Of all the many things lobbed at us as parents, we are told a long laundry list of what we should give our children. From the esoteric to the practical, it is promised that if we but give our child … time, morals teaching, discipline, music lessons, the right school, no school, good examples, the best *you name it*… if we only give that, our child will be happy and successful.
We all want our children to be happy and successful. And it is there that we are hooked into the method, the gift, the lifestyle, whatever it is that has promised us this holy grail of parenting.
But the harder truth is that it is a recipe of many things, that translate as love and guidance, which become tools and guideposts for the hardest truth of all: that each child must make his/her own way through life. Just as we all must.
Are There No “Must-Have” Gifts?
That is not to say that some tools and ingredients in life are not imperative. Just because people may compensate and manage without a good start in life does not mean it is fine to ignore their inclusion.
What Should We Give Our Children?
Here is the short list:
- Love and Security
- Training in life skills and good character examples
- Education, love of reading, love of learning
The methods are many, and none of these requirements in life demand lots of money.
If we give these things to our children, to the best of our ability, they can face the world well prepared. Even if we fail in some of the most important ways, the resilience of the human race shows that often they can make up for the lack. For children, it is very important to see that the parents made the effort: that they tried their best on behalf of the child.
Is This A Secret Shortcut?
I wonder if instilling a love of books isn’t a secret shortcut to the twin efforts of training and having a love of learning? After all, great literature is a way to pass on important values, cultural traditions, and an appreciation of good character through the power of storytelling. It also teaches the ability to think about the big questions of life and engage critical thinking patterns.
All this starts at an early age with reading.
As one who loves to read books, I have to say I am biased about their impact. Literature has always spoken so much to me, and certain fiction has molded my thinking in life long ways. I believe in its power to do so for others, including our children.
If we want to change the culture, providing time tested writings is surely one powerful and efficacious way to do it.
What Books Ought To Be On The Shelf?
Start with a list of classic children’s selections I collated. (That page includes info on why reading is so important, creating a reading nook, and the best of the classic books that my own children loved).
These are 20 great character-building books
For various age groups:
- Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney -very young readers
- The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats-very young readers
- James Herriot’s Treasury For Children, by James Herriot -very young readers
- The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh – 3rd to 4th grade
- Stuart Little, by E.B. White – 3rd to 4th grade
- Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink – 3rd to 4th grade
- The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, by Alice Dalgliesh – 3rd to 4th grade
- The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – 3rd to 4th grade
- Brighty of the Grand Canyon, Marguerite Henry – 3rd to 4th grade
- Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John – 3rd to 4th grade
- Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery – 5th to 6th grade
- Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell – 5th to 6th grade
- Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. – 5th to 6th grade (especially boys)
- Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson – 5th to 6th grade (especially boys)
- Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe – 5th to 6th grade (especially boys)
- Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson – 5th to 6th grade (especially boys)
- Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls – 5th to 6th grade (especially boys)
- Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott – 5th to 6th grade (especially girls)
- The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – 5th to 6th grade
- The Chronicles of Narnia (all 7 books), by C.S. Lewis – 5th to 6th grade
15 Important Books for Older Children to Adult
- The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
- David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
- Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
- A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
- Ben Hur, by Lew Wallace
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
- The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
- The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
- Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
- Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
- The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- 1984 by George Orwell