Recommended for YOU
Click on the images in the mini reviews below to learn more about these highly recommended books to supplement your Family Literacy Lifestyle with purchase options at AMAZON.
Use these resources for home and school to guide parents and Christian educators
in quality reading choices to:
Elevate language skills
Establish connection with classic literature
Complement history studies
SCROLL DOWN FOR MY PERSONAL FAVORITES WITH MINI-REVIEWS!
In the Spotlight:
Invitation to the Classics ~ This is my go-to resource for all things classic literature of Western civilization. Arranged in a timeline format from the earliest classical writings of the ancients to the 20th century post-modernists, the top contributors to our literary heritage are highlighted in concise articles by a host of literary experts. Each 3-4 page article draws out the most salient features of each work/author connecting to a biblical worldview. Thoughtful discussion questions at the end make this an excellent resource to add to middle school and high school homeschool teacher resources to help you plan your child’s literary studies. For the lover of all things literature and history–this is a must! Click the book image to purchase. Scroll through the Family Literacy Lifestyle Blog for a series of posts by guest writer and homeschool scholar, Haley Richardson, featuring essays on varied topics drawn from this excellent study resource.
NEW RELEASE: Triumph Over Terror ~ I’m honored to feature the first book from dear friends Pastor Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck! I had the honor of participating in the process of bringing this book to print as I’m in the writer’s critique group with Bob and Jan. The day Bob came to a meeting to say he felt it was time to write about his experience at Ground Zero, and told a couple of his stories, I knew this was a book that must be written. It’s been an incredible time, this past year, watching Bob and Jan (my own editor and his co-writer/editor) work through this process.
Pastor Bob recounts powerful stories of his life changing experiences serving as chaplain in five tours at Ground Zero after the horrific attack on our nation at the Twin Towers on 9/11. As terrorist attacks continue to assault humanity, “Triumph Over Terror,” by Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck, reveals how your spirit can triumph over fear and terror’s reign, plus how you can help others suffering from trauma and loss. READ MORE in my full length BOOK REVIEW HERE.
NOTE: The true accounts in this book are a reality check. Some stories are not for the faint of heart. However, children need to understand the devastating impact of evil in the world and how regimes built on hate and destruction are at work in our nation today. God calls us to respond to block their evil intentions. But, should evil have its way, God calls us to respond in their wake to bring restoration. This is one Godly man’s response from whom we can all learn. Recommended reading for mature upper elementary students, middle school, high school, and up. But–I do encourage you to gently share these truths with the youngests souls in your care as you raise them in such times as these. Prepare their hearts to understand the ends of evil and the power of God in the midst of it. Click the book image to purchase.
NEW RELEASE: The Bard and the Bible ~ 2017 SELAH BOOK OF THE YEAR by Bob Hostetler, blends a love of history, literature, and the Bible in this brilliant and thought provoking one year daily devotional featuring the writings of Shakespeare and key connecting Scriptures. Did you know there are over 1000 allusions to the Bible and illustrations of biblical principles woven into Shakespeare’s body of work? Here’s an inspiring devotional read for lovers of God, the classics, and history. READ MORE in my BOOK REVIEW HERE and how to use this book as part of your homeschool language arts and Bible study enrichment HERE. Click the book image to purchase.
One Hundred and One Famous Poems ~ I can trace my calling today as a writer, speaker, and dramatist, back to cozy moments cuddled on the couch with my mother. She opened this poetry book and read aloud from it to me and my sister. It once belonged to her mother—a gift from an unrequited suitor in 1925. Grandma married my grandfather, but kept the poetry book. That book became an integral part of my mother’s literacy lifestyle growing up. She took it with her when she married and it became an important element of my literacy lifestyle growing up. There are no colorful pictures—just small yellowed portraits of long dead poets whose work contributed to the volume. I never minded that there were no pictures. When mother read select favorites, images like a movie screen materialized in my mind’s eye. The cadence of the words lingered like a melody. Each reading session was peppered with questions to better understand the story. Constructive conversations about important concepts challenged my thinking. My love of learning and literature was sealed. Even today, when I perform some of those classic poems speaking on this topic, I hear mom’s voice echoing the delivery in my ear. She may be gone, enjoying the company of Jesus now—but our earthly relationship lives on in every work I write, read, or dramatize. We shared the glories of STORY together! When days were slower and there weren’t so many buttons to push us speedily onward against the clock, stopping for a story was foundational to our lives. And I am better for it. Listen to more on this topic in my PODCAST: Inviting Families to STOP for a Story! Click the book image to purchase.
