“Now I will go and find my mother!” he said. “Are you my mother?” he said to the kitten. “Are you my mother?” he said to the hen?”
Ah, the familiarity and comfort of bedtime stories.
While I have given many of our shelves full of children’s books to our kids to read to their own, I kept some of my favorites to populate my travel bag for reading to my grands when we go visit. I love reading some of my favorites like Goodnight Moon or Blueberries for Sal to my grandchildren. (See the lists below to find out what’s currently in my Mimi bag!)
Reading a good book with a child nuzzled underneath your neck is magical. Little ones help turn pages while older ones correct you if the adult reading misses even one word. Cuddling such innocence creates a bond as the wonder of imagination and discovery is sparked by words, hand-drawn illustrations, and creative story lines.
As Gladys Hunt puts it in one of my favorite books about reading to children, Honey for a Child’s Heart, “Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic.”
The importance of a good book
Being intentional is a parent’s job. We intentionally plan healthy meals, choose the best school, church, and play activities for our children’s growth. Selecting and reading the best books is equally important.
Good books spark imagination and creativity. They teach, guide, and model virtues and excellence in wise living. Proverbs describes good words this way: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). What a delightful, happy parenting task reading is.
One of my favorite parenting memories is the year we read all of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Most afternoons I put my two littlest ones down for naps and the four big kids and I piled on the couch. Rebecca nestled on my lap; the others leaned in with heads on shoulders, legs folded snuggly into couch cushions.
Every time we ended a chapter, they begged for just one more. I often agreed because I loved reading these remarkable stories as much as my kids enjoyed hearing them. We laughed and cried together. And we bonded in those hours.
The overwhelming majority of that mommy season of my life was filled with the hard work of meals, laundry, discipline, training, and endless messes to clean up. But our afternoons of reading were pure pleasure. They were an escape for all of us into another time and another world. Our souls were fed together.
Never too old
Reading magic isn’t over once your child is too big to climb up on your knees. When my youngest two were teens I sat with them against their twin bed headboards and read The Hiding Place to them, a chapter every night.
This book prompted discussions about all kinds of big ideas because of the characters and messages that were presented in the story. I didn’t have to ask, “So what do you think about trusting God when it feels unfair and hard?” They got to watch and feel and hear and see a real person live out her faith when it felt impossible.
All thanks to a well-told story, kept alive in the pages of a book.
The right kind of books can give us the experience of words, which have power to evoke emotion and a sense of spiritual conviction. Well-written books will reinforce the values and morals you want to impart to your children. They help you parent.
A good book “introduces us to people and places we wouldn’t ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, beauty, delight, and adventure,” Hunt says.
And don’t forget audio books. For many summers on our annual road trips to see grandparents we listened to The Chronicles of Narnia as a family as we rode in the car for hours on end. Time went by more quickly and we had far fewer squabbles to settle because everyone was absorbed in the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy.
So summer is here. Your kids will be home. You have the gift of precious extra hours together.
Here are some timeless and some new age-appropriate recommended books to get your family started on a summer of reading memories.
Books for children 2-6
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other Beatrix Potter books
Mother Goose nursery rhymes
Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss
Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans
A Child’s Garden of Verses (poems and rhymes) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Alexander and the Terrible ,Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (4-7+), by Judith Viorst
Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
Baby Believer books (board books) by Catechesis Books
Dr. Seuss books (the more advanced reading levels)
Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpeter Swan, and Stuart Little, by E.B. White
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald
The Chronicles of Narnia series (wonderful as audio books too), by C.S. Lewis
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, by Hans Christian Andersen
Jonah and Esther, illustrated by Kurt Mitchell (the story straight Scripture)
Ages 13-17 and adults
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery (the 1985 TV series is also good)
God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew
Byzantium, by Stephen Lawhead
Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert Massie
The Giver (15-17), by Lois Lowry
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan
The Inheritance Cycle (a series of 4 books) by Christopher Paolini and the Wingfeather Saga (a series of 4 books) by Andrew Peterson. My book worm grandsons recommended these and I read them as they were and it gave us a common interest and topic of conversation. The books are outstanding.
In my Mimi book bag right now
Noah’s Ark and The Lion and the Mouse, both by Jerry Pinkney and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. Both books are winners of the Caldecott award medal for outstanding art. Lincoln is 2½ and he loves these two books.
Burnie’s Hill, illustrated by Erik Blegvad. A repetitive rhyme from the north of England and Scotland. I bought it in England decades ago for my kids. I love the happy feel of the lyrics and the beautiful watercolors.
The Winter Picnic, by Robert Welber
Happy Winter, by Karen Gundersheimer
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Lewis Stevenson. This is in my bag to read with Rainey, who is 8 and loves poems and rhyming stories as much as I do.
Happy reading everyone!
For more ideas, order Gladys Hunt’s book, Honey for a Child’s Heart or the version for teens, Honey for a Teen’s Heart. And check out your local library for incentives they may offer, carefully guiding your child’s book selections. Not all books are good books.