Category: On Reading Aloud

7 of My Favorite Books About Books

I was raised a reader. Though I don’t have many clear memories of being read to, my dad opened his bookshelves to me and kept a steady supply of good books on the shelves in my room. My mom gave me books at almost every birthday. That I would pass this love of the written word on to my children seemed inevitable, but how I would do it and why, exactly, it was so important were harder for me to articulate when I first became a mother.

So today I thought I would share with you some of the titles that helped shape our family’s reading life, either by supplying us with specific titles or by encouraging me to try again when a read-aloud flopped or a child waded stiffly through a reading lesson. This is a broad list, and one that I hope gives you some inspiration as you build your family’s library. It’s not an exhaustive list, though, because I have a pile of books about books that I’ve yet to read, and it’s almost as long (or longer!) than this one. Perhaps this post is only the first in a series?

A few of our family's favorite books about books | Little Book, Big Story

 

HONEY FOR A CHILD’S HEART, BY GLADYS HUNT

Honey For a Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

When it comes to books about books, this one must be the standard: it’s the first I read when I discovered the genre, it’s the first that crops up any time someone asks a blogger or interviewee where to find good books, and it continues to be a favorite since its publication in 1969. Gladys Hunt shares a beautiful vision for reading aloud as a family, some practical tips for how to do it well, and chapters upon chapters of wonderful recommendations divided by age and topic. This is one to own and dog-ear thoroughly.

As parents we are concerned about building whole people—people who are alive emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. The instruction to ‘train up a child in the way he should go’ has enormous dimensions. It is to teach a child to think, to influence character, to give high ideals, and to encourage integrity. It is to provide largeness of thought, creative thinking, imaginative wondering. How large are your goals for your children? . . . Young children, fresh with uncluttered minds, the world before them—to what treasures will you lead them? With what will you furnish their spirit?

— Honey For a Child’s Heart (p. 23)

FOR THE CHILDREN’S SAKEby Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macauley | Little Book, Big Story

In For the Children’s Sake, Macaulay distills the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason down into a slender, inspiring book. This is a great introduction to the work of Charlotte Mason and to homeschooling in general, but best of all, it introduces the concept of “living books.” (If you’re not familiar with that term but you enjoy reading this blog, then read this book posthaste!) Macauley also gives a beautiful portrait of the life of a family, as well as some really great parenting advice. I reread this one every few years and come away each time refreshed and reminded that it is a joy to explore this world (both in person and in story) with my children.

If we begin by choosing the tried and true, the best of literature, we will give the child a love of excellence and the really ‘good.’ As we go on reading he will find that there are distressing happenings, stories which need discussion. Literature can help children think about what life is like before they live it as adults.

— For the Children’s Sake (p. 115)

CAUGHT UP IN A STORYby Sarah Clarkson

Caught Up in a Story, by Sarah Clarkson | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah Clarkson’s lovely book views childhood as a narrative arc with an exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action and denouement. She dedicates a chapter to each part of the story and peppers her book with book recommendations that suit each age and whose great and timeless stories can shape the hearts of young readers.

Stories challenge us to see our lives as the narrative in which we have the chance to live all the beauty and bravery we can imagine. What hero will I become? What great thing have I been created to accomplish? I believe those questions of heroism are the driving force behind a life of virtue, creativity, and purpose . . . Search deeply enough into the history of any real life hero and I am convinced that you will find a story, imagined or actual, on which that hero’s life is largely based, a narrative that opened their eyes to the part they were called to play in the story of the world.

— Caught Up in a Story (p. 5)

AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH, by Neil Postman

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman | Little Book, Big Story

Though this book was first published in 1985 as an examination of how television was transforming the way our culture learned, thought and reacted at the time, it has turned out to be eerily prophetic: what Postman had to say about the advent of TV could easily be said about the introduction of the internet, smart phones, and social media today. (To test this theory, I read a passage aloud to Mitch, leaving out the references to TV, and asked him what the author was talking about. “Twitter,” he said. Oh my.)

Postman’s contrast between the printed word and image-based learning made me want to read a lot more and cancel my Facebook account. This is a fascinating book, folks.

This book is an inquiry into and a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact in the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television.

