An Introduction to the Classics: Elementary and Middle School


You all know that it is necessary to start good habits when you are young, but what about reading?

Reading the classics helps to shape children’s minds and improves their brain. If you start them on good, wholesome books that are interesting for their age level, it will influence them for good and they will learn to like reading. I see reading as a lost art.  A hundred years ago, reading was a prominent form of recreation. Now, so many children hardly read for themselves anymore and most of what they do read is required for school. I hope that my cousin Lyric will love to read as I do when she gets older. I hope that I can influence her and I hope to never hear her say that she hates reading. I have heard that before and it is always disconcerting to me.

Out of my own experience, I have found a large number of the classics that are easy reading and interesting for children. I’ve learned that the following books are fun for younger children and I want to share them with you, so you can help introduce children to the classics. It is never too young for children to start learning to love books.

Before second or third grade, the books may need to be read aloud to the child if their reading level isn’t very advanced. A chapter or two every day works, especially if they have a shorter attention span. Good read-aloud books to first and second grade children are these:

  • Pollyanna
  • A Little Princess
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Jungle Book
  • Heidi
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
  • Peter Pan
  • Mary Poppins

Take note that they will probably not understand everything, and will most likely not ask questions. I know this from experience, so if there are words and figurative or symbolic phrases that they probably will not understand, you should explain it to them. I’d say to start with Pollyanna and A Little Princess, then move on to the rest. You can read an unabridged version, but if it looks like they do not really understand the material very well, try an abridged version.

At third and fourth grade, children should be able to read an unabridged version of:

  • Pollyanna
  • A Little Princess
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
  • The Railway Children
  • Peter Pan
  • Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

These are lighter reading and easier to understand, and I think that at ages eight and nine, children should be able to read them unabridged. If they come to you and say that they are boring, be careful. Most children will think a book is boring after the first or second chapter; I know that I did. Keep them reading it! Only consider an unabridged version unless you get through several chapters and they are still uninterested.

Abridged books they will be able to read at this age are:

  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Little Women & Little Men
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Black Beauty
  • Treasure Island
  • Around the World in Eighty Days

Take heed to the fact that the last two or three may seem boring. If needs be, you can read any of these books with the child.

Once a child is in fifth grade, the world of countless unabridged books truly opens. At fifth and sixth grade, they can read any of the previously mentioned books unabridged, as well as these:

  • The Story of the Treasure Seekers
  • Mother Carey’s Chickens (the base behind Disney’s Summer Magic)
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy
  • Grimm’s Fairytales

At seventh and eighth grade, eighth grade in particular, these books can be added:

  • Jo’s Boys (sequel to Little Men)
  • Pollyanna Grows Up

At age thirteen, I had already read all of these books. At this age, you could add in some copies of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m not very helpful concerning those, because I haven’t read but a few. You will definitely need to consult another source, or pick up a collection of Shakespeare’s plays for children. At thirteen, I read some of Shakespeare’s plays adapted for children, and found them a bit confusing. However, I daresay if I read them now, they wouldn’t be. (The same thing happened to me with Sherlock Holmes. It’s amazing to find how much your reading level matures over the course of a year paired with challenging material.)

Parents/older siblings, always be ready to listen to your child/younger sibling concerning their interests in different genres of books. Giving them the wrong kind of book, can ruin their love for reading. Remember, one child will have different interests from the next.  Figure out what they like and supply them with many books of that genre. You can even help build their reading level by adding more challenging books slowly. And always be ready to discuss the book with them to help them better understand the material.

Aria and Luvems
Book advisors

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