Good Book Series to read aloud to a Catholic Family

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If you have a range of ages in your children and still want to attempt a family read-aloud time, then it is best to select a book which is interesting enough for your older children, but not too intense for the younger ones. You can expect that under fives will need a quiet toy to play with while listening since the lack of illustrations in moat chapter books will leave them searching for visual stimulation. A series can be a fun choice to read as a family since it gives your children more investment in the characters.

The number one series I recommend for a family read aloud is Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Both you and your child will enjoy the adventures and misadventures of the four Walker children, responsible John, motherly Susan, dreamy Titty, and active Roger, and their friends wild Nancy, timid Peggy, bookish Dick, and his twin cheerful Dot. The Swallows and Amazons’ adventures take them all over England, out on the ocean, and even to China. Arthur Ransome’s fine writing and skill as a storyteller make the books in this series true classics. There are 12 books in the series, all wonderful, so plenty of hours of reading! Our favorites are Winter Holiday (Swallows & Amazons) and The Picts & the Martyrs (Swallows & Amazons) but really all the books are worth reading.

Another favorite series of mine is Catholic author Hilda Van Stockum’s wonderful Mitchell’s series, consisting of three books: The Mitchells: Five for Victory , Canadian Summer , and Friendly Gables . These books are about the five children of the Mitchell family growing up in World War II era America. Later, the family moves to Canada, which provides some nice exposure to Canadian culture. These books are memorable because the children are so very realistic. Your children will immediately connect to the Mitchells, with their dreams and disasters, as they grow both individually and as a family.

The Good Master and The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy are amazing books about a Hungarian family in the 1930’s. The first book describes how Jansci’s patient family gentles his wild young cousin Kate and also offers a lovely portrait of life, tradition, and cultures in Catholic Hungary. The second book is a bit more intense, describing the dark War years’ impact on the family farm and the children.

What better choice to read to a Catholic family then a book about saints? Mary Fabyan Windeatt‘s books are my favorite for this purpose. The language is simple enough for younger listeners, but the books also have solid content and details to engage older listeners. She wrote about a wide variety of saints so there are many choices!

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House series is an American family classic. Not only do these books provide a realistic historical portrait of pioneer life, they also offer many life lessons about hard work, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and perseverance. And of course they also provide an enjoyable story line. Girls will identify with these more than boys since all the books except Farmer Boy are about the Wilder girls, but boys can still enjoy these classic all-American stories.

Reminiscent of the Little House books, the Happy Little Family series chronicles episodes in the lives of an early American family, the Fairchilds. Beautifully written, with characters that jump off the page, these four books are very enjoyable read alouds with great lessons and vivid descriptions of nineteenth century life. For example, in a chapter of the first book, Happy Little Family , the father offers a special arrowhead for whichever of his children first shows true bravery. Stories like these provide great discussion themes: what is bravery or courage, are there different types of courage, how would your child act in the story, how could your child show courage in daily life?

All-of-a-Kind Family and its sequels More All-Of-A-Kind Family and All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown are charming stories about a Jewish family living in New York City about 100 years ago. These stories about a family with 5 active, engaging young girls are sure to be favorites. They also provide good information about the different holidays and culture within a Jewish family.

Depending on your children’s ages and sensitivity limits, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia may be a good choice. These books are certainly more intense than the others on this list, so be advised that they may not be a good choice for younger, sensitive children, but slightly older children love these magical tales by a master story teller. The plethora of Christian symbolism and allegory makes these books a rich, thought-provoking read. If your family spends a lot of time driving, here is a wonderful audio version read by a full cast of actors: The Chronicles of Narnia Collector’s Edition (Radio Theatre).

The Happy Hollisters is the first in a long series of mysteries featuring the Hollister family. Each book features the large Hollister family who exemplify cheerfulness and teamwork as they help others by solving mysteries. These are not great classics of literature, but wholesome, simple, enjoyable books for if you are looking for a light read aloud. Check out my review here!

If your children are a bit earlier, say eight and older, they will love the Letzenstein Chronicles, which begin with The Crystal Snowstorm. Catholic author Meriol Trevor sets these adventurous stories about orphaned children in the fictional Catholic country of Letzenstein, a tiny European kingdom. These books have heroes and villains to please the adventurous souls. I find their portrayal of the lowly and childlike characters as integral and important both noteworthy and admirable.

E. Nesbit’s books are great read-alouds for children who love a touch of fantasy in their literature. Her stories are not exactly a series, but some are loosely connected like Five Children and It and The Story of the Treasure Seekers.