The Chronicles of Narnia ~ by C. S. Lewis is a masterpiece of metaphor, inspiring the imaginations of all ages with a host of biblical principles running the gambit of Genesis to Revelations in these seven amazing works. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduces us to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, through whose eyes we meet Aslan, the king, and witness his sacrifice on the Stone Table at the hands of the White Witch–and his subsequent resurrection from the dead to destroy the works of the Witch. But, that’s the middle of the story. The Magician’s Nephew introduces us to the world of Narnia through the creation song of Aslan–and the way that evil came to infect this idyllic realm. The Last Battle closes the epic in biblical proportion. In between are powerful tales illustrating biblical truths through the power of story. Can your family discover the connections through reading and conversation together? Click the book image to purchase.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings ~ by J.R.R. Tolkein. When I was homeschooling my children in middle and high school, we spent a whole year on these. We used an audio book version of The Hobbit and read along in the book. I recommend reading along with the audio narration so young readers have a sense of how the written words on the page are spoken aloud. Also, they visually connect elevated language and new vocabulary words with pronunciation and usage. We each had our own copies of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and had sections we needed to read each week then follow up with discussion. The movies were bonuses! The biblical metaphors are ripe throughout and we enjoyed connecting Scriptural truth to the characters and plot. So many memorable lines.This is must reading in youth, young adulthood, and later adulthood. Truly, literature for a lifetime. Click the book image to purchase.
The Complete Fairytales ~ by George MacDonald, “Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller” are his biblical principle metaphorial tales using all the familiar elements of fairy stories. They are written for children of all ages and provide a feast of important concepts to ponder and discuss as a family. For high schoolers, you may want to look into his many novels that have been adjusted for modern American readers by Michael Phillips. Originally, MacDonald wrote them in a very heavy Scottish dialect with cumbersome book lengths. They are easily accessible to contemporary readers now and on par with anything one might find in a Charles Dickens work–only set in Scottish landscapes. He was a contemporary of Dickens and an ordained minister who, in his day, was a popular on the speaking and reading circuit as Dickens in both the United Kingdom and America. The travesty of World War I and emergence of the modernists movement after the war temporarily relegated their works to the back burner. Dickens returned to prominence starting in the 1930’s, and MacDonald’s works were rediscovered and began being republished in the 1960’s. George MacDonald’s work and life legacy in Christian thought linked to both C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein who regarded him as their mentor. Click the book image to purchase and to learn more of his other works.
The Works of Charles Dickens ~ Well, there are so many volumes to recommend here I just don’t know where to begin. I love Dickens. His wit and use of the language to paint a picture–even if he is using 30+ words to do so which is anathema to contemporary readers–makes my heart sing! Click on the book image above for the COMPLETE WORKS of Dicken’s pen including all his novels, short stories, and plays on your KINDLE at a steal of a price. But, below are listed links to purchase four of my personal favorites in paperback:
Anne of Green Gables Collection ~ by Lucy Maud Montgomery are a treasure trove of imagery and innocence in girlhood coming of age tales, and subsequent womanhood and family life. Anne is the most famous but not the only young heroine Lucy Maud left in her literary legacy. Though she lived a relatively tragic personal family life, she created a story world of happy endings for all the turmoil her characters were forced to work through. My favorite of the Anne series is Anne’s House of Dreams which details her first year of marriage to Gilbert and how they were a light of God’s love in their community to hurting people. This one seems to have more biblical allusions and Scripture references then any of the others. But, so many memorable scenes in each one. My daughter and I enjoyed them and actually named our homeschool after one of the cottages in the stories, Echo Lodge, where the inspiring and mysterious Miss Lavender lived. What will these tales inspire in the imaginations of your daughters when you share them, reading aloud as a family? Click on the book image to purchase.
True to the Old Flag: A Tale of American War of Independence ~ by G. A. Henty is just one of a host of classic adventures bringing slices of our American history and Western civilization to life for young and old. Start with this tale from the days of our American Founders and then seek out other titles available through Amazon. Click on the image to purchase and find more titles by Henty.
Winnie the Pooh Collection ~ by A. A. Milne boasts the original Sheppard illustrations and the innocent world of the Hundred Acre Woods where Christopher Robin’s childhood imagination enjoyed so many adventures with his stuffed animal friends. I love the stories and poetic writing style based on the author’s own son and the actual toys he owned. Innocence, goodness, and beauty are celebrated in these books, with valuable life lessons to ignite constructive conversations with your family. See yourself in the characters and wonder what you might do in their place were you to live in their world. Take what you learn of yourself and restore childlikeness to a harsh world–teaching your children to do the same. Click on the image to purchase.