— Amusing Ourselves to Death (p. 8)

GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD, BY JAMIE C. MARTIN

Give Your Child The World, by Jamie C. Martin | Little Book, Big Story

Jamie Martin provides us a booklist with a slightly different vision: in Give Your Child the World, she takes us around the world, chapter by chapter, sharing a different global region at each stop. I hadn’t realized that our home library was a bit thin when it came to multi-cultural titles, but that quickly became apparent (and was quickly remedied) before I finished the first chapter of this book.

Martin’s enthusiasm for introducing her children to many cultures (or deepening their connection with their own) is contagious, but it’s also timely: listening to the news each morning, I’m reminded of the importance of teaching our children to value and respect everyone they meet, regardless of race or culture, and books are a beautiful way to do that. (Read the full review.)

Parents naturally get concerned when we look at the state of the globe today. And it’s true—your children and mine will one day inherit a world filled with unique issues and problems. But that is no accident. They have been chosen to lead their generation through its difficulties. Destined for this moment in history. With love, faith and compassion firmly rooted in their spirits thanks to the power of story, they’ll be able to see the people beyond the headlines . . . Our job is to fill their lives with that love, faith and compassion today—so they can rest their feet on a story-solid foundation in their tomorrows.

— Give Your Child the World (p. 24)

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease | Little Book, Big Story

Jim Trelease was one of the first people to write a popular book on reading, a book that made its way into the hands of teachers and parents and brought out the importance of not just teaching kids to read, but of reading to them. This book is full of research (some of it pretty astonishing) on the benefits of reading to kids little and big, and it includes a treasury of read-aloud titles at the back of the book.

I found this book inspiring and helpful, but deliberated about whether or not to include it here. Trelease’s tone can, at times, put pressure squarely on the shoulders of parents and teachers in a way that might be discouraging, were we to forget that we do not raise our children without God’s grace. I am including it here, though, because The Read-Aloud Handbook is full of so many practical ideas for including stories in the daily life of families and classrooms, I just couldn’t pass it by. This one also includes a list of great read-alouds.

Reading is the ultimate weapon, destroying ignorance, poverty, and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn’t read much doesn’t know much. And a nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect an entire nation—the literate and the illiterate.

— The Read-Aloud Handbook (p. xxvi)

THE READING PROMISEby Alice Ozma

The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma | Little Book, Big Story

When Alice Ozma was in the fourth grade, her father set out to read to her for 100 consecutive nights. But when they reached that goal, Alice and her dad decided to keep going. This sweet memoir about a reading streak that ended only when Alice left for college is charming, yes, but it’s also deep and, at times, quite sad. I loved Alice’s perspective and her way with language.

The greatest gift you can bestow on your children is your time and undivided attention. As the years advance, you may reflect upon your life and see that in some areas, you have regrets about what you took to be a priority. No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young.’

 Alice’s dad, from the foreword of The Reading Promise (p. xiv)

Bonus!

The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, by Sarah MacKenzie

Why I Love the Read Aloud Revival podcast | Little Book, Big Story

In every episode of Read-Aloud Revival, Sarah MacKenzie inspires and motivates listeners to “build your family culture around books.” To that end, she introduces guest after amazing guest and fills our wishlists with rich and beautiful books. I have bought many books on her recommendation and can’t think of a single one that fell short of my expectations. Listening to the podcast is a sure way to revive my waning enthusiasm for reading as a family. (Read the full review.)

What about you? Which books have shaped the way you read?

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It

Over tea, a friend recently told me that she had never heard of Advent until last year, when she and her husband showed up to church one day and found blue and violet clothes draped behind the cross at our church and candles everywhere. She covertly googled “what is advent” as our pastor began his sermon.

She told me this story and both of us laughed, but I find myself coming back to that conversation, because I, too, showed up for church one Sunday in December years ago and found that Advent—whoever that was—had arrived. I am well-acquainted with Advent now, but it was humbling to realize that I have grown so well-acquainted with it that I don’t think to slow down and introduce others to the season as well.

I know you are all from a variety of backgrounds. Some of you grew up celebrating Advent; some of you, like me, grew up celebrating presents. So I want to assume nothing today and tell you all a bit about what Advent is and how we celebrate it as a family.

