It’s In The Books!

Classical children’s books –  gift recommendations

by Kathryne Oates, Development Director

I wrote a newsletter article about children’s books eight years ago. In it I shared that in the crawl space under the staircase, back behind all the Christmas decorations, were a couple of huge plastic bins filled with books for my grandchildren. I didn’t have grandchildren yet, but I figured you could never start too soon building a quality library for future generations!

Image result for grandma reading books to children

Fast forward to 2017, and many of those books are now in a huge wicker basket in our family room so that we can read to our three grandchildren, and they can pour over books on their own. Many other books remain packed away for when they are a little bit older.

I am re-printing part of that article here, and am attaching a couple of book lists for you in case you are looking for Christmas gift ideas! We would love to hear from you with your favorite titles!


I am passionate about children’s books and how they can be used to build Christian virtue in our kids. In the classic “The Republic”, Plato identified the cardinal virtues as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control. To these the church added faith, hope, and love. Books can play an important role in giving powerful examples of character development, as children are swept into different time periods, places, and adventures where the characters develop virtue by making “fork in the road” decisions and courageous choices.

The books that accomplish the difficult task of bringing virtue lessons to life often aren’t found on a typical Scholastic book list, or front and center in a bookstore. But children’s classics have withstood the test of time, teach powerful lessons, and reinforce virtuous behavior.

Here are some questions to use when evaluating what makes great character building books for children. (Some of these questions come from the Classical Christian Education Support Group).

  • Does the book have literary value? Does the book re-emphasize a biblical world view or the Judeo-Christian heritage in some way?
  • Does the book teach, through whatever means, what is moral or just or true?
  • Does the book encourage children to love and good works?
  • Does the book exemplify warmth, tenderness, courage, humor and other values and characteristics that we desire our children to be exposed to?
  • Does the book nourish the intellect and fire the imagination?
  • Does the book cross age barriers to be enjoyed by all? (Three cheers for Winnie the Pooh!)

You can find classical literature lists online. Here are just two of them: