“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, Hunt writes, “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.”
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.
21 thoughts on “The Delight of Reading with Your Kids + What’s in My Mimi Bag!”
Hi! I love listening to Family life while I do dishes and the kids have quiet time. Loved hearing other people stressing the importance of reading. I would also like to add that books published before 1960, generally have a godly world view, better vocabulary/sentence structure, and a moral. I homeschool and these books are referred to as “living literature”. A plus is most libraries are getting rid of these old books for cheap, and you can find lots at yard sales and second hand stores. No one wants them and I have found many, many gems. If the book was published prior to the 60’s I usually read them without previewing them before I read aloud. Just thought I’d put “my oar in” to quote Mr. Cuthbert of Anne.
You are so right. Old books are generally safer books and finding treasures at library sales is great fun!
Love Mr. Cuthbert too! :)
Reading books to our kids and grandkids is one of the favorite things we have done. I agree that the older books are so well written with positive character and morals. One year I read “Little Britches“ on a long car trip. I highly recommend Ralph Moody’s books starting with “Little Britches.“ Boys especially would like to hear the stories of Ralph’s overcoming the many obstacles in his childhood. Another favorite of mine are the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They are on the order of the Little House books but set in the early 1900s. I love that our grandkids all enjoy reading from the little ones to the older ones.
Old books are my favorites!
Agree!!! Love the old books often found at Yard Sales too. I absolutely have loved listening to Family Life as well & reading about books for your Summer reading reminds me of old posts hearing Barbara Rainey’s voice. Love that this blog is still here reminding us to keep reading to our children.
Hi Barbara and Tracy Lane,
How very thoughtful and insightful of you to recommend a list of the children’s books that can be read and shared.
If you have time, would you also consider creating a list of books for adults to read as well. Thank you!
I appreciate that you were on the radio stressing the need to read, not only for ourselves but sharing our reading voices with children and teenagers, as well. I have even been thinking of reading to the elderly, as well.
A big thanks to Dennis and Bob who also share the importance and necessity of reading and sharing good and great books.
You all brought smiles to my face and I intend to begin reading these suggested books soon.
Hi Josephine, thank you for your kind words! We are glad that you were encouraged by the series and the book lists. We would love to create a list for adults, too! We did a short little blog at the beginning of this year about our favorite books that we read in 2016 — you can find that list here: https://eth.wpengine.com/favoritebooks2016/ but we will come up with a reading list for adults, too! Stay tuned!
I surely hope you include all of the fine books written by David McCullough!!!
I do love David McCullough’s books because I love history and the remarkable providences in our nation’s history. Glad you suggested them.
I wish I had discovered Patricia St. John’s books when my children were young. They are a treasure! Each one weaves the gospel and many spiritual truths throughout captivating storylines. Many have their origins in places or events from the author’s life. Some of my favorites, which I am looking forward to sharing with my grandchildren are:
Treasures of the Snow
The Tanglewoods’ Secret
The Secret at Pheasant Cottage
Don’t miss these jewels!
Thank you for the list of books! Growing up I loved to read, and even early on in marriage I would read quite often. Then kids came and I have to admit I now fall into that percentage of people who don’t read one book a year. I’ve found it hard to get my oldest, 8 year old, to get interested in reading. I asked myself, how can I ask him to read a book if I’m not reading myself? So tonight, for the first time, I read to both my boys from the first book of the Narnia series. My 8yo loved it! He did not want to stop! Thanks for the tip and for the suggested reading list, I can’t wait to show it to my oldest two!
Thank you for this list! Our kids ages 7, 10 and 12 have enjoyed reading many of these books. Now you’ve given me new ideas – thank you!
I want a list of books that the speakers talked about having read.
Sounds like some my husband and I would enjoy.
How did you approach “The Giver”? It seemed to maybe have some questionable content. I’m new to deciding if I let my kids read it and then discuss or just avoid books with questionable “coming of age” references. Thoughts?
Hi Elizabeth, Thank you for your question! We think The Giver is an excellent book that is easy to read and introduces such important ideas about the value of all life (at various ages and abilities), the value of hardship, the extreme delight and benefit of memories, love, and truth passed through generations. A teenager is ready to discuss these ideas at home, and is most certainly is being faced with these issues at school and in the culture. The Giver would be an engaging and quick read that offers a bridge for conversation into these important conversations. Hope this helps!
I enjoy reading myself and also read to my son since he was born and for several years. I thought this would instill his love for reading but years later, he is now 16, he has no interest at all. This hurts my mother’s heart as in my opinion, he is missing out on so much. He does listen to some Narnia and Adventures in Odyssey, which I am very thankful for. I would just like to see him sit down with and enjoy a good book. Any suggestions would be welcomed. Thanks!
What if you took turns reading something aloud together? My 21 yr old son was home for college for part of a semester when his college classes were all online and students sent home. We took turns reading aloud The Hiding Place, The Cross and the Switchblade, and in the 2 weeks before he heads to grad school, we are reading Safer Than a Known Way. The reader for the night gets to decide how long he desires to read for. Around age 16, all 3 of my avid readers stopped reading for pleasure because of the demands of school and all they were required to read in each class. They do read again as young adults. Don’t despair—those seeds were planted!
I love this idea and yes I read out loud to my kids when they were teens. It’s a wonderful way to spend time with them. I hope other readers will take your idea and run with it too!
Thanks for writing.
Thank you for the program and reading list..I plan to use it with my nephews and nieces this summer.
Thank you so much for this. In the busyness of the everyday, we sometimes forget to check the books our children read. And like you said, we miss the opportunities to cherish their company while we read.
Thanks for the book suggestions.