For animal lovers, I can’t recommend Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague series highly enough! Based on true events, these stories about two children’s hard work and love for horses is really inspiring. Don’t stop at the first book! Read more about Misty, Stormy, and other great horses in Marguerite Henry Stable of Classics.

Good Poetry for Little Catholic Kids 

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Children need to hear poetry and rhymes from a very young age in order to learn the rhythm and flow of the English language. Additionally, exposure to poetry from a young age can help foster a lifelong appreciation for this form of literature.

I like to start my toddlers off with a charmingly illustrated book of nursery rhymes such asNursery Rhyme Treasury or Ring O’ Roses: Nursery Rhymes, Action Rhymes, and Lullabies, both illustrated by Priscilla Lamont.

When they are a bit older, 2 or 3, they love Shirley Hughes’ Out and About: A First Book of Poems, which has poems organized by season. Of course, you also get the benefit of Hughes’ distinctive, detailed illustrations which accompany each poem. Her other poetry collection, Rhymes for Annie Rose is fun for fans of Alfie and Annie Rose, and celebrates sibling play and mundane family life.

Our four year old loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses. These poems were intended for children, written with simple themes and commonplace similes that children will readily grasp, but many are still mini masterpieces. They make great first exercises in memorization.

<Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls is a wealth of poems by a large variety of authors to read aloud, handily organized by subject.

Pied Beauty: A Children’s Book attempts with some success to make a wonderful poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins accessible to young children. Breaking the poem down line by line, this book offers imagery and word definitions to help your children understand.

Check out more of my book lists for Little Catholic Kids!

Good Books for Catholic 3 to 4 year olds 

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By age three, toddlers are becoming preschoolers and are ready for longer, more challenging stories. Here are some of our favorites for this age!

If you only buy one book off this list, buy Dogger. In my opinion Shirley Hughes’ greatest work, Dogger tells a humorous and heartwarming story of losing a favorite toy, and big sister saving the day through a sacrifice. I always tear up for this one.
Themes: sacrifice, sibling love, giving

Peter in Blueberry Land is a truly beautiful book by Elsa Beskow about Peter’s quest to find berries for his mother’s birthday. If you’re looking for a gift, An Elsa Beskow Gift Collection: Peter in Blueberry Land and other beautiful books is a cute set of miniature versions of her most popular books.
Themes: giving, imaginary lands, friendship, helping

With The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, you get four stories plus poems in one book! In this collection, Alfie and Annie Rose build a store, help a cow find its way home, go camping, and visit the seashore.
Themes: enjoying nature, patience, playing together, sibling love

Under the Moon by Joanne Ryder has incredibly beautiful, detailed nature scenes (my kids wanted to eat the blackberries!). Mama Mouse teaches baby mouse to find her way home by using her senses.
Themes: nature, five senses, mother-child love

Make Way for Ducklings is a famous Robert McCloskey story about a mallard duck couple raising their babies in a busy city.
Themes: helping, kindness to animals

Speaking of ducklings the lesser known Lucky Ducklings is a fun story about baby ducklings falling down a storm drain and being rescued in a dramatic manner by fireen and a truck with a tow hitch.
Themes: helping, rescues, bravery

Jane Hissey’s beautifully illustrated Old Bear books about the adventures of a collection of plush animals are definitely worth buying. Her original unabridged stories are difficult to find, but The Old Bear Collection contains most of her charming text and illustrations.
Themes: friendship, sharing, kindness

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown is a layered story about at once an island steadfast through the seasons of the year and a curious kitten who adventures on the island.

The Perfect Pony is a perfect story for horse loving children. It has an amazing theme about patience and kindness mattering more than beauty.

The Apple Pie Tree describes two sisters watching their apple tree and a family of robins throughout the year, eagerly waiting to make an apple pie!
Themes: waiting patiently, observing nature, sibling fun

Tractor Mac, the friendly red tractor, learns about building a barn, patience, and humility in Tractor Mac Builds a Barn.
Themes: patience, humility, boasting, hard work

Charlie Goes to School is a funny story about Charlie the ranch dog’s family starting their school year as homeschoolers. Charlie is such a sweet, amusing, sleepy basset hound he is sure to become a family favorite. You can find more of his adventures in Charlie the Ranch Dog and Charlie Plays Ball .
Themes: starting school, homeschooling, friendship, helping

Percy the parkkeeper is another wonderful character of British children’s literature. In Percy’s Bumpy Ride , Percy invents a flying lawn mower and takes his animal friends for a ride over the park.
Themes: friendship, building machines, kindness

The Brave Cowboy is a tale of a little boy whose days are colored with cowboy adventures courtesy of his vivid imagination. The illustrations are cleverly executed with the boy’s visions in red ink and real life in black ink.
Themes: bravery, imaginative play, the wild west

Another cowboy tale, Cowboy Small rides his paint pony cactus on the range, getting back on even when he hits the dust, in this fun little story from Lois Lenski.
Themes: trying again, bravery, perseverance, wild west

Raven and River is a beautifully illustrated story about a Raven and a winter in Alaska. Simple, beautiful text, poetic in its diction and rhythm, make this book memorable.

