Choosing what to read to your children and what to have them read once they are able, is like selecting the materials for building a house. The finer quality the materials, the stronger the house. The things our children are exposed to in literature (especially when they are very young!) become part of their moral character. When we purposefully select stories that are wholesome and that teach moral principles, these messages are encoded on the minds and hearts of our little ones. These ideas and values will become the standard by which our children judge right and wrong, true and false, and will enable them to relate to others with empathy and compassion.
The most important literature to expose your children to is Scripture. Whatever the religious tradition of your family is, let your children hear the words of whatever holy book you adhere to. Let them hear it early and often. We want to show our children that literacy allows us access to truth!
As for non-scriptural reading, here are my guiding principles when I am evaluating whether or not I want to have a certain book in my home:
- What moral value will my child draw from this story?
- Would I encourage my children to be friends with the characters in this story if they were real?
- What feeling does the book give you? Is it inspiring? Does it make you feel hopeful and full of light?
- What conversations can this book lead to?
- Does the art depict children as respectful and noble or does it make them seem silly, crazy, disobedient, or careless?
- Do I LOVE reading it? If there are books in your house that you dread reading, just donate them. You don’t have time for things that don’t bring you joy and gladness.
- Can I read it without crying? (If a book can make me cry even on the 3rd or 4th read, I know its a keeper. This is not a requirement by any means…it’s just something I have noticed.)
Over the last few years I have developed a long list of picture books that teach moral values. I have organized these into 10 different virtues (check out the Virtue Unit Printables). I use these stories (and the scriptures) as the foundation of our family’s intentional character development. I view these picture books as a bridge to the real treasure trove of stories that has been amassed over at librariesofhope.com. Jenny Phillips, creator of The Good and the Beautiful homeschool curriculum, also has a wonderful book list of classic and modern novels that have been carefully screened.
Developing a child’s ability to listen to a story without any visual elements takes time. The stories found in the following list can help little hearts pay attention until they are able to listen to longer stories without pictures.
If you didn’t just click that link…you might want to rethink that decision. Go ahead. Open it in a new tab, why don’t cha’?
I hate buying a book sight unseen, so I created this preview video to help you decide which books you would like to have in your home library and which you’d rather skip. Most of these books are available (used!) on amazon for a few dollars:
Next up…making sure you understand THE ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE!