How can we find and provide good, quality reading material for our middle grade children?
After children have learned to read, we must provide well-written reading material so they continue in their love of reading, while also emphasizing strong moral character and values. We want to promote good morals and values with Classical Choices for Older Children.
Unfortunately, many “bestseller” books today instill negative morals in our children! Just like with what they eat, what we allow our children to digest will be what they become! This applies to our food diet, our screen diet, and our reading diet.
Books that showcase talking back, negative attitudes, disrespect for elders or parents, lack of empathy and genuine kindness, dismissive of absolute truth and moral values. When we give our children books that promote these things, we are permitting it in our home and to our children!
We may often hear parents say, when their child is caught reading, “well at least they are reading” – this is not a noble goal for reading and growing our children. Reading just anything is not acceptable.
The attitude, also, of “you can’t put them in a bubble” or “at least they’re reading it at home” or “they’ll find it one way or another” are sorry excuses for permissive and lazy parenting. We, as parents, are ordained by God to be our children’s first teacher – and this means placing strong boundaries for what is right and wrong!
There are many who want to corrupt our children and their innocence; there is truly a battle for their hearts. Those fighting for children’s so-called “sexual liberation” or “exploration” are strong voices in our culture today. It’s hard to fathom, but it’s true. There is pornographic material in your local school’s library and in your town’s library shelves; there are graphic novels and “middle school fiction” that contain sex and many topics that I would need a warning label here to even mention.
Since about the 1970s, the quality of children’s literature has decreased. There are still many good quality books being written for children, but it is more difficult to sift through all the garbage in order to find valuable, life-giving novels and material that you can feel good about giving your developing child.
In addition to the actual content holding the utmost importance for your child and their development into a confident, compassionate, and moral adult, the difference in writing style, syntax, and language is startling when comparing quality middle grade classical literature with fast and easy, “flashy” novels written for kids.
I think there is always a time for fun and simple adventure! I am often reading many books at one time, and one or two of which is an engaging and simple novel. We can give our children simple, but still morally upright literature, sometimes, but ensure they are being edified by high-quality reading material at the same time.
Balance is important, and a balancing act is definitely what it feels like to parent today!
Let’s look at 30 high quality classical novels, all which promote high morals and standards for children. All of these books have been read by me (and/or my son!) and are perfect for middle grades third through about sixth grade. Every child is different! If your first or second grader is reading well, they could certainly read these selections, and any middle schooler, high schooler, or adult would benefit from reading any of these Classical Choices for Middle Grades!
The Silver Pencil by Alice Dalgliesh: In the early 1900s, nine-year-old Janet Laidlaw lives in “the House on the Hill” on the West Indian island of Trinidad with her father, who owns a dry goods store, her mother, who is often ill, their servants, and her brother; a story about doing everything possible to accomplish a passionate aim.
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren: In this gently humorous tale, master storyteller Astrid Lindgren takes us through a year in the lives and customs of six Swedish children living on a group of three farms in the countryside.
Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates: Wolves, weather, a black lamb, a trusty dog all are part of Peter’s life on a mountain farm.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan: Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna’s point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa’s advertisement for a wife and mother.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes: Wanda Petronski is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. She claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t. When Wanda is pulled out of school one day, the class feels terrible, and classmate Maddie decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla: Tells of the adventurous life of the Wampanoag Indian, Squanto.
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski: Strawberries—big, ripe, and juicy. Ten-year-old Birdie Boyer can hardly wait to start picking them. But her family has just moved to the Florida backwoods, and they haven’t even begun their planting.
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz: Ann Hamilton’s family has moved to the western frontier of Pennsylvania, and she misses her old home in Gettysburg. There are no girls her age on Hamilton Hill, and life is hard. But when the Hamiltons survive a terrible storm and receive a surprise visit from George Washington, Ann realizes that pioneer life is exciting and special.
Sarah Whitcher’s Story by Elizabeth Yates: Little Sarah wanders away from her family’s cabin into the New Hampshire forest, and settlers come from all across the countryside to help find her. As the long days pass, the searchers grow desperate, but Sarah’s father’s trust in God holds firm.
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson: All the animals of the Hill are very excited about the new Folks moving in, and they wonder how things are going to change. It’s only a matter of time before the animals of the Hill find out just who is moving in, and they may be a little bit surprised when they do.
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman: Prince Brat and his whipping boy inadvertently trade places after becoming involved with dangerous outlaws. The two boys have nothing in common and even less reason to like each other. But when they find themselves taken hostage after running away, they are left with no choice but to trust each other.
The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla: In the days of King Arthur there stood a mighty oak tree within the walls of a castle. Peace reigned in the castle until the fearsome night when Lionel, long-lost brother of Lord Weldon, returned to cause trouble and unhappiness.
The Scripture Sleuth by Mat Halverson: Concord Cunningham is a boy who has discovered the Bible and uses it to solve mysteries in his community. His success brings him acclaim, and a reputation as a Scripture Sleuth.
The Scripture Sleuth 2 by Mat Halverson: Who sabotaged the school play? Is the bigfoot picture real or a fake? Did Mr. Morrison really find Murdock’s lost gold mine? Young and old readers alike will enjoy matching wits with Concord Cunningham!
The Scripture Sleuth 3 by Mat Halverson: Who stole the lumberjack statue? Is a peanut butter sandwich really powering the digital clock, or is it just a science fair scam? Why is there a mysterious skydiver in Pine Tops? Concord Cunningham can crack all the cases, but can you?