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It | Little Book, Big Story

Advent is the season preceding Christmas, when we prepare ourselves for the entrance of our Creator God into his disordered creation. The season officially begins four Sundays before Christmas (that is, last Sunday the 27th), though most of our Advent readings begin on December 1. The important part is that, whether it’s four weeks even or more-or-less four weeks long, we spend that time meditating on the Incarnation of Jesus, both independently and as a family.

There are so, so many ways to do this, both at church and in our homes, but here are a few of our favorites:

We use a Jesse Tree to remind us daily of where Jesus fits in his long lineage of ancestors (and of how surprising it is that God used the people he did to shape that tree). I have written a few posts about that for this blog. If you’re interested, you can learn about what a Jesse tree is and how we use it here. You can learn how to make ornaments for it here.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

We use an Advent calendar in tandem with our Jesse Tree. You can learn more about how we use it and how I made ours here.

DIY Jesse Tree Ornaments | Little Book, Big Story

We light candles each Sunday to mark our progress toward Christmas. Many people use Advent wreaths for this; we use a cheap tea light holder from Ikea that conveniently has four wells for candles. It gets the job done and it’s pretty.

I try to do some devotional reading on my own. Last year, I spent the season studying for and co-writing the Advent series at the Deeply Rooted blog (you can read my posts from that series here, here and here. If you want to know more about why I love Advent so much, they’re a great place to start!). This year, I plan to read through John Piper’s book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy and Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him. But on the years when I’m feeling less structured, I at least try to read through one of the gospels on my own.

So You Want to Celebrate Advent | Little Book, Big Story

We try to do some sort of service as a family. The older girls usually visit a nursing home with their school and sing carols. I like to serve in the worship team at our church during Advent, though that doesn’t happen every year. But finding some way to use our gifts to bless others, even if it’s just bringing something sweet to the neighbors (sometimes that, honestly, is the extent of our service) is a goal we aim for each year.

Advent Books | Little Book, Big Story

And, of course, we read a lot of beautiful books. I pull out an old favorite from the attic every few days, but I also like to purchase one or two new Christmas books each year to build our library. By the time Christmas rolls around, we’re swimming in beautiful stories about Jesus. If you’re looking for some of our favorites, you can read this list, or you can peruse the “Christmas” section of this blog. The Read-Aloud Revival podcast also has a lovely episode all about Christmas books that aired last year, full of great ideas for how and when to read with your family.

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It | Little Book, Big Story

There. That’s a flyover view of how our family celebrates Advent. I’ll be back next week with more beautiful Advent books and resources for you.

Does your family celebrate Advent? Do you have any favorite traditions to share?

Carrot Top Paper Shop GIVEAWAY

One of my favorite aspects of the picture book is the way it connects word and image. Chapter books unfold in what is essentially a private place (our imagination), even when we read them aloud as a family. We may build a shared memory of having read the book together and may even pull a few favorite lines into the family lexicon, but we’ll all still picture Green Gables a little differently or hear Pa’s laugh in a slightly different way.

And that is as it should be.

But picture books draw both parent and child (and baby doll and long-suffering cat) into the same visual world, adding details from beyond the text to give our own imaginings color and structure.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Print, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

Our oldest readers still enjoy a good picture book, and I’m thankful for that. But as they move more solidly into the realm of the chapter book, I find myself looking for ways to strengthen their imaginations, to give them images and beautiful artwork to nourish their own visions of the text. I sketch scenes for the younger ones while their papa reads aloud; I hand-letter favorite quotes for our walls, so that the words themselves become beautiful. And I look for lovely prints by other artists that will broaden and deepen the way they see each story.

Jane Eyre bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

When, in my quest for those prints, I discovered that one of this blog’s very own readers ran an Etsy shop filled with gorgeous, literary-themed art, well. A giveaway seemed in order.

Jenny Williams of Carrot Top Paper Shop opened her shop after an unfruitful search for bookish art for her daughter’s nursery compelled her to create her line of Literary Heroine prints. I fell for those immediately. Also, her hand-lettered quotes make me wish I had an extra wall in our house just to display them. (Wouldn’t that be lovely? To have a wall dedicated only to words?)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

I settled for buying her print of Jo March for our Josephine, though I have a hunch that all four girls might find a print from Jenny’s shop in their stockings this year.