The Wind in the Willows ~ by Kenneth Grahame whisks old and young away to a forest woodland by the river under seige by evil weasels while the adventure-seeking Toad plays right into their corrupt hands putting his great fortune at Toad Hall and his friends at risk. Can Ratty, Mole, and Badger cure him of his manias? Hilarity and some serious concepts make this the classic that it is. This particular edition boasts Michael Hague’s lush illustrations for further enrichment of the imagination. Click on the image to purchase.
The Reluctant Dragon ~ by Kenneth Grahame takes your family into a small medieval village where news of a dragon nearby stirs fear and anxiety. They send word for the great Sir George to come with haste to dispatch the dragon forthwith. A young boy is thrilled at the adventure until he finds himself as a go-between with the dragon and Sir George–both of whom have no real stomach for battle and would much rather indulge in a spot of tea and a bit of poetry. But, will the townsfolk seeking for blood be satisfied with anything less than a dragon slain? Hilarious fun with serious concepts to discuss if you read between the lines. Click on the image to purchase.
The Little House on the Praire Collection ~ by Laura Ingalls Wilder is truly a classic of literature and memoir of American pioneer life. I first read these books as an adult, seeking to learn how much of the popular TV series from the 1970’s and 1980’s was accurate. I was immediately captivated by the details Laura recorded of even the most mundane of activities that were part of daily life one hundred years earlier. The books begin with her life at age 5 in a Little House in the Big Woods, through her family’s epic move west to the iconic Little House on the Prairie. She grows into a young woman and meets her husband, Almanzo, whose life as a boy is also chronicled in The Farmer Boy of the series. Highly recommended for all ages to read together and discuss. How many of the detailed accounts of pioneer ways can your family recreate? Click on the book image to purchase.
Betsy-Tacy Books 1-4 ~ by Maud Hart Lovelace is a heartwarming treatise on friendship beginning with the curiousity of 5 year old Betsy when 5 year old Tacy moves in across the street. Their friendship advances as does the reading level of each book detailing the BFF’s adventures together and with their growing circle of friends. The first four books take them through their elementary years. But there are more to follow as Betsy and Tacy become young women and eventually marry in sweet romances for young ladies. I loved how the author writes through the eyes of each age level. The first book, when Betsy and Tacy meet and connect as friends is a simple read in about an hour or two. I have given this volume as a gift to special friends instead of a card. Simplicity and innocence. Click on the book image to purchase.
Tales from Shakespeare ~ by Charles and Mary Lamb is the must have for introducing Shakespear to your children. From early elementary grades and up these capsule story formats read like prose–not a play. They distill the Bard’s plays into easily accessible tales for all ages. Understanding where a Shakespearean story is heading, opens the door to connecting with the language of Shakespeare in script form. Here’s an excellent resource to read aloud for homeschoolers studying specific Shakespearean works before delving into a folio of the script. Click the book image to purchase.
A Door in the Wall ~ by Marguerite D’Angeli transports the reader to a more idyllic medieval setting where a lame boy, the snobbish lame son of a nobleman named, Robin, comes under the gentle mentorship of Brother Luke on his journey to be reunited with his parents. In the course of the journey, much like all our journeys on the path of character development, Robin must confront many challenges to adjust his temperment and fit him for usefulness in the larger world–despite his handicap. The story flows along like a meandering river with more thought provoking scenes rather than action adventure–though there are adventures enough. The reader is spared some of the more sensational realisms of the time period. That is not the point of the tale. This is an excellent reading choice for the whole family to be followed up after each chapter with engaging discussion on some of the character driven concepts brought up in the telling. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this book to middle school students and will publish my own literature study of the book soon. Stay tuned. Click the book image to purchase.
Men of Iron ~ by Howard Pyle is one of my favorite medieval historical fiction reads. Set in England during the reign of Henry IV, we are introduced to Myles Falworth as he is spirited away to safety in the light of his nobleman father’s disgrace. He grows through the ranks of page and squire to knighthood and the inevitable showdown joust with the great Black Knight–at whose evil hands Myles’ father had lost all things. Bullies, battles, and beautiful ladies in waiting pepper this story with intrigue, action, and a host of powerful concepts to discuss as a family–relating the human journey of hundreds of years ago with that of today. Keep a dictionary nearby–you’ll be expanding your understanding of words and elements of medieval life. A super selection for unit studies, too. I have written a curriculum for teaching this and will be publishing it soon–stay tuned. Click the book image to purchase.