Homeplace is a fascinating book about a homestead that has been passed down through seven generations of a family. The detailed illustrations visualize what each generation adds to what begins as a tiny log cabin and ends as a thriving home and farm.

The Seven Silly Eaters is a hilarious rhymed story of a mom struggling to cope with seven picky children until they decide to do something for her for a change. I found it heartwarming, even if the ending is far fetched, and kids love the detailed illustrations.
Themes: picky eating, helping out, big families

Eric Carle’s Pancakes, Pancakes! is stellar for starting preschool minds thinking about from where food comes and appreciating the work that goes into a simple meal. Jack wants a pancake, and his mother will make it if he gathers all the ingredients himself!
Themes: hard work, perseverance, where food comes from, earning something makes it sweeter

Doctor Dan the Bandage Man is the story of Dan learning from his mom’s care of his own cut to care for the hurts of his sister, pet, and even dad.
Themes: caring for others, helping, bravery

As I add yet another British classic to the list, I’ll confess a weakness for British children’s books! Mick Inkpen’s Kipper Story Collection introduces Kipper, the sweet-natured dog, whose gentle adventures with his stuffed animals and real animal friends make soothing bedtime stories.
Themes: friendship, kindness

The Mitten in its unabridged form is a fine lesson for children in caring for their belongings. Nicki loses his mitten despite his grandma’s warnings, and when he finds it is stretched out from a tangle of animals using it as a den.
Themes: good stewardship, sharing

Another favorite Jan Brett, Annie and the Wild Animals features adorable Annie, who is searching for a new pet after her cat Taffy disappears.
Themes: perseverance, friendship, loneliness

Home Sweet Home is a beautiful book both both in its detailed illustrations of different animal habitats and in its simple message of God blessing all things.
Themes: appreciating nature, blessings

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 75th Anniversary Edition is, to me, a good book in essence as long as one adequately discusses George’s disobedience and its negative consequences. These original stories by the Reys are funny and have good lessons about obedience, impulse control, and friendship.
Themes: obedience, actions have consequences, helping, self control

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business is a funny kid favorite based on a Russian folk tale.
Themes: stealing, cleverness

Reading Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book is a great way to start instilling a positive view of good manners.
Themes: obedience, kindness, good manners, sharing, kindness

Pond is a beautifully illustrated book that combines an introduction to the seasons with the concept of creative outdoor play.

Please also check out my list of specifically Catholic books.

Good Books for… Preparing Catholic Kids for a New Baby

A new baby on the way is an exciting time for a Catholic family, but sometimes the toddler or preschooler is a little less than enthusiastic. Or they may be excited, but still anxious. These books can help answer their questions, put a positive picture of big brother or sisterhood in their minds, and reassure them they are still special.

Regina Doman’s Angel in the Waters is a beautiful account of life in the womb and birth from the unborn baby’s perspective.
Themes: guardian angels, unborn babies

When the Teddy Bears Came is a sweet story about a little boy helping his baby brother with all the teddy bears friends give the baby, then realizing the couch is getting too crowded for him. It ends with a special message that there is always still room on mom’s lap for the older sibling!
Themes: helping, sharing, there’s enough love to go around

Spencer is a little boy with a lot of energy, but he learns to be gentle when his little sister comes home. One Special Day (A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters) has some of the cutest illustrations, and a great encouraging message for active little ones! We also love its sequel, One Busy Day: A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters, in which Spencer discovers it is much funner to play with his sister Mia than alone.
Themes: enjoying nature and activity, being gentle around babies, playing together

In Annie Rose Is My Little Sister, Alfie describes his little sister in a touching manner, matter of factly acknowledging her faults, but focusing on the fun of playing with her.

“And we’ll go on like this forever, even until we’re all grown up, because Annie Rose will always be my little sister.

Themes: little siblings are a gift, siblings will always be there

Big Brother, Little Brother is a celebration of the special bond between siblings. Big brother and little brother occasionally disagree, but overall take care of each other.
Themes: empathy, taking care of babies, sharing, including little siblings