Summer-Read-Aloud Part 1

“Children’s books fairly pulsate with power when it comes to teaching. There are endless ways in which books power learning.” Michael O. Tunnell, chair, Department of Teacher Education, McKay School, BYU

Reading aloud with our children is sharing a delicious, binding experience with them. They will see how much we love a book and it will go deep into their hearts. There are also many benefits, here are a few:

7 Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children (reading

  • Develops stronger vocabulary. … 
  • Builds connections between the spoken and written word. … 
  • Provides enjoyment. … 
  • Increases attention span. … 
  • Strengthens cognition. … 
  • Provides a safe way of exploring strong emotions. … 
  • Promotes bonding,,,

I am posting this list again, from my experienced friend, Karen Arenesen. This time I have included summaries, and my next posts will be the other two thirds of Karen’s extensive list. These are books that teach character, that wonderful gift that helps our children make sense in an upside down world. These classic tales will show them how to act when things get difficult or they are afraid. Stories of honesty and courage are better internalized than us telling them they should be that way. Many adult reviews of these books told how reading one particular book stayed with them and changed their lives. This work of inner excavation, of discussing and pondering these attributes of the Savior is some of the best work we will do as parents. These summaries come from Amazon reviews and wikipedia. These books are recommended ages 9-13+.


Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. This classic is about charity and sacrifice, and learning to find who you are in a large family. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details their passage from childhood to womanhood. It is loosely based on the lives of the author and her three sisters. 

Two on an Island, Bianca R. Bradbury. A brother and sister who can’t get along until circumstances force them to do so. Its a lesson of love, kindness and maturity.

A Little Princess, Frances Hodges Burnett.  Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.” It was one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.

The Wheel on the School, Meinert DeJong. The children in a Dutch village wonder why there are no storks in their village. The teacher encourages the class to find out for themselves. It’s a story of wonder and how to overcome obstacles.

Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, Mary Mapes Dodge. Written in 1865, it’s the story of honor and courage with a brother and a sister, a father with a brain injury and a skating contest.

Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes. Set around the time of the Revolutionary War in Boston, Johnny Tremain is a coming-of-age story about a talented young silversmith apprentice (one who molds silver) who struggles to find his way. Johnny Tremain is overconfident, bossy, and bullies his fellow apprentices.

Follow My Leader, James B. Garfield.  It’s love between a boy and dog, the dangers of playing with firecrackers, and how peer pressure can be very risky.

Blue Willow, Doris Gates. Janey Larkin is the ten-year-old daughter of a migrant family in San Joaquin Valley, California, in the late 1930s when America is still suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Her most treasured possession is a Blue Willow  plate that had once belonged to her great-great-grandmother. Janey can barely remember her old home, a farm in Texas, and now that her father is an itinerant worker she has no place to call her own and no lasting friends, as the family has to move constantly. 

North to Freedom, Ann Holm. Having escaped from the eastern European concentration camp where he has spent most of his life, a twelve-year-old boy struggles to cope with an entirely strange world as he flees northward to freedom in Denmark. “[North to Freedom] is, to my mind, the single finest novel ever written for children of about ages 9 to 13.”–School Library Journal

Up a Road Slowly, Irene Hunt. Written for the time in the late 1800’s, the coming-of-age tale of Julie, a girl who is sometimes scared, sometimes feels unloved, battles selfishness and is crossed in love, but ultimately learns how to put others first and view the world through wiser eyes. 

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham. Cons: A bit heavy. Very realistic in terms of life and death. No punches are pulled here.
Lots of death of emotionally important people.
It’s only near the end before you start feeling a good upward pull.

Pros: All romance is dealt with respectably and positively. Nothing lewd.
Learn a lot about nautical topics.
See the benefit to working with those around you.
See the benefit of not giving up.
A thoughtful reader would be grateful their life was easier than this.

In our house this will be limited to 13yo+ because of the emotional weight of it all. But well written, wonderful read. It is now one of my favorite books.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, Elizabeth Forman Lewis. The story revolves around Fu Yuin-fah, the son of a widow from the countryside of western China, who wishes to become a coppersmith in the big city on the Yangtze River, Chungking (now spelled Chongqing). With the help of many people, including an old scholar and a white missionary, his goal is eventually attained.

A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton Porter. The novel’s main character, Elnora Comstock, is an impoverished young woman who lives with her widowed mother, Katharine Comstock, on the edge of the Limberlost. Elnora faces cold neglect by her mother, a woman who feels ruined by the death of her husband, Robert Comstock, who drowned in quicksand in the swamp. Katharine blames Elnora for his death, because her husband died while she gave birth to their daughter and could not come to his rescue. Elnora preservers through this neglect of her mother and triumphs in the end.

Bambi, Felix Salten. Written in 1923 by an Austrian, he sold the books rights to Disney for $1000.00 (15000.00 in 2020). It is a story about a deer’s entire life. From the beginning, the story follows a fawn and his child’s playfulness, youth, temptation, love, and fear all the way until his adulthood. This classic deals with hard difficulties and teaches persistence.

Just this week I was in a discussion with my sister and niece, and my sister, a 6th grade teacher of 30 years, was explaining how reading these classics help with vocabulary building. My niece grew rapturous as she told how much she loved hearing A Little Princess as a child. These classics stay with you!

I found Johnny Tremaine, A Little Princess and Up the Road Slowly as free audio books on the library app, Libby. We can enjoy listening on a long car ride or after dinner for 20 minutes a night. I have a goal to read all of these in the next 12 months so I can connect better with my grandchildren. One of the ways I want to bond with them is through books and pass on my love of reading. It is an uphill fight when there are so many other options of entertainment but if you can read the classics together, these books will sell themselves.

Happy reading!

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