For most of us who have dubbed ourselves “avid readers,” we can look back to our childhood and point out a book or two (or series) that ignited the flame. With that in mind, and in honor of Children’s Book Day, here are a few children’s books that have inspired kids to continue reading that still hold up even now.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Personally, if you were to start up a conversation about books and reading with me, within a few minutes I would bring up Little Women and how it was the beginning of everything as I reached into the early double-digits of life. As children, we were swept up with the March sisters’ stories. We watched them grow up and hoped to do the same with as much grace and strength.
The first time I reread this classic, I found myself older than my beloved characters, giving me a completely new perspective on their adventures. This new view (though, admittedly clouded by many unexpected tears) was one of insight and relatability that I could only get from both age and experience. I began to realize truly what an impact this book had on the way I live. For that, I will always be grateful.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Let’s face it: As a child, Narnia is possibly the most exciting place to find. It exists in the back of a seemingly ordinary wardrobe, animals can talk and are sometimes half-human, there’s adventure, and children can get awesome weapons from Santa. Not to mention there’s an all-knowing, randomly-appearing, proverb-speaking, can’t-be-killed, can’t-be-tamed, father-figure lion. Incredible.
Rereading this series with age and education, you can start to pick up on the nuances that are littered throughout it. You start to recognize Lewis for the tricky, genius writer he was. You will find that anything he says is never simply just that. There is meaning everywhere. Reading this series with a matured mind is like going on a whole new adventure with old friends.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
What list of classic children’s books would be complete without the phenomenon that overtook our generation? It was exciting to grow up with Harry and to discover this wonderful magical world that seemed hidden within our own. As Harry matured, so did we, and the adventures got more intense, the stakes were higher, and the investment for the story was through the roof. Get me a one-way ticket to the magical world of Harry Potter, please.
Once the series came to an end and we had watched the movies (for better or for worse), it was time to dive back in from the beginning. Suddenly, every little detail that may have been glossed over by most readers stuck out as a huge clue as to what was going to happen. Every meeting, every conversation, every Quidditch match is now seeped in sentimentality. Arguably, because the series is still fairly new, we may be a little too attached. Either way, it’s never a wrong time to pick up your wand again. (Remember, kids, it’s “leviOsa,” not “leviosA.”)
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley, orphaned and adorable, has shown children for years that having the right attitude can get you through just about anything (and elementary school guidance counselors everywhere rejoiced). As a child, it was amazing to see a relatable character in situations that were far less relatable to the majority of us. We watched as Anne grew and matured into her own self, and we aimed to do so also with that amount of love. If only we could all experience Green Gables.
As you’re older, it becomes even easier and often more important to take notice of the beauty that fills these stories — such as Anne growing and finding true love (Anne and Gilbert forever) as well as finding connections with everyone no matter their gender, age, or circumstance (kindred spirits!). It truly doesn’t matter where you are in your life when you pick up these books (for the first or fiftieth time); there is still something to learn from little Anne of Green Gables.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
This is another book wrapped up in sentiment for me. I remember as a very young girl when my mom (a self-proclaimed non-reader, especially when it’s been made into a movie) decided to read this book to my siblings and me each night as a bedtime story. We would gather around and listen to the unlikely friendship of a spider and pig who supported and loved each other, just as friends should.
Reading it again, it’s nice to see that there is beauty in simplicity. This story is pretty straightforward. Unlike the aforementioned books, there isn’t much hidden meaning or new things to pick up on — simply an old lesson that bears repeating.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
I can say with full conviction that this is the saddest book I’ve ever been required to read for a grade. For teachers who enjoy a room full of sobbing sixth graders, this one is a winner. Most of us spent our childhoods begging for pets, and if we got them, we loved them like nothing ever before. After all, as we grow up, things and people start to let us down, but our pets never do. Where the Red Fern Grows captures that feeling perfectly. No one’s left without the understanding of how much these dogs mean to their family. We can share that.
As adults, that child-like affection stays. We can watch movies about war and the like completely stone-faced, but we become a weeping mess at the thought of Marley & Me. Bottom line: Don’t touch that dog! Even though this book clearly does tap into our canine-affixed emotions, it does so in the best possible way. We remember past pets and hold our current ones closer because we now remember that simply having them is having a love we’re happy to hold.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
For many of us, The Giver was our first glimpse into utopian/dystopian fiction long before The Hunger Games or the Divergent series. It captured our imaginations with the idea of a perfect world and brought us to a stark, gripping reality as we watched it all slip away. Along with main character Jonas, we learned the truth about what it meant to have this so-called perfect society — and, more often than not, young readers are shocked at what they can learn about their own society.
Like many of the books previously mentioned, this is another one that reveals itself in new ways each time it’s reread. While you’re coming to terms with how the real world that we live in works, you are more liable to pick up on the nuances of everything said (and even things not said) in Jonas’ world. It seems as though there is actually something new each time.
What were your favorite books growing up? Today might just be the day to dust them off and see if they can still wow you. Happy Children’s Book Day and happy reading!