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Catch up on children’s classics this summer

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Age-by-age guide to classic books

Ahhh… summer. It’s the perfect time to slow down, unwind a bit and indulge in some much-needed relaxation. It’s also a great time for your children to read some of the classics. Select age-appropriate books with our age-by-age guide to classic literature.
Girl reading classic book outdoors

Classic literature is "classic" for very good reasons. Don’t let this summer pass by without exposing your kids to at least one piece of age-appropriate, timeless literature.

Dive into classics

Some parents may shy away from classics, perhaps thinking they may be too difficult or too boring to hold a child’s attention but nothing could be further from the truth. Classics can inspire, spark conversation, foster creativity and open doors to new adventures. "Classics give glimpses into past societies and lifestyles that are significantly different from what we’re used to, offering a chance for us to learn about those differences and often providing perspective and insight into our own lives," says Erin Fawcett, an expert in children’s literature and author and illustrator of an upcoming series of children’s books. "At the same time they contain common themes that are still very relevant to the lives we lead today."

Breathe life into classics

Summer is a great time to encourage your kids to tackle some age-appropriate classics and breathe life into learning. "There are lots of ways to incorporate related activities to these books and when kids aren’t at school for six to eight hours a day you can use the extra time to actually live the stories which will go a long way in supporting their comprehension of what they’re reading," says Fawcett. While children get lost in a literary journey, parents can enhance the experience by planning crafts, field trips and meals inspired by the story lines.

Classics for the reluctant reader

Not every child will willingly embrace a summer reading list filled with classics but moms can help their kids conquer the literary divide. Fawcett offers the following advice for mothers of reluctant readers:

  • Recognize the reality - Acknowledge that these books may seem less intriguing at first; that they may be arduous to read. And admit that this is/was true for you as well! Be real and bring yourself down to their level; create common ground and a common goal to read together so you can help each other to better understand and enjoy the book.
  • Make a deal with them - If they read one of the classics you suggest to them, they can recommend one of their favorite books for you to read. If you’re willing to trust their opinion and try something new that they claim to be a great read, they are more likely to follow suit and give your suggestion a chance too. Just be sure to follow through with your end of the bargain!
  • Include their friends - For a lot of older children and teens, summer is a time to spend with friends. So put a fun spin on this by inviting your kids’ close friends to participate. This could be a fantastic opportunity to help your child socialize, for you to get to know their friends, and help more than just your own children learn to love the classics.

Classic books by age

Kindergarten

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

First grade

Heidi

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Second grade

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Third grade

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Fourth grade

Black Beauty

Black Beauty by Anna Sewel

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Fifth grade

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Sixth grade

Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Seventh grade

Gone With the Wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Eighth grade

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

High school

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

More about books for kids

Board books for the artsy mom and curious toddler
Books that help kids overcome fears
Best book series for young readers

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