Enter to win an 8x10 print and a set of Literary Heroine bookmarks from Carrot Top Paper Shop! (Giveaway open until 8/26) | Little Book, Big Story

Because I love those prints so much and because Jenny just launched her newest literary heroine (along with a whole slew of wonderful new things—greeting cards and even this gorgeous mug!), we’re doing a giveaway! If you win—and two of you will win—you’ll receive an 8×10″ print of your choice, as well as a set of her Literary Heroine bookmarks.

Elizabeth Bennett bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

But Jenny’s also offering a little something for the rest of us: until Friday, 8/26, Little Book, Big Story readers get 25% off anything in her shop! Just use the code THEASENTME at checkout.

Giveaway Details

Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! The giveaway closes at midnight on 8/26. Two winners will be randomly chosen and notified by email.

 

If you live outside the US, you are welcome to enter! But please note that you are responsible for customs or import taxes that may apply to the transport of your artwork.

Best of luck to you all!

7 Favorite Resources for Family Devotions

Family devotions, we have learned, are fluid. We start a book and stick with it until a baby joins us at the table in a high chair or somebody’s bedtime shifts or a child (who shall not be named) rebels against dinner in all its forms and we leave the table fatigued, having forgotten to pick that book up off the shelf, open it, and read aloud.

Our kids change constantly, and we seem to be always two steps behind them. This makes any kind of routine hard to maintain.

7 Favorite Resources for Family Devotions | Little Book, Big Story

Part of me mourns that fact, and the fact that we’ve yet to finish a devotional together, but another part is grateful for what time we have spent with each of these books. That is the part of me that holds out hope that we’ll get back to them one day—maybe when the high chair has been retired for good, and we’re all eating with forks like civilized folks.

Because we have found a few devotionals worth returning to, plus one that has been an anchor in our family worship, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite resources for family devotions with you. Perhaps you are all eating with forks like civilized folks and you can enjoy reading these books with your family—or perhaps you’re a few steps ahead of us and have realized that that may never happen, and it’s time to buckle down and do family devotions anyway. Whatever your circumstance, here is a list of gems for you:

LONG STORY SHORT, by Marty Machowski

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

This book takes families all the way through the Old Testament—through the famous bits and the weird bits, too. It’s arranged by weeks, with each week divided into days, and each day complete with a reading from the book, a reading from the Bible, and a short list of thought-provoking questions.

We tackled this when our two oldest girls were four and under and were pleasantly surprised at how much our four year old gleaned from the readings (the two year old was more interested in finger-painting with her soup). I look forward to coming back to this one and to exploring Machowski’s book on the New Testament, Old Story New(Read the full review.)

TRAINING HEARTS, TEACHING MINDSby Starr Meade

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

Our church is collectively working our way through the Westminster Shorter Catechism with this book. Starr Meade orients each week around a catechism question and includes a series of Scripture readings and small devotions to correspond with each day of the week. This one, too, was a winner—but somehow, we only lasted six months before it returned to the shelf and stayed there.

THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book to the girls over breakfast for quite some time. It’s beautiful—the illustrations by Jago are deeper and richer than those in The Jesus Storybook Bible and more mature somehow. And Sally-Lloyd Jones’s meditations on various things truly do make the heart sing. (Read the full review.)

THE FAMILY JOURNALby Songs for Saplings

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

We haven’t used The Family Journal as devotional material exactly, but as a landing place for the discussions that arise as we read together as a family. It is fun to revisit the questions and answers our daughters have learned by heart from the Songs for Saplings albums and to make notes on the spontaneous theological questions the girls throw my way. We have stuck with this one—perhaps because we don’t need to read it every day. (Read the full review.)

The Bible

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Every so often, we dip into Scripture itself. I have also been reading one-on-one with our oldest daughter, so she’s getting portions of Scripture straight from the source and that has been a rich time together for us (though pregnancy naps are edging that habit out already . . . ). (Read the full post.)

THE ADVENT JESSE TREEby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Tree has seen us through Advent after Advent, so we know that we can stick with a series of readings for at least one month! This is a clean, basic, theologically solid look at who Jesus is, what the Bible said about him before he came, and why his coming matters so much to us. We have loved this one year after year, returning to it even after a fancier book with better illustrations briefly lured us away. (Read the full review, or learn how to make your own Jesse tree.)

THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLEby Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

This book has anchored our devotional time since our eldest was eighteen months old. Knowing that our older girls are learning the New City Catechism as part of their schooling has helped direct our family devotion time toward something that will help build a solid foundation for our younger girls. And so The Jesus Storybook Bible comes back again and again as a part of our evening ritual.

It has traveled with us halfway across the country and back and is held together mostly by box tape—not glamorous, perhaps, but a sure sign of a book that has seen service in the hands of small readers. And that is what we want: we want them to know that this is their story. Perhaps as the whole family levels up together, we’ll tackle other, deeper devotional books, but for now, this is our tried-and-true book for family devotions. (Read the full review.)

What About you? Which Devotional books (or habits!) have worked for your family?

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud?

Be warned: I am not a spontaneous person. Some people might look at our daily routine and weep over the repetition of it all, but I’m cool with that. I find that repetition comforting and conducive to productivity, but if you find it dull and horrifying, then—fair warning—this particular post might not be for you.

When Do We Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

Moving on: We try to read aloud at set times every day. As the kids grow and increase in number, these times have shifted, but they tend to stay centered around meals and bedtimes, because that is when we’re consistently together and typically seated.

I advocate for establishing a habit of reading because I suspect that the odds of us all feeling like sitting down to read a chapter out of a chapter book at the same time are not good, and if it does happen, it probably won’t happen every day. And to keep kids interested in the overarching narrative of a chapter book, I think they need to hear a bit of the story every day.

So, because I like making lists and schedules and spread sheets, I’m sharing a sample day at Chez Rosenburg with you. This is not every day, but it is an average day. Enjoy!

Early morning

Mitch and I wake at 5, make tea, and read our Bibles. He sometimes reads other things after that; I write. The girls play quietly or read or do what sounds like Riverdance upstairs from 6:30-7. And then the day officially begins.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Lunch

I eat lunch with the older girls, then pile a mound of blueberries on Phoebe’s tray to keep her quiet and read a story aloud from the Jesus Storybook Bible. We used to read story bibles at bedtime, but as Lydia and Sarah have gotten older, we’ve advanced to more challenging evening readings. But I do like knowing that the little ones still get that big picture view of Scripture, so even if it means reading over Phoebe’s post-lunch screeching, I press on.

I consider it a success if we do this three times a week.

Naps

After lunch, I put Phoebe to bed (and read The Three Musketeers while I nurse her). Then Lydia, Sarah, and I tangle up comfortably on the couch and read a chapter from our current book (All-Of-A-Kind Familyby Sydney Taylor). I escort Sarah upstairs for her quiet time. She often insists on bringing our read-aloud book up with her, so she can look at the pictures and improvise her own story lines (loudly) while she rests.

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

After Sarah is settled, I grab both my Bible and Lydia’s and join her in our room, where she does quiet time. We read a chapter together from my reading plan (currently the book of Matthew), underlining verses that stood out to us and talking (very minimally) about certain parts of the passage. This time quietly slipped into our schedule and has become one of the best parts of my day.

I leave her with stack of books and head out to the living room—or, on a nice day, the porch—where I read, nap, write, and/or plan art lessons until Phoebe wakes up and we kick off the afternoon.

BedTime

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

While I put Phoebe to bed, Mitch takes Lydia and Sarah through our catechism reading (from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds), then reads to them from a chapter book (currently Half Magicby Edward Eager). I grab my sketchbook once Phoebe’s down and join Sarah on the floor. We draw together—often scenes from our book, since these books tend to be well above her reading level—while Lydia curls up with Mitch on the couch.

With all three girls down, the house feels bigger and quieter—until someone comes downstairs because someone else won’t stop talking and is keeping her awake. But eventually, the chirping upstairs drops to a murmur and Mitch and I drift out to the comfy chairs on the front porch or flop limply onto the couch and watch The West Wing.

When we go to bed, we bring books. I read another chapter in my Bible and then a novel until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore. Mitch reads or plays a game on the iPad until he can’t hold his eyes open anymore.

Lights out.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

That might look like a lot of reading, but these chapter-long chunks of time spent together have become the sweet points in our day, the marshmallows in our Lucky Charms, and we get in big trouble with the little people in our home when we skip them for any reason, however reasonable.

Occasionally, I add other things into our routine (like poetry at snack time), or we drop things for time to accommodate new babies or a change in school routines. But this is the way things look right now.