Carry-On Mr. Bowditch ~ by Jean Lee Latham has a special place in my heart. My son read this book in the 4th grade at his Principle Approach school and completed a challenging literature study on it with his class. Here’s a tale about the young and gifted mathematician, Nathaniel Bowditch, detailing his life from childhood to coming of age and the flowering of his genius in giving the world piloting techniques and tools that are still foundational texts for all sailors of the sea. My son and I had many enlightening opportunities to work through the study questions sent home affording us relationship building opportunities at deeper levels. Reading quality literature together will do that! So you know what it means to a sailor to be “becalmed?” Now there’s a word you will want to fully explore with your children to help them build their character in still seasons, practicing patience for the prize. I will always cherish the conversation I had with my now 30-something son when he was a busy nine year old. If you have a math wiz of a kid who loves adventure, history, and sea epics–this one’s a winner! Click the book to purchase.
The Complete Adventures of The Borrowers ~ by Mary Norton is a series I completely missed as a child. When an adult friend of mine realized I’d not heard of the series she pushed me to the brink of curiousity with her enthusiastic encouragement to run right out and get my copies immediately! She insisted this is a series to be read in childhood, young adulthood, and elder years. When I read the first book detailing the plight of Pod, Homily, and young Arriety, little people living under the floorboards of a kitchen in an old English manor home, who may have to immigrate to a safer place to avoid discovery and the perils of a rat catcher–I was hooked. The rest of the series did not disappoint. Five books in all share their epic journey to find a safe home sweet home. How many creative ways would you use tiny things around your house if you were “borrowing” them to set up housekeeping for someone six inches tall? Click the book image to purchase.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret ~ by Brian Selznick won the Caldecott Award in 2007 for best illustrated children’s book. It is the size of a large brick and about as heavy. That’s because the bulk of the book are made up of detailed pencil sketches of plot elements, step by step, with no words on the page. Then, suddenly, as you flip through a handful of pages or more of plot in pictures, a few pages of text appears picking the story up from there. Then, more illustration. Something like a graphic novel, movie, and book all rolled into one. The story is set in Paris and details the plight of an orphan boy named Hugo living in a train station to reconnect with his dead father by repairing the automaton they had been working on together before he died. This leads to Hugo meeting an poor old man who helps him redeem the scraps of his life, as much as he becomes vital to redeeming the lost purpose in the old man’s life. Tears by the middle of the book and so many great take-away lines. Great for young students–but a fabulous read for middle and high school ripe for creative essay and follow-up activities and unit studies. Read what I did with it teaching and learning with Haley in my book review HERE. Click on the book link to purchase.
Hugo: The Movie ~ Directed by Martin Scorsese; based on the book by Brian Selznick. Well, if it’s worth the read, it might be worth the movie. Scorsese hits this one out of the park in a lush and glorious rendering of Selznick’s work. Many of the iconic images in the book are perfectly recreated on screen with spot on casting and storytelling genius. Enthralling. Not a dry eye by the end. Interesting discussion to compare some of the storytelling choices between the book and translating it to a movie. Haley and I read the book first, then watched the movie over tea and cake before enjoying a few weeks of in-depth study on all the elements. Read my review HERE. Click on the DVD link to purchase.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick ~ by two time Caldecott winner for children’s illustration, Chris Van Allsburg (most famously of The Polar Express). It opens with a note from Allsburg relating how a series of fourteen illustrations with titles and captions fell into his hands through a publisher friend who had been given them many years earlier by a stranger who came into his office named, Harris Burdick. But, the publisher never saw this mysterious writer and artist again. Burdick never showed up for his next appointment to discuss publication–as though he disappeared into thin air! All that was left of him was his work, which was put in a box and forgotten. To be sure–the story is so convincing I was disappointed to learn it was not true. Just brilliant fiction full of mystery and wonder to introduce children of all ages to these beautifully rendered pencil drawings of surreal imagery, teasing titles, and curious captions. Each illustration plants the reader smack dab in the center of a story–and leaves you there filled to the brim with a thirst for more. This is an excellent companion for homeschool creative writing inspiration! See how I’m using it with one of my homeschool students here. Click on the book image to purchase.
The Message Remix Contemporary Reader’s Bible ~ by Eugene Petersen is a great paraphrase to alternate reading aloud from your favorite Bible translation. There is a difference between paraphrase and translation. Petersen uses contemporary language, idioms, and imagery to make the Bible sing with clarity, thought for thought. Here’s a great way to spend quality read aloud and devotional time together as a family. Click on the book link to purchase.
