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Family Bonding with Great Books

The Timeless Joy of Family Reading

In the heart of every family lies the potential for deep connections and shared wisdom, a potential often untapped in the hustle of daily life. Yet, there's a simple, profound activity that can unlock this treasure trove of connection and understanding: reading great books together. The shared journey through the pages of classic literature offers a unique pathway to strengthening family bonds, enriching discussions, and navigating life's challenges with grace. Drawing inspiration from the foundational principles of Liberty Villages and the invaluable resource, "The Educated Child" by William J. Bennett and co-authors, this blog post explores how the timeless tradition of reading can cultivate a strong family culture.

Discovering Each Other Through Stories

At the heart of every great book are characters and themes that reflect the complexities of human life. Discussing these elements as a family can be a powerful tool for getting to know one another on a deeper level. Whether it's exploring the moral dilemmas faced by a protagonist or debating a character's decisions, these conversations can reveal insights into each other's thoughts, values, and perspectives. By engaging with the rich tapestry of experiences and emotions presented in classic literature, families can foster an environment of empathy, understanding, and open communication.

Viewing Life Through the Lens of Literature

The stories we share and discuss as a family become a part of our collective consciousness, providing a shared language and frame of reference for interpreting the world around us. This shared context can be incredibly valuable as families navigate the ups and downs of life. Challenges and events can be viewed through the lens of the stories that have resonated with us, offering fresh insights and perspectives. Literature becomes more than just stories; it becomes a tool for understanding and coping with the complexities of life, enhancing our ability to communicate and support each other through whatever challenges arise.

"The Educated Child" and the Value of Classic Books

In "The Educated Child," William J. Bennett and his co-authors underscore the importance of introducing children to a thoughtfully curated selection of classic books. The authors argue that classic literature, with its tested and timeless themes, offers more enduring value than many contemporary titles that may cater to fleeting trends. Classic books not only stand the test of time but also bridge generations, providing common ground for discussions that transcend age and time. They allow us to connect not just with each other but with the broader tapestry of human experience and wisdom passed down through the ages. Listed below are the books and introduction from the text of “The Educated Child”

Thirty Great Books Every Preschooler Should Meet

Here are thirty "preschool classics" to share with your child. They are just some of the many wonderful books to enjoy together in the early years. Make sure your home library contains a book or two about your faith (such as A Child's Book of Bible Stories), a good collection of folk and fairy tales, and at least one volume of nursery rhymes and children's poetry.

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

  • Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman

  • Ask Mr. Bear, Marjorie Flack

  • Caps For Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina

  • The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss

  • The Cat in the Hat, and other books by Dr. Seuss

  • A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson

  • Corduroy, Don Freeman

  • Curious George, Hans Rey

  • Danny and the Dinosaur, Syd Hoff

  • Frog and Toad Are Friends, Arnold Lobel

  • Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

  • Harry the Dirty Dog, Gene Lion

  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Laura J. Numeroff

  • Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik

  • The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper

  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

  • Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans

  • Make Way For Ducklings, Robert McCloskey

  • The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

  • Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever, Richard Scarry

  • The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

  • The Story of Babar, Jean de Brunhoff

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

  • There's a Nightmare in My Closet, Mercer Mayer

  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Simms Taback

  • Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

  • Where's Spot?, Eric Hill

  • Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne

Good Books for the Primary Grades

Here are examples of books you see in a good language arts program during the K-3 years. Students will be able to read some of these books themselves, depending on the age and reading ability of the child. Others lend themselves well to reading aloud.

  • Aesop for Children, Aesop

  • Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen

  • Anno's Alphabet and Anno's Counting Book, Mitsumasa Anno

  • Wiley and the Hairy Man, Molly Bang

  • Madeline books, Ludwig Bemelmans

  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Susan Blair

  • Freddy the Detective, Walter R. Brooks

  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Robert Browning

  • The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Jean de Brunhoff

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House, Virginia Lee Burton

  • Jack and the Three Sillies, Richard Case

  • The Ramona and Henry Huggins books, Beverly Cleary

  • Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi

  • Chanticleer and the Fox, Barbara Cooney

  • The Courage of Sarah Noble, Alice Dalgliesh

  • Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes, Marguerite de Angeli, editor

  • Drummer Hoff, Barbara Emberley

  • The Three Bears, retold by Paul Galdone

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

  • The Wonder Book, Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • One Fine Day, Nonny Hogrogrian

  • Little Red Riding Hood, retold by Trina Schart Hyman

  • John Henry: An American Legend and The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats 

  • Pecos Bill, Steven Kellog

  • Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling

  • The Arabian Nights and Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, Andrew Lang

