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  • Writer's pictureJulie Branstetter

A Case for Classic Literature for Kids & Teens

This is a growing list of classic literature I personally recommend for children of various ages to read. Classics should be a staple in our literary pantry and homeschool curriculum; they play an important role in providing a well rounded education for our children. Classics are valuable because they offer learning experiences, sometimes through difficult perspectives, elegant writing styles, and a variety of essential values.

Some Benefits of Reading Classics

* Improves reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Classic books of all kinds have themes, symbols, and other important elements. When your children have a chance to explore these elements themselves, they can start to build an understanding in how to analyze texts, and improve their reading comprehension and critical thinking abilities.

* Expands Vocabulary Language changes from era to era. In reading classic books, it is common to come across words and phrases that are new to your child. Their vocabulary expands, and, as a result, they become better writers, readers, and communicators. * Moral Messages Through the classics, it is possible to see how the world has changed (either for the better or worse) over time. Classics help to incorporate historical and cultural knowledge into your child's reading material. Information about how the people of past thought and acted is revealed from page to page of every book, and catching onto these themes help children to develop their own psychological world view.

* Inspiration

Many modern authors have been inspired by classic literature. The classics have a rich history of inspiring some of our favorite modern works. Even if your child never becomes an author, the classics help them to become better writers and communicators, and this expands benefit into many areas of their lives.

* Patience

Reading classics often helps to teach a child that patience and diligence comes with reward. Many classics present stories with more than one plot, and they may take longer to build characters and settings before presenting conflict and conclusion in the story. An impatient reader may find this tedious and boring, especially in modern times when instant gratification is embedded into every aspect of culture. They may want to put a classic down early-on, but when encouraged to continue with the story, they eventually discover that it is one of their favorite books. Learning to stick through a book with great detail and discover joy as a reward teaches children patience which will benefit them in many areas of life.

* Emotional Self Regulation

Let's face it! Those of us who've read classics know, they don't always have a happy ending. Sometimes classics are hilarious, and sometimes they are torturous and can leave a profound emotional impact. Working through classics can help to teach children and teens emotional self regulation as they work through the conflicts and conclusions of a great variety of stories that don't always end the way we want them to. We know we all wanted Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester to find each other again in the end, but finding him blind and maimed was a bit of a shock. No matter how much we'd like to change the ending, that's the way it is, and that's also the way life is sometimes.

Here's my initial list, but I will be adding to it over time. This is a great place to start if you are looking for something for your child or teen to read. Look at the age recommendation on them to be sure they are age appropriate for your child. Some of them are for very little children, others are for teens. You may easily find these at your local library or if you need to purchase one and would like to save money, consider using Thrift Books or Second Sale.

Little Women Louisa May Alcott, 1868

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L'Engle, 1962

Charlotte's Web E. B. White, 1952

Grimm's Fairy Tales

Peter and Wendy James Matthew Barrie, 1911

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl, 1964

The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein, 1964

Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak, 1963

Anne of Green Gables L. M. Montgomery, 1908

The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats, 1962

Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown, 1947

The Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams, 1922

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ L. Frank Baum, 1900

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter, 1901

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain, 1876

The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911

The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster, 1961

Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson, 1882

Winnie-the-Pooh A. A. Milne, 1926

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Annotated Book Lewis Carroll, 1865

The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame, 1908

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee, 1960

The Story of Doctor Dolittle Hugh Lofting, 1920

Matilda Roald Dahl, 1988

The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937

The Hiding Place

Corrie Ten Boom, 1974

Stuart Little E. B. White, 1945

A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens, 1843

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis, 1950

Black Beauty Anna Sewell, 1877

Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls, 1961

Make Way for Ducklings Robert McCloskey, 1941

The Sword in the Stone T. H. White, 1938

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain, 1884

A Little Princess Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1905

The House at Pooh Corner A. A. Milne, 1928

The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943

Beezus and Ramona Beverly Cleary, 1955

Romana the Pest Beverly Cleary, 1968

Little House in the Big Woods Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred D. Taylor, 1976

Heidi Johanna Spyri, 1881

Pippi Longstocking Astrid Lindgren, 1945

The Swiss Family Robinson Johann David Wyss, 1812

Mary Poppins Pamela Lyndon Travers, 1934

Pollyanna Eleanor H. Porter, 1913

James and the Giant Peach Roald Dahl, 1961

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne, 1870

Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell, 1949

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series

Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, 1594 - 1634

Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë, 1847

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen, 1813

Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes, 1605

Moby-Dick Herman Melville, 1851

The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger, 1951

The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde, 1890

Dracula Bram Stoker, 1897

Lord of the Flies William Golding, 1954

Animal Farm George Orwell, 1945

The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas, 1846

Emma Jane Austen, 1815

Invisible Man Ralph Ellison, 1952

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Illustrated Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886

Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury, 1953

The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

The complete Works of J.R.R Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien 1937

Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1866

A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens, 1859

Persuasion Jane Austen, 1817

Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe, 1958

The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway, 1926

Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert, 1856

The War of the Worlds H. G. Wells, 1898

The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank, 1947