The Voice: Step into the Story of Scripture Dramatized Reader’s Bible is a dramatist’s dream for a reader’s Bible. I script stories from the Bible for drama ministry all the time and was delighted with this paraphrased positioning of the Bible in a way that invites dramatization of characters and narrative. Another exellent companion to Bible studies in your favorite translation of choice as well as family read aloud. Click the book image to purchase.
Sitting at the Master’s Feet ~ by Pastor Ronald Bernier began as one man’s personal morning devotional notes posted on Facebook. Over a period of months, these daily posts arriving on newsfeeds of friends became much anticipated. With decades of ministry focused on discipleship and Bible study, Pastor Ron’s notes became a regular feature of my own devotional reading. So, it was with great joy to learn that he was compiling a years worth of readings drawn from his first two years of posts. For me, an even greater joy to see the photograph chosen for the cover–that of our grand-daughter, Mackenzie, sitting on his lap, sitting at the master’s feet, reading together. Our grand-daughter, indeed for my son is his son-in-law. Loving the Lord is all in the family at our house and I am honored to connect you with this inspiring devotional work. Click on the book image to purchase.
Christmas in the Trenches ~ By Michael McCutcheon and illustrated with stunning paintings by Henri Sørenson is a favorite performance piece I do each Christmas season for varied audiences. There are many tales of Christmas truces in varied trenches throughout the war zones of World War I–but this first hand account lead the pack happening during the first Christmas of the long war. English and German soldiers come together in an unforgettable few hours over the one thing that binds them as brothers–the birth of Jesus Christ and their Christian heritage. Read my book review HERE. Click the book image to purchase.
Silent Night ~ By Stanley Weintraub takes Christmas in the Trenches further with a number of accounts by soldiers who share their experiences on the battlefield when the Christmas “silent night, holy night” brought peace on earth for a handful of hours. Read my book review HERE. Click the book image to purchase.
The Christmas Bells ~ By Jennifer Chiaverini sets this romance in two centuries, smack dab in the center of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem inspired by personal life events during the American Civil War, and a 21st century choir director’s search for personal restoration through the words of the poem set to music. I fell in love with this cross between an historical fiction and contemporary romance. A clean book focusing on important life truths. Delightful, intelligent reading for high school and up. See my review HERE. Click the book image to purchase.
The Patriot’s Bible: The Word of God and the Shaping of America ~ Contrary to what popular pundits would have you believe these days, with so much of our American history being systematically scrubbed and redrafted to fit an anti-Christian worldview, the Bible was the single most influential book in the lifes and minds of the Founding Fathers in drafting a government for this nation. All our founding documents attest to this fact in word and spirit and the libraries full of personal writings of the men and women who shaped this nation make clear their purposes to establish a distinctly Christian nation upon whose moral compass true liberty is founded–assuring liberty for believer and unbeliever alike. Here’s a Bible with study notes detailing where our government has been derived. A necessary book to inform all Americans in these current days. Read my book review HERE. Click on the book image to purchase.
The Founder’s Bible ~ David Barton of WallBuilders opens wide his expansive vaults filled with primary source writings from our founding generation. He takes the Patriot’s Bible to the next level with companion articles written by our Founder’s related to the Bible, throughout the Bible. As you read biblical passages, you’ll be able to see how God’s Word influenced the thoughts of our Founders in their own words. A heavy volume but worth its weight! Read my book review HERE. Click on the book image to purchase.
The Christian History of the Constitution ~ By Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater from the Foundation for American Christian Education. An exhaustive collection of key primary sources from which our Founder’s worked out their understanding of liberty and government showing clearly their reliance on the Christian faith and the Bible. No American History class should be taught without this resource providing absolute documentation of our Founder’s original intention for the Constitution of the United States. Read my book review HERE. Click on the book image to purchase.
The American Patriot’s Almanac By William J. Bennett and John T. E. Cribb is more collected readings from our founding generation. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that we can’t know what our founder’s intended in their day. They left a prolific record and legacy for true patriots. Read my book review HERE. Click on the book image to purchase.
Celebrate Our Holidays Like You Were There ~ by Max and Margie Lyons of the Foundation for American Christian Education details the Christian history of the many national holidays we celebrate. Each holiday includes a concise historical background with ideas for celebrating the day/event through activities, reading, and dramatic scripts for school or church. Read my review HERE. Click on the image to purchase.
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Recommended Reading Lists for All Ages