Classic Books for Children – How to help your children discover a love of great literature
Ella asked Tim and I if we liked Romeo and Juliet the other night at dinner. She is nine. Her 7 year-old brother, Ezra, is trying to decide if he likes Bleak House or David Copperfield better. These are not child prodigies immersing themselves in the original texts of Shakespeare and Dickens, but they are developing a love of great literature through classic books for children.
We selected the Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare as a keepsake when we visited Stratford-upon-Avon. The lovely cloth-bound edition of some of the Bard’s greatest works delighted us and we hoped our daughter might enjoy it. Ella, seven at the time, devoured the stories on the return train ride and has read the book many times since.
Classic books for children are often abridged versions with beautiful illustrations. They do not necessarily introduce the children to the original language of the author, but they bring treasured stories to life. These miniature classics introduce children to literary masterpieces and give them something to build on when they read the originals.
Ezra raced down the stairs last night after bed time to tell us the fascinating conclusion of A Tale of Two Cities. Santa brought the Usborne Illustrated Stories from Dickens last year and he is just discovering it. We read chapters together, but he usually finishes the stories on his own because he can’t wait to discover what happens next.
My husband remembers diving into the classics as a young boy in the 1980s. His parents filled their shelves with Moby Books Illustrated Classics of stories like Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, and The Jungle Book. These books had a picture on every other page and could be called classic graphic novels. Tim devoured these stories and grew up with a love for literature.
3 Tips for Introducing Classics to Young Readers
If you want to introduce your kids to classic stories, I highly recommend beginning with some illustrated versions.
- Read Together. Make reading a time to cuddle up and soak in individualized attention. This is a good time to bring out original versions of Hiedi, The Wind in the Willows, or Anne of Green Gables.
- Offer a Variety of Books. Classics should be one part of your child’s reading adventure, mixed in with Dr. Suess, JK Rowling, and Mo Willems.
- Read the Classics. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the original novels again or for the first time. If the length, language, or historical context of a book has intimidated you in the past, learn the basic stories with your children and then enjoy the talents of the great authors.
What are some of your favorite classics? I can’t wait to share Jane Eyre with my kids!
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