 1891 (English)
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling - 1894

After 1900 – These are stories more dear to a modern reader’s heart. They are the tales today’s adults grew up reading, which haven’t passed quite so far into memory. These also make wonderful read-alouds, but they are much easier for a child to pick up and read alone. And for a child, they are still historical.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum – 1900
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter – 1902
  • The Call of the Wild – Jack London – 1903  Review
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Kate Douglas Wiggin – 1903
  • Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie – 1904
  • A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett – 1905
  • White Fang – Jack London – 1906
  • Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery – 1908
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame – 1908
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – 1909/1911
  • The Lost World – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 1912
  • Pollyanna – Eleanor H. Porter – 1913
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle – Hugh Lofting – 1920
  • The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  • Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne – 1926
  • Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder – 1935
  • The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien – 1937
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins - Richard and Florence Atwater - 1938
  • Curious George – H. A. Rey – 1941
  • The Black Stallion - Walter Farley - 1941
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – 1943
  • Homer Price - McCloskey, Robert – 1943
  • Johnny Tremain - By Esther Forbes - 1943
  • Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren – 1945
  • Big Red - Jim Kjelgaard - 1945
  • The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge – 1946
  • Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown – 1947
  • Misty of Chincoteague - Marguerite Henry - 1947
  • King of the Wind - Henry, Marguerite – 1948
  • The Door in the Wall - de Angeli, Marguerite – 1949
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis - 1950
  • Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren, Astrid – 1950
  • Charlotte’s Web - E. B. White - 1952
  • The Borrowers - By Mary Norton - 1953
  • Old Yeller - Fred Gipson - 1956
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare, Elizabeth George – 1958
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins - O’Dell, Scott – 1960
  • The Cricket in Times Square - Selden, George – 1960
  • Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls, Wilson – 1961
  • James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl - 1961
  • A Wrinkle in Time - L’Engle, Madeleine – 1962
  • The Book of Three - By Lloyd Alexander Holt - 1964
  • Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh, Louise – 1964
  • The Black Cauldron - Alexander, Lloyd – 1965
  • Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl - Frank, Anne – 1967
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Konigsburg, E. L. – 1967
  • Ramona the Pest - Cleary, Beverly – 1968
  • Sounder - Armstrong, William – 1969  Review
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - By Robert C. O’Brien - 1971
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Robinson, Barbara – 1972
  • Caddie Woodlawn - Brink, Carol Ryrie – 1973
  • Tuck Everlasting - By Natalie Babbitt. Farrar - 1975
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor, Mildred – 1976
  • The Incredible Journey - Burnford, Sheila – 1977
  • Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson - 1977  Review

How to Turn Kids into Readers

In a recent post, I answered the question “Why Should I Make My Kids Read?”  Now I’m going to give some practical suggestions to help turn kids into readers.  Be forewarned, no matter what you do, not every kid will love reading.  These suggestions, however, should go far in making literature taste better for the less-inclined.

The most important thing a parent can do to form kids into readers is to turn reading into a habit.  Set aside a regular block of time that everyone understands is reading time.  In my family, we designate four weeknights on which we seldom have activities.  At bedtime on these days, our routine includes 10 to 45 minutes of reading, depending on the child’s age.  Once a child becomes an “Independent Reader” (a badge of honor), he is given a bedside lamp, table and timer and allowed to keep the light on just a little past bedtime on those nights, reading. 

The second most important thing a parent can do is set an example.  Let your kids see you read.

Here are a few more ideas:

♦Set limits on television and video game time.  It’s okay to turn them off.

♦Offer your child a range of options.  There are all sorts to choose from: magazines, comic books, picture books, novels, graphic novels, blogs, ebooks, ezines, newspapers, community or school bulletins.

♦Find material within your child’s interests.  Is he a nature-lover?  Subscribe to a hunting and fishing magazine.  Like sports?  Read biographies of sports heroes or a history of the game.  Or try the sports section of the newspaper or an online sports column.  Does she love horses?  There are a thousand novels to choose from, as well as 4-H materials and how-to-care-for manuals.  Or Google literature from different breeders and organizations.

♦Buy some good books and leave them around the house for those lazy or rainy days.  Choose engaging books.  An easy way to find quality is to look up winners of awards such as the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, the Caldecot Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Christopher Award and others.  (See my “book lists” category.)  Also, check out some book reviews.

♦Download some children’s books and share your ereader.  Don’t have one?  Download ebooks to your computer and turn it into an ereader. 

♦Read aloud together.  This works especially well in the car.

♦Choose a book that has been made into a movie and watch it afterwards.

♦Create a fun spot to read in.  This could be a special, permanent corner somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be.  Build a fort or set up a tent.  Buy a colorful beanbag.  Throw a blanket in the yard.  Rearrange some hay bales in the barn.  Turn that nook under the steps into a fun space.  Build a treehouse.  Find a giant packing box from a refrigerator or stove and turn it into a fortress.

♦Find books that connect with real life.  Getting a puppy?  Read A Dog Called Kitty, by Bill Wallace.  Did Grandma immigrate to America as a child?  Read Amy Hest’s When Jessie Came Across the Sea.  Going on a boyscout survival outing?  Try My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George.  Visiting a historic site?  There’s probably historical fiction and surely non-fiction written about it. 

When our family planned a trip to the Atlantic coast a few years ago, we first read Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, then we camped a night with the wild horses of Assoteague Island.  It was the most memorable night of our trip, and the story has become a family favorite. 

♦Encourage your younger readers to share a book with a special pet or stuffed animal.

♦Get involved at the library.  Libraries often have reading programs and prizes.  Get your child his own library card.

♦Use incentives like a trip to the park, a special overnight at Grandma’s, sundaes or pizza night when goals are met.  Adults work hard for bonuses and promotions.  Don’t be afraid to reward good readers. 

♦Let your child read to you.  Listen attentively.  Offer praise and encouragement.

If parents help make reading an enjoyable activity, kids will be more inclined to do it without a fuss.  Before you know it, they might even pick up a book by themselves.

If you have a great idea, please share with us!

Why Should I Make My Kids Read?

“So what’s the big deal about reading?” I have sometimes been asked.  “Why is everyone trying to get my kids to read?”

The most logical answer to these questions is that we live in a literate world. To maintain a high quality of life, children must become proficient readers.  To land a decent job and function in a world where everything is written down, it is crucial that our kids master written language.  But reading also does much more.

Literacy helps children understand the world around them by broadening the range of experiences they might learn from.  For example, a child may never know what it’s like to grow up in the African bush, but if she reads Gloria Whelan’s Listening for Lions, she will come away with a small measure of understanding of the challenges that have faced that continent.  And of course a child can never have first-hand knowledge of history he didn’t live through, but if he reads Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham, he will experience some of the racial violence that rocked America in the 1960′s.  This collective writing down of experiences allows an exchange of ideas and viewpoints not possible otherwise.  It permits children to build on the knowledge of others.  It prompts the growth of intellect.  It keeps a mind moving in new directions.

In addition, ample research has linked reading to success in school. Children who read regularly have increased cognitive development, verbal skills and reading comprehension. They acquire a wider vocabulary.  They develop higher reasoning skills, more effective writing styles and increased critical thinking skills. Simply put, reading makes a person smarter, and that can undoubtedly lead to greater success in life.

So now the question becomes, “How can I turn my kids into readers?”  We’ll tackle that one next time.