My daughter is now reading on her own, but before she insisted on reading herself to sleep we would read chapter books together, many of which I read as a child. I find the school year a busy time for kids to read books outside of those needed for school. Summer is the perfect time to break out classic books and share them with a new generation of young minds.
You don't have to break the bank purchasing these books either! The Ottawa Public Library is a great resource and even if a book is not available at your local branch, you can request it and have it transferred to your branch (which usually only takes a couple of days if the book is already available).
Besides the traditional 19th century classics such as Little Women, Black Beauty and The Swiss Family Robinson there are many contemporary children’s books that have also made the classics list, including:
1) Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary
Can you believe Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old this year? Her Ramona books, however are as timeless as ever. Ramona and Beezus is the first in the series of Ramona books and starts when Ramona is only 4 years old. Ramona is a great reminder of how important it is for kids to have the run of their neighbourhoods and also get into a little mischief sometimes. Ramona is a perfect book to start reading with emerging readers or as a first chapter book for more independent readers.
2) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
With the release of the movie version of The BFG this summer, why not introduce your kids to Roald Dahl’s other classics including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first novel read by my daughter’s second grade class and she couldn’t put it down (and I often had to remove it from her bed at night). It was THE book that made my daughter love reading.
3) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
What’s not to love in this beautiful story of true friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte A. Cavatica, his spider saviour. Although the ending may draw tears, the power of friendship plays an important part in this book and is a story any child will carry with them for a long time to come.
4) Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
My daughter and I started reading this one together when she was five – she was instantly engrossed in the magic and possibility of Harry Potter. She immediately cheered for the underdog (in this case, Harry) and loved seeing him so confident doing what he does best – magic! She hasn’t read the others yet, but we have them in the house and she says when she’s ready for more “magic” she knows where to find them. I like the Harry Potter books because they are enjoyable for readers of all ages and because it’s fun to use the word “muggles” and have your children know what you are referring to.
5) Holes by Louis Sachar
A great book about building self-confidence told through a mysterious and engaging story of Stanley who is sent to Camp Green Lake where he and the other campers are forced to dig holes every day. Holes is a fun book for kids heading to camp (even though Stanley’s is a juvenile detention camp, but don’t worry he didn’t commit a crime). I read this book in university for a children’s literature course and finished it in one sitting – not because of its length so much as the interesting story.
6) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
An undeniable Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables is a lighthearted read at any age; not to mention it’s the perfect accompaniment if you are planning a family vacation to Prince Edward Island this summer. Anne is an outgoing girl who is sure to win the hearts of anyone who reads her triumphant story of convincing her adoptive parents that they need her and how she makes everyone fall in love with her partly due to all of the humorous situations she finds herself in.
7) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
If you have a strong reader in the house then The Secret Garden may be of interest. It’s about young Mary Lennox who’s lonely beginning make her appear rude, but thanks to a good-natured maid, Mary discovers a secret walled garden and unlocks all its mysteries. This story teaches the value of friendship and the healing power of being surrounded by nature and living things. It’s a beautifully told story that will have children looking for secret gardens of their own!
8) Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
This book was my absolute favourite growing up! Pollyanna is an optimistic young orphan who lives with her wealthy but strict Aunt Polly. Pollyanna finds the positive in everything – including being locked up in an attic and even after an accident causes her to lose the use of both of her legs. Although it sounds a bit dark, the story of Pollyanna teaches children to look for the good in any situation and cannot help but make you feel happy, even at the end of a hard day.
9) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
For many kids The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is their introduction to the fantasy novel. It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series and is sure to hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Four children discover the magic land of Narnia through a wardrobe in an old country house. Once there they discover talking animals, a witch and a seemingly permanent winter world... what ensues is an adventure sure to lastingly stick in the minds of anyone who reads it.
10) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Remember the first time you travelled down the Yellow Brick Road? Why not share the girl with ruby red shoes, her little dog, and her magical friends with a new generation of inquisitive readers? The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is full of timeless humour, wisdom and, of course, mystery and adventure!
11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Although Lemony Snicket is a pen name, this harried writer tells the story of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire who lost their parents in a fire. Through a series of 13 books, Lemony shares how, following the fire, the children are placed with a murderous relative who is trying to steal their inheritance and the adventures that soon develop because of it. Throughout it all, Snicket tries to dissuade the reader from continuing… but of course he fails because the story is too engaging to not continue reading!
Do you have a classic children’s book we should know about? Share it in the comments!