Reading And Staying Home
It seems to me in this period of semi-quarantine and social distancing which we are experiencing because of the Coronavirus pandemic, readers are the most fortunate. Other people can complain about being bored. Readers just smile and pick up another book.
No, we are not bored because we have an endless number of worlds to which we can travel and an endless number of people to meet. We can consider new ways of looking at the world and new ideas about life. We can move through time—to any period of history, to any point in the future, or to no time known in our world.
Reading really is the best way to stay at home—unless you run out of books. I feel fortunate because I have a Kindle. I have a rather lengthy number of books on my device that I have not yet read. Then there are the physical books that I’ve intended to read but have not managed to find time to stick with and get caught into their story world.
But I do have a friend who is a reader, who gets most of her books from the local public library. Since libraries have closed doors now, she has started to worry about what will be available for her to read.
Fortunately, she has a number of reading friends (not just me), so she’s already reaching out to ask about borrowing books.
Which brings me to a significant point: we talk about checking in on our friends and making sure the people we know have the things they need, but has anyone thought about asking if, maybe, they need a good book or two to help them pass the time at home?
I’ve thought the same thing about children. Parents who don’t homeschool—at least some of them—have expressed some frustration about helping their kids fill up their days. I mean, there’s just so much coloring a kid can do! After a while the best toys or games become a bit mundane.
Why not read to them? Why not put some good books into their hands?
OK, maybe not literally. You might rather be downloading some books on devices for them—which maintains all the guidelines of social distancing, but which can excite and entertain and educate, all in the confines of the family room or bedroom or livingroom.
Sometimes kids might need to have the “pump primed” by having an adult read to them for a time. Once they are hooked, they may wish to continue on their own.
I might also add, this is a great time to introduce kids to speculative literature. Their imaginations are ready to take them into worlds they can only see in their minds.
So what books should kids read?
Well, there are the classics—and some of these are in the public domain and can be downloaded for free, some for a minimal cost:
- Black Beauty
- A Wrinkle In Time
- all seven of the Narnia books
- Island Of The Blue Dolphins
- Little Women
- The Jungle Book
- The Secret Garden
- Peter Pan
- The Wind And The Willows
- The Wizard Of Oz
- Treasure Island
- Watership Down
- Where The Red Fern Grows
- The Bronze Bow
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond
- Old Yeller
- Charlotte’s Web
Then there are the just-for-fun kid books (some of these can also be considered classics):
- the Nancy Drew books
- the Hardy Boys
- Little House On The Prairie
- Lemony Snicket
- Harry Potter (all seven)
- Anne Of Green Gables and the sequels
- the Black Stallion books
- The Chronicles of Prydain
Books by Christian authors can include the following:
- The Wingfeather Saga (four books)
- the Swipe trilogy
- the Mission League series (4 books and 2 novellas)
- Dead Possums Are Fair Game (and other books by Taryn Souders)
- No Ordinary Tale trilogy
I have only brushed across the surface when it comes to all the wonderful books to read to children and which children can read for themselves. Some of these I only discovered as an adult, and they still enriched my life.
I know, some people think kids don’t want to read any more because, you know, video. But reading taps into a part of the brain that visual arts don’t, or not as much. Reading allows the imagination to run free. I think that’s why so few movies made from books actually satisfy—they simply don’t do as good a job of conveying the story as a person’s imagination can.
What books for middle grade kids have I left off?
Note, I didn’t put down very many we would consider contemporary. I know there are books by Shannon Hale that are good. There are some good Newbery Award books, but I haven’t read them to know if they are actually books kids would like. There is Savvy by Ingrid Law. There’s The Year the Swallows Came Early and any other book by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. There’s City Of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau (5 books).
Obviously some of these books are in the speculative genre. Probably most are not. The thing is, the world of the 1800s is just as foreign to today’s middle grader as is an imaginary world discovered through a portal. They both need the child’s imagination to bring to life the place and characters and events. And that’s the great advantage of reading!
Of course, I’m undoubtedly preaching to the choir here at Spec Faith. But perhaps now is the best time to sell our friends and family and neighbors and fellow church-goers on the wonders of reading. We can introduce them to Lorehaven where they can find reviews. We can give them lists, such as the one provided in this post, which can help them get started. The point is, there’s no reason for anyone to be bored if they wander/wonder into the many worlds hiding inside books.
I’ll go ahead and include a list of some of my childhood faves:
The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson
Kazan, Father of Baree by James Oliver Curwood
Baree, The Story Of A Wolfdog by James Oliver Curwood
White Fang by Jack London
Call Of The Wild by Jack London
The Phantom Stallion series by Terri Farley
King Of The Wind by Marguerite Henry
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D Wyss
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Stink Files by Holm and Hamel
The Wings of Fire series by Tui T Sutherland
The Cat Pack series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Poppy series by AVI
The Good Dog by AVI
The Last Dog On Earth by Daniel Ehrenhaft
Dark wing by Kenneth Oppel
Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky
Wolf, The Journey Home by Asta Bowen
Dragons In Our Midst series by Bryan Davis
The Dragonback Series by Timothy Zahn
Allegiance by Timothy Zahn
The Tale of the Swamp Rat by Carter Crocker
Whittington by Alan Armstrong
Lion boy series by Zizou Corder
The Dragonkeeper Chronicles by Donita K Paul
The Circle trilogy by Ted Dekker
The Lost Books series by Ted Dekker
The Dragons of Spratt, Ohio by Linda Zinnen
The Royal Diaries series by Kristiana Gregory (tells the stories of historical princesses like Cleopatra.)
