While it’s only my second year working in a school, the beginning of March marks one of my favorite weeks of the year – celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday! The colorful costumes, Whoville hairstyles, Cat in the Hat crafts and rhyming activities remind me of my own crazy journey with words.
Authors like Shel Silverstein and Richard Scarry and Mother Goose made my young mind appreciate poetry and imagery and how you could paint a picture with words. As I grew older, I rode my bike to the Bookmobile that parked in a local neighborhood each week to swap out titles from the Little House on the Prairie or the Anne of Green Gables series. When I needed time alone as an adolescent, I would climb a tree in our front yard with a Boxcar Children or Judy Blume book in hand.
I’ve heard it said that the books you read in childhood help shape your sense of self. While I’m unsure this is true for everyone, I know these early years developed a lifelong passion for reading. It’s amazing how different books found me at the exact time I needed them, stories that helped refine my character, enlarge my worldview, and comfort in times of confusion.
In honor of the recent Read Across America week, I wanted to share some kids literature that our family has enjoyed reading together. Each of these chapter books holds a special place in my heart for differing reasons. And while a sentence or two cannot begin to do these stories justice, it’s my hope that you’ll catch a glimpse of what makes them so intriguing and worth the time to dive into.
It only makes sense to start this list with a classic that nearly everyone has heard of or read. The development of animal friendships in a 1950s farm environment create a long-lasting tale of what it means to be simple yet terrific.
The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall (2017)
Themes: belonging, big families, growing up, teamwork
This recently-published story shares the story of a young girl named Josie and a pig named Hamlet. It is about finding your identity as you grow and recognizing the uniqueness of a large, loving family.
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo (2005-2009)
Themes: adventure, kindness, simple friendship
If you’re looking for a fun, quirky series for early chapter readers, don’t miss this series! It features the adventures of a pig with personality who loves his human owners only slightly more than his buttered toast. And be sure to check out some of our other favorites by Kate DiCamillo – Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)
Themes: faith, courage, forgiveness, sacrifice
We are introduced to the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edward and Lucy, as well as the land of Narnia in the first of this fantasy series. Written as an allegory to faith, the four youth fight alongside all kinds of to magical creatures to reclaim the Kingdom from the White Witch.
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (1951)
Themes: believing, courage, determination, growing up
This book continues the saga of the Pevensie siblings, as they return to Narnia and once again battle alongside Aslan for the restoration of Narnia. Several enduring characters such as Reepicheep the brave mouse show the power when individuals bond together around a common cause.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012)
Themes: acceptance, character, forgiveness, kindness
In this enduring story told from multiple characters’ perspectives, a group of middle schoolers grow and learn from seeing beyond the exterior appearance of a new student in their school.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (2011)
Themes: adventure, disability/deafness, family struggles, perseverance
A truly innovative book that weaves two storylines together with words as well as beautiful black-and-white artwork. You need to see this one in person to truly appreciate the plot and the gift that it is.
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (1983)
Themes: adventure, prejudice, survival, unlikely friendship
While I don’t have many in the historical fiction genre on this list, this Newberry Honor Medal winner is one of the best. The story takes place in the 1700s and focuses around the friendship of a white settler boy and a young Indian.
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (2016)
Themes: anxiety, divorce, honesty, imagination
This is one of those books that came at just the right time for me and one of my daughters. I love the way it handles difficult emotions from a kids’ perspective, but I truly adore this book because of the relationships and adventures among the cousins.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)
Themes: identity, diversity, unlikely friendship
Our family is typically not into mysteries, but my son and I enjoyed getting to know the characters and trying to tie together the many loose ends in the plot of this Clue-like story.
I’m always on the lookout for recommendations of great kids literature. What are you currently reading with (or without) your children?