When do you read with your family?

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter

When we read a good book to our children, we delegate: we enlist the help of gifted authors to demonstrate for them (and for us, too) what life is like in other places, other times, other bodies. This is what it looks like, a good book says, to ask for forgiveness even when the asking is hard, to love the unloved, to find joy in the common graces of life.

A good book takes us outside our own experience, outside a particular moment where Papa reads aloud to the rest of us, who were drawing a moment before but now sit—sniffling, pens suspended—as we listen to Prince Rilian’s farewell to his father. This is grief. This is joy.

This is, in a sense, one aspect of what the Bible does for us: it shows us what it looks like to fight against God, to persevere when we don’t want to, to look forward to the life yet to come. We study the movements of the Lord’s hand through each story and find comfort in the fact that his hand moves in our stories, too. We watch other lives lived out in its pages and recognize ourselves in them; that recognition then shapes the way we respond to trouble when it comes. This is where rebellion leads; this is redemption.

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter | Little Book, Big Story

And so we fill the corners of our hearts with Scripture and the corners of our home with good books. We surround our daughters with characters that they can connect with, characters who are foolish and funny, warm and wise, prone to mischief or perhaps a little too perfect. We introduce them to AnneJo, Heidi, Lucy, and Laura, of course. And then we move on to Bobbie, Phyllis and Irene, Emily and Rose—heroines of the lesser-known works of great authors or of the books picked up on a whim that are, perhaps, unassuming on the outside but radiant within.

Here, for your pleasure, is a list of our favorites. These stories don’t appeal exclusively to girls, by the way. Quite a few of them feature male characters that share the spotlight with the female lead or simply steal it outright, but they’re boys (and men) of good quality that I want my girls to know and love. I suspect that those of you with sons might find that your boys scoot their Legos a little closer to the couch whenever you pull these books out to read with your daughter. (I’ve marked those books with an asterisk.)

*THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, by E. Nesbit

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit | Little Book, Big Story

When their father is unexpectedly (and mysteriously) called away from home, three children move to the English countryside with their mother. Adventures large and small ensue, all told in the charming style of E. Nesbit. This book is one of my very favorites. (Read the full review.)

*THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald | Little Book, Big Story

An old fairy tale of the best sort, written by an author who came to my attention because C.S. Lewis gave him a hearty endorsement. This is, I think, the best of his books for children, and features the princess Irene and her unlikely friend, Curdie. There is also a magical great-great-great-great-grandmother and a whole passel of ornery goblins. (Read the full review.)

WHAT KATY DID, by Susan Coolidge

What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge | Little Book, Big Story

Circumstances change abruptly, both in life and in plot lines. What Katy Did demonstrates both aspects of this, and through the story of Katy Carr, shows how the road of suffering often leads to the most glorious destinations. (Read the full review.)

THE TINKER’S DAUGHTER, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Here is a marriage of history and fiction. Wendy Lawton tells the story of Mary Bunyan, the sightless daughter of John Bunyan, as she navigates life during her father’s imprisonment. This is a beautifully told story and shows the progress of Mary’s fledgling faith alongside the robust, proven faith of her father. (Read the full review.)

*THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

There is a good deal of “bashing of crowns” and “striking one another with blows” in this book, it’s true. But this unlikely candidate merits a spot on this list for three reasons: 1) Maid Marian is no nameless damsel in distress here but a woman bold, courageous, and virtuous. 2) The men in this book know how to treat the ladies. 3) My daughters loved it. (Read the full review.)

EMILY OF NEW MOON, by L.M. Montgomery

Emily of New Moon, by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

You already know about Anne. Emily of New Moon is the slightly darker tale—a deep violet to Anne’s brassy red, twilight to Anne’s fresh morning—of Emily Starr, poetess, orphan, and bewitching lead lady. My affection for this book is deep, my friends. So deep. (Read the full review.)

*TREASURES OF THE SNOW, by Patricia St. John

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John | Little Book, Big Story

Have you heard of this book? I hadn’t either until a friend recommended it at a wedding reception dinner. But Treasures of the Snow is a beauty worth seeking out: in it, you’ll find the gospel faithfully represented in a fictional setting, as a feud rises up between two families that needs the wisdom of a grandmother and the power of the gospel to resolve. (Read the full review.)