Warriors series by Erin Hunter
And there’s a few I can’t remember the author names of. One’s called Cougar, and it’s about a kid that moves with his legal guardians to a different home. At that property, there was a barn that burned down with a horse inside. The kid finds an abandoned bike in that barn and fixes it up and rides it day to day. He gradually starts seeing the ghost of the horse that died in the barn fire (Cougar), so he’s unwinding that mystery while facing bullies at school.
There’s another one called Wolf At The Door, about a girl who has to move to the woods with her family. She and her mom pass by a ‘zoo’ on the way there, which was basically this alcoholic guy keeping a bunch of animals in poor condition on his property and charging money for people to see them. The girl and her mother rescue a wolf kept at this ‘zoo’, and the rest of the story chronicles what happens to their family as they adjust to their new lives and become further involved in wolf conservation efforts.
Another one I don’t even remember the title of, but it’s about a girl with divorced parents. She lives with her father and his new wife, and she hates living with them because they are too structured in terms of rules(when it comes to her), but don’t really intervene when her younger step siblings do things like break projects that she worked hard on for school. She then gets her things and walks for a couple days until she reaches her mother’s house. Along the way she is followed by a cat, which starts a very interesting scenario. If I recall correctly, the girl wants to stay with her mother…but also wants to keep the cat. And her mother won’t let her keep the cat due to allergies or something. Actually, I kinda want to find that book again and maybe analyze it sometime in a blog post, because from what I recall that book did a decent job being relatable and showing a complex situation. If someone knows the book I’m talking about and remembers the title, please let me know.
And, wow, that’s a ton of animal books and not necessarily a ton of fantasy. I did read more fantasy, I just can’t recall them off the top of my head. Well, this list features books for various age levels of teens and kids, and has different levels of dark content(animal books can be a little violent, though not all are. The Last Dog On Earth also had a little bit of smoking and cussing, but it wasn’t glorified)
For picture books, or maybe a level or two above that…I remember liking the Serendipity series by Stephen Cosgrove
Dear America (girls) and My America (boys) are the series that started the Royal Diaries. I’m only adding the girl and boy modifiers because that’s the gender “writing” the books. Often times there’s a Dear America and My America series for the same events, which are fascinating to read to see the differences.
There’s also a Canadian equivalent series called “Dear Canada” ?
The Newbery medal books encompass a lot of different genres but I recommend them all. Just check the back copy of a specific book to know if it would interest you or your child.
Also everything by Shannon Hale is amazing.
I considered some of the books on your list, Autumn, but I wasn’t sure a book like White Fang was a children’s book. Still, you’ve made an impressive list and included a lot of books I didn’t have down. Thanks!
You’re welcome. 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce on what I used to read 😛 And I hope lots of people look at our lists and find some new faves. Several of the titles on your list are also books I loved, but I didn’t include them in mine since it’d be redundant to repeat them.
I don’t think White Fang is actually childrens literature, and the same goes for many classics. But a lot of times classics get shelved in the kid’s section because people want to encourage children to read classics. Along with some other reasons, like them thinking a book only qualifies as ‘adult’ if it has certain graphic content in it. A lot of people loved reading stuff like White Fang when they were kids, at any rate, so it’s probably good to remind people of those books. Especially since children with more serious mindsets often hate the silliness of some more modern kid books.
Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy is for adults (I don’t recommend people read Green until they’ve read all the other books in the series, though.) But the Lost Books series is for teens and takes place between the Circle books. So, since the Circle Trilogy is reasonably appropriate for teens and ties in with the Lost Books (Ted Dekker’s teen series) I thought I’d recommend them as well. I think Allegiance is for adults too, but I read it as a kid and it was pretty clean from what I remember.
Also, I think for a time audible was giving free or cheap access to a lot of kid’s books. Not sure if that’s still going on, but it’s worth looking into.
They are, and there are a fair number of classics available for free.
I LOVE kid lit, it’s one I read just because.
Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper- fantasy
anything by Madeline L’Engle with the exception of House Like a Lotus- mostly fantasy
Dianna Wynne Jones- fantasy
Young Wizards series by Diane Duane- fantasy
Artemis Fowl- fantasy
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and several of her other books continue in that world- fairy tale retelling
Dear America and its companion book series My America (“diaries” set in American history, there’s a third series the Royal Diaries)- historical fiction
Marguerite Henry books (Misty of Chincoteague, and all of her other horse books)- realistic fiction (but now historical because they’re mostly 50+ years old)
The Borrowers- light fantasy
I’ve listened to loads of books with my kids as audiobooks, and then there’s the dozens I’ve assigned them to read, but these are the ones I’m thinking of off the top of my head.
I love hearing that you’re giving your kids a “book experience.” I think listening to books is how most of us were introduced to reading. Now, of course, we can continue to enjoy stories from that perspective because of audio books. Again, it’s good to see a list of children’s books from someone who appreciates the genre. Thanks.
Ticia, I just saw you mentioned Diana Wynne Jones. I love her books! My favorites are the Howl’s Moving Castle series.
My husband and I loved the Trailblazer series when we were kids.
In terms of young reader books, here are a few;
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DicCamillo
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (really anything by her is good)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
A little older readers might enjoy the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett
There’s also The Theif, and the subsequent books in that series, by Megan Whalen Turner.
Connie Willis is technically an adult author, but her books are also appropriate for teens and tweens.
For anyone who enjoys Shannon Hale’s Princess books, here are a few more. They’re upper elementary school age to YA
Court Duel (sequel to above)
A Stranger to Command (prequel to the above, published after. Introduces hero of 1st 2 as a young man)
(These 3 are related)
A Posse of Princesses
( This is not related to the above titles)
Very cool. Thanks for adding to the list, Kathleen.