5 Books to Read to Your Kids

Eric Smith 5 Books to Read to Your KidsI love reading to my kids, in part because I only read books that I enjoy too. It doesn’t matter how much I read; they always want more. Over the past two years, we’ve had great family times together, having adventures without leaving our living room. Reading together has made us better, and sharing stories has grown our family’s intimacy. I’d like to share some books that I’ve enjoyed reading and my kids have enjoyed hearing. Here are some of the current personal favorites, appropriate for kids aged 6-10:

The Wormling Series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

Owen Reeder, our protagonist, is a nerd. He loves to read and quickly devours books. Like the boring, smallish town in which the story starts, Owen is ordinary. That changes when a stranger visits the bookstore. Suddenly, Owen finds himself in the middle of a grand battle, the outcome of which affects another world as well as his own. This series is a fast paced adventure and we all loved it. The chapters are a good length for reading one or two at a sitting, and the stories bring up numerous topics to discuss with your kids, like fear, talents/identity, right/wrong, good/evil, friendship/loyalty, and many more.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This is the first book in the series by the same name. Like the Narnia series, each book is connected, but could be read on its own. We’ve read three in the series and liked this one best. The peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey must figure out how to resist the attack of the invading Cluny the Scourge. It allows for big questions about real life like, “Is war ever right?” “What about pacifism?” “Is there right and wrong in war?” That being said, it isn’t as heavy as those questions might imply. It’s a fun, action-packed adventure with a cast of talking animals who take risks, learn wisdom, and model bravery.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

“Daddy, are you crying?” My five-year-old daughter asked me this at one point in this saga. I was. She wasn’t supposed to notice. This was by far our (or at least my) favorite. It’s a bit of a commitment, with four large volumes, but the investment is worth it. Singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson spins this tale of the bookish and earthy Igiby family and their adventures. Peterson sends the family on a dangerous quest to save all sorts of things and people. The setting is earth-like, though many dangerous animals await, none of which you’ve imagined before. We loved Peterson’s dry sense of humor, his colorful and engaging characters, dangerous creatures, and plot twists. Peterson likes to back into a description of things, like this: “The whole land of Skree was green and flat. Except the Stony Mountains in the north, which weren’t flat at all. Nor were they green. They were rather white from all the snow, though if the snow melted, something green might eventually grow there.” Delightful.

One warning: Some situations may be a bit too intense for younger listeners. For example, there’s a scene of children in a forced-labor factory that could be unsettling.

The Book of Virtues Edited and With Commentary by William Bennett

Bill Bennett collects classic poems, stories, and essays from Aristotle to Grimm, Wordsworth to the Bible. Bennett’s goal: that parents have stories with which to help teach character (virtues) to their children. Each of the 10 chapters promotes a different virtue. (Our favorites are self-discipline, friendship, and honesty.) Each chapter also starts with stories and poems accessible to the youngest listeners (ages 4-5), and then gets more advanced as it goes.

After meals, as time permits, I like to pick a chapter and read the most accessible poems or stories. We’ll continue reading through the chapter until we get to stories or essays our 8-year-old doesn’t understand, then pick another virtue, and begin again. We’ve had some good discussions and have been able to apply these stories to real situations, like chores, friendships, and manners.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones

This storybook Bible points children to the most unifying theme of the Scriptures… Jesus! It is poetic and colorful, both in words and illustrations. I’ve taught Bible to Summit students for 10 years, and I love this book. There are two particular strengths that make this book wonderful. First, it shows them that the Bible isn’t just a collection of disparate moral stories, but rather one true story about a loving God who comes to rescue his lost children. Second, it teaches our children a great way to read the Bible: to look for Jesus in every story of the Bible (Luke records how Jesus does this for his disciples in Luke 24).

We found a couple of good ways to read this book. Sometimes we read one chapter at a time, then discussed for a little bit. Or I would read many chapters in one sitting and let my kids get the bigger picture, the grand story of Scripture. (And for this latter type of reading, I highly recommend the audio version, read by David Suchet. His English accent does it all.)

Perhaps best of all, this is the adventure story we can enter together — the story of God’s love and plan for his children. To enter into that story with my family is truly incredible.