The family where I work as a babysitter is very fond of reading. Just a couple days ago, a delivery guy brought some new books that they had ordered at an online bookstore. The list of titles included Orthodox ABC, Stories about God, and other books, richly illustrated and written in a language that children can easily understand. I mean, we had enough books when we were kids but in any case, we didn’t have so many Christian books for children – in fact, we had almost none. However, there were several such books, which informed my life choices. I am guided by their simple truths even today.
I learned to read at a very early age. It was my older sister who taught me. She told me the letters’ names. In a while, I learned to merge letters into syllables and then I found out I could read whole words. My first book was a thick, 700-pages long, book of fairy tales printed in a tiny font. That book taught me some really invaluable lessons, e.g., that every bad action is going to be punished, that it is critically important to work hard, while a lazy person will achieve nothing. I learned about the benefits of bravery, honesty, kindness, and a whole lot more.
There was a separate shelf of books for children in my parents’ home. One day, I asked my father for advice on what to read, and he suggested that I read a collection of short stories by Vitaly Bianki titled Forest Homes in which the author describes the animal world, behavior and lives of its inhabitants. He also suggested that I read The Adventures Of Dennis. It is a book filled with good and warm stories about real friends, real adventures, and a real life. I re-read this book a couple of years ago, and the book turned out to be as fun and easy to read as it had been when I was a child, even though it often deals with really serious issues.
The third book he recommended was My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. It remains my dad’s favorite book. This book describes the life of the author’s family on the Greek isle of Corfu and its natural diversity in a humorous way.
Among my first Christian books, I’d like to mention the Illustrated Children’s Bible (you can find a lot of various Bibles for children and choose the most suitable for your kids. For instance, this one). There was a time in my life when I read the Children’s Bible regularly, at least several pages a day. When I grew older, I began reading the Holy Gospel instead.
I read an awful lot of books during my school years, both required and extracurricular, ranging from adventure stories and fairy tales to more serious novels for young adults. I went on to become a philology student, so I had to read huge piles of books for my exams. Lately, I have discovered that I am fond of re-reading books for kids, such as fairy tales. Let me tell you more about the books that I’d recommend to my children.
I’d like to mention The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the main idea of which is that one doesn’t need to have plenty of everything to be happy; instead, a person just needs to love and is loved. There are several movies based on this wonderful book.
I bet everyone knows at least a little about the plush teddy bear Winnie The Pooh from the book The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. The warm atmosphere of friendship, love, and care in that book will make you child feel protected from all the hardships and difficulties of the adult world.
I’d like to mention Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, too. This book is strongly recommended for children and adults alike. There are quite a few people I know who would gain a lot by learning the main character’s philosophy of happiness.
The list could just go on and on indefinitely but to cut it short, let me mention yet another book: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
This allegorical story deserves to be read not only by children who are going to grow into adults but also by all adults who used to be children. It recounts the most essential things using simple images and words.
I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago. I asked her about her list of favorite books for children and what had she learned from them. The friend of mine confessed that she used to be extremely fond of Bianki’s The Mouse Called Peek (you can find more short stories by that remarkable Soviet author here). She liked the brave little mouse a lot, in spite of his apparent weakness. Looks like even the simplest story or tale can teach us and our children something good.
I know some families that have chosen to hold family readings of good books over the more typical “family screen time” in the evenings. There are long-known benefits of reading for human imagination. At the same time, family reading implies communication between people, which is extremely valuable in this age of digital abundance. Reading is also said to improve sleep.
What are the must-reads that you recommend to your kids?