The Balloon Boy of San Francisco by Dorothy Kupcha Leland: Based on a true story, this book paints a colorful picture of daily life in San Francisco five years after the discovery of gold in California.
Gentle Ben by Walt Morey: The Alaskan wilderness is a lonely place for Mark Andersen, especially after the death of his older brother, Jamie. But in time Mark finds someone else to love–Ben, an Alaskan brown bear so huge that no one else dares come near him.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George: Terribly unhappy in his family’s crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude-and danger-of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.
On the Far Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George: Two years ago, Sam ran away from New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains. Now his younger sister Alice has joined him and is quietly living in a tree house of her own nearby. Their peaceful life is shattered when a conservation officer confiscates Sam’s falcon, Frightful, and Alice suddenly vanishes.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater: A humble house painter is sent a male penguin by the great Admiral Drake and, thanks to the arrival of a female penguin, soon has twelve penguins living in his house.
A Penny’s Worth of Character by Jesse Stuart: Shan is dishonest with the storekeeper in his rural Kentucky community, but he feels better about himself after his mother forces him to put things right.
McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm by Sid Fleischman: When Josh McBroom learns that the eighty acres of Iowa farmland he’s purchased are all stacked up on top of each other at the bottom of a muddy little pond, he thinks he’s been bamboozled. But McBroom knows he’s got the better of the bargain when the pond dries up to reveal an acre of soil so rich that seeds spring up into full-grown plants in no time and even nickels grow into quarters.
The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer: Ronnie and his aunt are tending the Tern Rock lighthouse for two December weeks while its keeper takes a much-needed vacation. But the days go by, and the lighthouse keeper doesn’t return to take them home.
Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson by Barry Denenberg: As the first black man to play in the all-white baseball leagues, Jackie Robinson was a symbol of courage, hope, and unity for all black and white Americans, and for people throughout the world.
The Night Crossing by Karen Ackerman: It’s hard to leave your home and friends, but the Nazis have invaded Clara’s native Austria, and her family is no longer safe.
The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of American Aviation by Quentin Reynolds: On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright took off in the world’s first flying machine!
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier: Alone and fending for themselves in a Poland devastated by World War Two, Jan and his three homeless friends cling to the silver sword as a symbol of hope. As they travel through Europe towards Switzerland, where they believe they will be reunited with their parents, they encounter many hardships and dangers.
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop: During the German occupation of France, twenty French children were brought to a refuge in the mountains. One day a young man came to their school with a request: Could they take in, and hide, ten Jewish refugee children?
Meet Abraham Lincoln by Barbara Cary: This warmly told biography of our sixteenth president is enriched by many authentic but seldom told anecdotes and complemented by bold color illustrations that capture the spirit of Lincoln and his era.
Riding the Pony Express by Clyde Robert Bulla: Dick Park is the son of a Pony Express rider, Katy Kelly is the daughter of a way station master, and Little Bear is an Indian boy who lives nearby. How three friends keep the mail moving is just part of this fast-moving tale about the great experiment in transcontinental communication.
There are enormous effects on a child’s progressing character traits, positive or negative, while reading and investing time in children’s books. The decision on how your child’s character will evolve is up to you (Rowan University).
We also highly recommend literature at The Good and the Beautiful Library of books. We own many of these and have enjoyed them! As an adult, I am particularly enjoying many of these classics and lesser-known masterpieces, most of which were written in the early 1900s. I have personally gone through The Good and the Beautiful’s High School Language Arts Course (Volume 1) and so enjoyed many of those selections that were a part of the course! I shared more about my thoughts here – and I will definitely learn through Volume 2 & Volume 3 in the coming year or two!
And for many more reading choices, you can see the selection at PaperPie. Classics with beautiful illustrations, we love all of these gorgeous editions:
- Treasure Island
- Black Beauty
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Anne of Green Gables
- Little Women
- The Railway Children
- White Fang
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
As well as beautiful graphic novels that bring classic stories or Shakespeare or Norse and Greek Myths to life! These graphic novels were vital in helping my son learn to love to read. He is now reading more difficult literature, but this was a fantastic gateway into reading!
- The Odyssey
- The Adventures of Robin Hood
- The Adventures of King Arthur
- Alice in Wonderland
- Jason and the Argonauts
- The Adventures of Thor
- Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles
- The Three Musketeers
- The Wizard of Oz
C. S. Lewis shares strong opinions of what a literary life should be. Portions of his many essays in The Reading Life states that reading particular books are a “life-changing experience”. “[A person’s] whole consciousness is changed. They have become what they were not before.” Lewis is remembered for reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost at the age of 12 at the kitchen table for breakfast. Why don’t our own children read Milton? (The Reading Life).
Lewis remembers fondly writing to family members and loved ones in his teenage years and always including a quotation from the Bible or Shakespeare. Why don’t our children quote Paul or John or Jesus or Hamlet?
Lewis is an extreme example, to be sure, but we can challenge are children to to more. And I know they are up for the reading challenge.
Lewis compares priceless books to Bach (versus a current tune on the radio) or a priceless work of art, by say, Cezanne (versus a simple portrait or hanging that will just do to cover any bare wall.) The tune or portrait is forgotten or not even noticed, whereas, Bach or Cezeanne spark emotion and remembrance.
Not every book can bolster such emotion, such consciousness change, but if we cultivate reading in our children’s life, they will be struck by these friends, these experiences, and they will not only be changed, but also begin to change others from their mere knowledge and ability to converse about topics more important than the weather or the fleeting current events of the day.