THE KING’S EQUAL, by Katherine Paterson

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

The author of Bridge to Terebithia tells an old-fashioned tale of an arrogant prince who cannot assume the kingship until he finds a wife who is “his equal.” (He thinks himself so wonderful that this must be all but impossible.) The King’s Equal is available as either a very short chapter book or a rather long picture book. In either format, it’s a joy to read. (Read the full review.)

A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, so you probably have heard of this one. It isn’t as famous than its celebrated cousin, The Secret Garden, but if I’m perfectly honest, I liked it better. Sara Crewe—wealthy and petted, but gentle and kind—suffers a fall of fortunes and determines to be a true princess throughout her trial. Unlikely friendships, unexpected blessings, and a satisfying conclusion spring from this decision. (Read the full review.)

*EIGHT COUSINS, Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott | Little Book, Big Story

Sheltered and newly orphaned Rose meets her uncle and eight boy cousins for the first time, finds them bewilderingly active but ultimately endearing and goes on to forge the best sort of friendship with them. This book is funny, charming, and beautiful all at once, and sparkles with the same delight in story and language that fuels Alcott’s Little Women. (Read the full review.)


Have I missed any? What are your favorite little-known chapter books for girls?

Reading the Bible as a Family

I have already reviewed a number of story Bibles and Bible stories here, but before we move much further down this road together, I’d like to pause and say something important: story Bibles are great. But the Bible itself is better.

Scripture is true and it is beautifully written (remember the image of Noah riding the waves over the tops of the submerged mountains?), but as adults we can grow a thick skin toward the language of the Bible. We begin to skim the stories that we know by heart, and as we do we lose sight of the shocking beauty of the story being told.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

But our children are hearing these things for the first time, and at some point they need to turn those onion-skin pages themselves and know that the words they’re hearing weren’t composed in a home office but in the heart of God himself. They were put to paper in prisons and deserts, written in grief and joy. Men died so we could hold them, leather bound and translated, in our own hands. This is a book unlike any other, and children need to know that from a young age.

Story Bibles are a wonderful aid when introducing kids to the whole of the Bible—especially when children are young and wiggly and love illustrations—but they are tools, meant to lead them on to the Word itself. If we stop at the paraphrase and consider our job done, we’ve merely fed them milk and failed to wean them onto solid food.

But that raises the question: how do you transition from reading story Bibles to reading the Bible itself with your children?

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

This is not a rhetorical question.

My children are young enough that we’re just beginning to move in this direction, so I am no authority. But I am a compulsive reader and an over-thinker of everything, so I have, of course, compiled a list of theoretical options. For those of you with experience reading the Bible with your children, please comment below and share any words of wisdom with the rest of us!

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Sharing Scripture with Your Kids

– Gladys Hunt, in Honey For a Child’s Heart, shares what is probably my favorite approach: read a passage together after a meal. Then everyone, parents included, must ask a question about the passage and answer a question about the passage. Gladys Hunt writes:

This method requires that everyone think through what the passage is saying . . .We experience a great thing:  the joy of discovery. What is discovered for one’s self is always more meaningful than what is told to us by someone else.

– Marty Machowski’s excellent devotionals Long Story Short and Old Story New take families through the Old and New Testaments respectively, with chunks of reading straight from Scripture followed by solid questions. We’ve done Long Story Short off and on, and are continually surprised by what our girls pick up as we read.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

– I know of one family that has read through the classic devotional Daily Light on the Daily Path for years. This is an old book, recently released in the ESV translation, that offers carefully curated readings pulled straight from Scripture—the verses aren’t in their immediate context, but are fitted together into a bigger context that follows a larger theme for the day. It’s hard to explain, really, but the way the verses work together is lovely.

– The one thing I do actively implement is surprisingly simple: I share what I’m reading with my girls. I love M’Cheyne’s reading plan (though I may not finish every reading every day), and when the girls see me reading my Bible they often ask me to read to them—and so we’ve read Psalms together here and there, or passages from James. I read aloud until they wander off, and then go on reading to myself. It’s simple, but they seem to enjoy being drawn into my time with Scripture.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

So, those are my ideas. What about you? How do you read the Bible with your kids? If your kids are older, I’d especially love to hear any insights you might have from your vantage point.