20 Children’s Classics Worth Reading


Books acquire the “classic” designation for a reason.  They have withstood the test of time.  Generations of people have enjoyed them and found them worthwhile.  However, while we consider certain books to be classics, many of them we’ve never actually read!  Or sometimes we are so familiar with them– we know their names and their basic stories, that we can’t remember if we’ve ever read them or not!  This can easily happen after watching a movie based on a classic book.

“ ‘Classic’- A book which people praise and don’t read.” –Mark Twain

After reading this quote this week, I started thinking about the classics in children’s literature that I have read.  I thought specifically about those classic books that I’ve read with my children recently, and found to be remarkably wonderful books.   These classic books were written between 50 and 100 years ago, but they don’t seem outdated!  Sure, they may have some old-fashioned language and parts in them, but overall their stories are strong and they include lessons for us all to learn.

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Photo by Daquella manera

I decided to blog this week about these children’s classics that are worth reading.  Books that you and your children will find have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were when they were written.  And at the end, a few children’s classics that I am putting on our family’s to-be-read list: books that either I read long ago and want to re-read, or ones that I have never actually taken the time to read.

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover!

I love it when publishers release new editions of old books.  There are timeless classics in children’s literature that shouldn’t be forgotten, and although we say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” it is easy to do exactly that.  We often pick a book based on how the cover makes us feel.

Sometimes it is hard for a child to be excited about reading an old book with a worn, dusty cover with old-fashioned characters drawn on the front.  Unfortunately, some covers just become outdated and are not as appealing to young readers.

In library settings, books that are outdated and not checked out enough often are “weeded” from the collection.  This should exclude the tried and true classics, but sometimes classics are weeded in favor of a newer edition of that same classic with a new, updated cover.

Give a Classic a Try!

It is always exciting to read a brand-new book that is freshly published.  I love reading new books.  But there is a value to old books as well.  We need to remember that these books are classics for a reason, and they have stories to tell, lessons to teach, and characters to meet, all waiting inside the cover.  Certain classics should definitely be kept in libraries, bookstores, and on your child’s to-be-read list.

Ways for you to encourage your child to read a children’s literature classic:

  • Read a new edition: shiny new cover on the outside, timeless classic story inside
  • If you can’t find a new edition, think about reading it as an eBook, there is no cover to deal with that way!
  • Listen to it as an audiobook- I recently listened to Anne of Green Gables as an audiobook, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so funny, I laughed out loud!

Before your child starts reading a classic, you might want to consider these tips:

  • Discuss the “old-fashioned” language that might be inside the book.
  • With an older child, you can talk about the time period in which the book was set, and what was going on in the world at that time.
  • Consider reading it together, or at least the first chapter or two of a chapter book, until your child gets into the story.
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20 Children’s Classics Worth Reading

Picture Books:

 Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

 Corduroy
, by Don Freeman

 Curious George
, by H.A. Rey

 The Little Engine that Could
, by Watty Piper

 Madeline,
 by Ludwig Bemelmans

 My Father’s Dragon
, by Ruth S. Gannett

 The Runaway Bunny
, by Margaret Wise Brown

 Where the Wild Things Are
, by Maurice Sendak

Picture Books for our To-Be-Read List:

 The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton:  We’ve read this book before, but I want to check it out and read it again with my boys now that they are older.  There are many lessons in this book about the growth of towns and development, and I think they would learn from it if we re-read it.

 The Story of Ferdinand
, by Munro Leaf:  We have also read this book, but I want to revisit the story before we see the movie, which is coming out December 15, 2017.

Chapter Books:

 Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater (recommended for ages 6 +)

 Stuart Little
, by E.B. White (recommended for ages 6+)

 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
, by C.S. Lewis (recommended for ages 8 +)

 Anne of Green Gables
, by L.M. Montgomery (recommended for ages 9 +)

 Caddie Woodlawn
, by Carol Ryrie Brink (recommended for ages 9 +)

 Five Children and It
, by E. Nesbit (recommended for ages 9 +)

 The Secret Garden
, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (recommended for ages 9 +)

Chapter Books for our To-Be-Read List:

 The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes (recommended for ages 6 +): I read this as a child, but have heard so many people talking about the lessons about bullying in this book that I would like to revisit it now as an adult.  I’m going to see if my boys will listen to it read aloud, but it may be a book I read to myself or listen to as an audiobook.

 The Wind in the Willows
, by Kenneth Grahame (recommended for ages 7 +): I owned this book as a child and remember trying to read it, but could never get into it.  I’m going to try again with my boys and see what we think now.

 Peter Pan
, by J.M. Barrie (recommended for ages 8 +): We’ve all seen the movies and know the story, but have never read the book.  This is going to be a family read-aloud for us this winter.

Disclaimer:  Of course, this is not a comprehensive list.  Please forgive me if I have left off your favorite children’s classic.  In some cases with multiple books by the same author, I picked one favorite as representative of that author.  I also left off some other books that I loved as a child, but have not read recently and didn’t want to vouch for their timelessness.

Feel free to comment to add your favorite children’s classic to the list!

If you see any books on this list that your child (or you!) haven’t read, take a minute to check them out and give them a try.  They are classics for a reason, and oh so worth the read!

Happy Reading!