  • Piping Down the Valleys Wild, Nancy Larrick

  • The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf

  • How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have? And Other Tales, Julius Lester

  • Pippi Longstocking books, Astrid Linagren

  • Frog and Toad Together, Arnold Lobel

  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Betty MacDonald

  • Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey

  • Every Time I Climb a Tree, poems by David McCord

  • Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti, retold by Gerald McDermolt

  • When We Were Very Young and Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne

  • Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish

  • Cinderella, Charles Perrault

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

  • Ride a Purple Pelican and Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, Jack Prelutsky, editor

  • Curious George books, H.A. Rey

  • The Dancing Stars: An Iroquois Legend, Anne Rockwell

  • Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice, Maurice Sendak

  • The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Others by Dr. Seuss

  • Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina

  • Noah's Ark, Peter Spier

  • Abel's Island and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, William Steig 

  • Mufaro's Beautifül Daughters: An African Tale, John Steptoe

  • A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson

  • East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon, Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen

  • Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories, Philip Turner

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

  • Ira Sleeps Over, Bernard Waber

  • The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White

  • The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

  • Crow Boy, Taro Yashima

  • Owl Moon and The Seeing Stick, Jane Yolen

  • Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, Ed Young

  • Rumplestiltskin, retold by Paul O. Zelinsky

Good Books for the Intermediate Grades

Here are the kinds of books you see in a good language arts curriculum in grades four through six:

  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • Sounder, William H. Armstrong

  • Mr. Popper's Penguins, Richard Atwater

  • Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt

  • Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

  • Crickets and Bullfrogs and Whispers of Thunder: Poems and Pictures, Harry Behn

  • Stories of the Gods and Heroes, Sally Benson

  • Sundiata: The Epic of the Lion King, Roland Bertol

  • Doctor Coyote: A Native American Aesop's Fables, retold by John Bier-horst

  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hoagson Burnett

  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr

  • A New Treasury of Children's Poetry: Old Favorites and New Discoveries, edited by Joanna Cole 

  • Prairie Songs, Pamela Conrad

  • James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

  • The Black Stallion, Walter Farey

  • Thor and the Giants, Anita Feagles

  • Great Brain books, John D. Fitzgerald

  • The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman

  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

  • Selections from Poor Richard's Almanack, Benjamin Franklin

  • And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?; What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?; and Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, Jean Fritz

  • A Swinger of Birches: Poems of Robert Frost for Young People, Robert Frost

  • Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George

  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

  • Mythology, Edith Hamilton

  • The People Could Fly: American Black Folk Tales, Virginia Hamilton

  • Misty of Chincoteague and Brighty of the Grand Canyon, Marguerite Henry

  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

  • The Trumpeter of Krakow, Eric Kelly

  • The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling

  • Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight

  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

  • Tales from Shakespeare, Charles and Mary Lamb

  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine l'Engle

Good Books for Junior High

Here are the kinds of books you see in a good language arts program during the junior high years. Good readers may be ready to tackle some of these titles before seventh and eighth grades. High schoolers- and adults!—will enjoy many of these selections, too.

  • National Velvet, Enid Bagnold

  • A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32, Joan W. Blos

  • The Moves Make the Man, Bruce Brooks 

  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll

  • Neighbor Rosicky, Willa Cather

  • The Dark Is Rising, Susan Cooper

  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

  • Madame Curie: A Biography, Eve Curie

  • Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

  • I'm Nobody! Who Are You?, Emily Dickinson

  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass

  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

  • My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell

  • The Fun of It: Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation, Amelia Earhart

  • Washington: The Indispensable Man, James Thomas Flexner

  • Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

  • You Come Too, Robert Frost

  • A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

  • The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

  • The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories, O. Henry

  • Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdanl

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving

  • A Boy of Old Prague, Shulamith Ish-Kishor

  • Story of My Life, Helen Keller

  • Kim, Rudyard Kipling

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London

  • Good Night, Mr. Tom, Michelle Magorian

  • The Crucible, Arthur Miller

  • Mutiny on the Bounty, Charles Nordhof and J.N. Hall

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emma Orczy

  • Animal Farm, George Orwell

  • Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Ann Petry

  • The Complete Tales and Poems, Edgar Allan Poe

  • The Chosen, Chaim Potok

  • The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  • The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter

  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Early Moon, Carl Sandburg

  • Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott

  • Selected plays and sonnets, William Shakespeare

  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

  • The Red Pony and The Pearl, John Steinbeck

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

  • Journey Home, Yoshiko Uchida

  • 20,000 leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne

  • Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington

  • The Time Machine, H.G. Wells

  • Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton

  • The Sword in the Stone and The Once and Future King, T.H. White

  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder

  • The Virginian, Owen Wister

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