One of the gifts we thought to give our oldest (8) this year for Christmas, was the gift of some really good classic books. We both have an intense love of books and reading, one of our favorite pastimes before we had children was to take turns reading to each other at night after the work day from our favorite books.
We want our children to hopefully share this love of books, and we think the best way to help them achieve that, is to read to them, and to read to them often.
Starting our homeschooling journey recently, I’d been trying to figure out what kinds of books to read that were fitting for him. The coursework I’d chosen was great in all other categories, except the literature suggestions unfortunately. I mean… this boy has been reading Harry Potter since age 5 in kindergarten. He went through all the books of Narnia with my husband two years ago – so suggestions like Winnie the Pooh or Pippi Longstocking, although we read through them and laughed… they’re more in line with what I’m reading to our 4 year old. I could tell he really needed more.
The first one he was super excited to dive into was The Pilgrim’s Progress. I told him about this book as it was one I remember reading when I was about his age at the Christian school I went to. This book was so good, and so helpful in one’s Christian journey, that even 20-something years later, I still think about it and remember parts that reflect what I’m going through in my journey as a Christian. Even now as we’ve started reading it together (he was so excited he couldn’t wait for the break to be over 😀 ), I’m given the chance to find new treasures and meanings in it that I of course missed at such a young age. I told him this, too, that this would be a book he’d probably love to reread over the course of his life, just to understand the journey better as he gains more life experience. I still think it’s good for children this young to read it. I remember reading it and of course realizing I didn’t have those kinds of life experiences yet, but still understanding the wisdom it imparted and instruction on how to navigate different things like despair and discouragement, the hills of difficulty, etc. And I can see that even though he’s only 8, he already comprehends those things, too.
Plus it is wonderful to read it with him, stop and then explain things about life and faith. The characters in Pilgrim’s Progess are just so necessary for children to understand! People who are “Obstinate,” or “Pliable,” or the “Wordly Wiseman,” or the man named, “Legality.” Each one proposes an amazing discussion we then have about who these people are, why they are the way they are, and how they derail one’s life or miss what Christianity is about.
Rereading this book also prompted us to look into the life of the author, John Bunyan, who was such an admirable man in his own right. Learning together about his own life journey, and that he wrote this book while in prison (!) was a huge lesson in and of itself for us to talk about. We even read through Bunyan’s “Apology,” for his book, or rather struggled through it LOL… Because of his use of old English and speaking in riddles, every line I had to stop and explain what he was talking about. It provided new ideas our son has never thought about deeply enough, but also great humor as every sentence rhymed and sounded so strange! Overall it was a great lesson in not only the history behind him being imprisoned for just preaching and living out his faith, but also his steadfastness in the face of persecution (writing a book he knew would probably not be accepted – hence the lonnng apology and defense of it). It was also interesting to learn that some of Bunyan’s harshest critics and naysayers, were of course the fellow Christians themselves. It’s always been that way, from the Prophets of old, to the Wesley’s, to Spurgeon, etc. and that itself is another great lesson.
The other books we got him are as in the first picture, Gulliver’s Travels, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. He already knows of The Swiss Family Robinson, as it’s one of the my husband’s favorite stories, and it has A LOT of strong Christian lessons in it, more than what the popular movies would make it seem like. We love it because it portrays the almost insurmountable trials of a very traditional Christian family, and shows them constantly looking to their faith and the Bible, and guidance from God to understand how to overcome their barrage of struggles. Just a wonderful book for growing and influencing a young person’s faith, in our opinion.
And of course Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island are more just for pure boyish fun! Not that girls can’t enjoy these books, too, although I admit I was never interested in reading these two. Apparently, when men read these as boys they tend to stay with them long into adulthood, which to me is a mark of a very good book worth reading!
More books I can’t wait to read with him:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
If any readers have suggestions for what else would be good for children his age, please let know! I don’t think you can ever have too many good books 😀