10 Can't-Miss Read-Alouds for the Early Years
I’ll begin my eighth year teaching my children with Sonlight curriculum this fall, and while my children have enjoyed it thoroughly, I have to admit that I have more fun than anyone! Let’s just say that my kids never have to beg me very long to read “just one more chapter!”
Over the last seven years, we have been exposed to the best of the best in children’s literature. My kids and I have read across the world, living vicariously through the well-developed characters that star in the perfectly-spun stories. There is no lack of options, that’s for sure. In fact, I can’t think of a single Sonlight book that has fallen flat in our eyes. So, as you can imagine, choosing only ten books for the early years was a difficult task! I chose the books which left us changed somehow. Here is my list of books from Sonlight early years that you absolutely cannot miss.
1. The Hundred Dresses
This thoughtful book by Eleanor Estes tells the story of a group of girls who make fun of another little girl. It is a scene that you will surely find at least somewhat familiar.
We have read this book a total of three times because I feel we need a refresher every once in a while.
This book is a thought-provoking read that encourages self-examination. Everyone walks a different path in life, and this book truly captures that concept. My children pondered this book for several weeks after reading it, bringing up the themes and characters fairly often.
This book is unique in that it allows the reader to see themselves as both the protagonist and the antagonist figures. It is so relatable that you will surely find empathy for each character, leading to plenty of great discussions. It is written in a way that makes it clear how easy it can be to fall into the pattern of making fun of others without realizing the repercussions. This makes an excellent book for the beginning of the school year.
2. George Muller
I think it is a rare gem to read a book that changes the course of your life, but this book was just that for our family. We were not the same people after reading about the life of George Muller. His testimony of following the will of God for his life and trusting Him for each and every need built our faith as a family, and we began to ask ourselves challenging questions. Before and throughout the reading of the book, we had been prayerfully considering adopting a child from foster care. By the end, there was no doubt in our minds that God was calling us to give our family to a child.
We have read the story of George Muller four times over the last seven years, and I have recommended it to multiple families. Contrary to what it may seem, we are not big fans of re-reading books. However, sometimes a book is worthy of reading over and over. This was one of those books, and I am sure that it won’t be our last reading of George Muller.
3. The Year of Miss Agnes
This is the precious story of the impact of one excellent teacher on a rural community. From a homeschool mom's perspective, this book reminded me of what I wanted to be for my kids. As we discussed this book, I kept noticing my kids bring up one thread which ran throughout the whole story:“She understands the kids.”
To understand someone else and to be understood is one of the great desires of humanity, and Miss Agnes absolutely understood her students. This book also reminds us of the change that one person can bring about. This is a pretty quick read, but the effects linger.
4. Gladys Aylward
I am pretty sure that Janet and Geoff Benge are among my favorite authors. While they definitely have excellent material to write about, they really do have a way of telling the stories of these Heroes of the Faith in such a challenging way. Honestly, I could include several more of their books in this list, but I limited myself to two.
Gladys Aylward is the story of a missionary who went to China and cared for several hundred children during a war. She adopted several of the children and impacted her region forever.
This was not only a great biography, but it is also an exciting story. We stayed on the edge of our seats the whole time, anxiously anticipating the next chapter. We had many conversations about courage and God’s ability to do the impossible.
5. Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems
I know how controversial this pick is! Oh, the mothers who have found themselves scratching their heads on this book! At first glance, it is certainly an odd duck among the Sonlight treasury.
Many people can’t seem to derive the goodness from this collection of poetry. To appreciate it, you have to realize it isn’t typical poetry. For the most part, the poems aren’t rhyming, but they are amusing. The simple, everyday commentary that each poem provides on the most common subject matter is enough to make you think, “Hmm….”
I love brief, thought-provoking commentary on the most common subjects. That’s why this book contains several of my personal favorites. We have read this one almost every year!
6. Walk the World’s Rim
This selection starts out slow, so slow that you may be tempted to abandon it. I implore you...don’t do it! You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.
This is one of only a handful of books that I absolutely bawled through. A sweet story of the journey of a young boy across the Southwest, this book has it all. Tackling difficult subjects such as hunger, honor, and slavery with grace is quite the balancing act, but Betty Baker does an excellent job. This story will no doubt leave you with much to ponder and discuss with your children.
7. Detectives in Togas
In our family, we love a good, clean mystery, and that is exactly what this book provided. Set in Ancient Rome, this story is laced with great historical richness. A few students find their teacher injured and their classroom in disarray one day. To clear the name of their good friend, the children set out to find the culprit.
It is a fantastic story that will keep you wondering what will happen next. While it might seem serious, there is plenty of great humor woven within the plotline. It is a longer read with plenty of clues and characters to keep track of, but even my youngest children followed along well. Oh yes, and don’t forget to schedule a Toga Day during the reading of this book! It’s a must to get the full effect of the novel.
8. Twenty-One Balloons
This is probably the most surprising selection, even to me! It seems that this book isn’t necessarily a stand-out in many lists, but it is so fun! A fantastical story, this will keep imaginations engaged. Also, with a great twist at the end, it’s sure to leave you highly interested. It was so much fun to speculate throughout the story about what would happen next.
A man plans to fly across the Pacific Ocean but somehow lands on the secret island of Krakatoa. And that's where the story really gets interesting.
9. Sign of the Beaver
This historical fiction has some sentimental value to me, as I read it when I was in grade school and loved it then. But it truly is a wonderful story of survival and friendship. A boy is left alone in the wilderness for a long while and forges an unlikely friendship with the Native Americans, who help him survive.
This story provides opportunities to discuss preconceived notions of others, independence, and perseverance in the face of hardship. It also gives the chance to ask the classic question, “What would you do?”
10. Gooney Bird Greene
A more lovable character could never be found! Gooney Bird Greene is either who you were as a child or who you wanted to be friends with! This is a sweet story of a little girl who tries to find her place at school and learns plenty of good lessons along the way. Reminiscent of the Ramona books, Gooney Bird will definitely capture your heart.
One of the best features of this book has to be the lack of disrespectfulness that you might find in other books with a similar storyline. This is what makes her so captivating in my opinion: the spunk without the sass.
Like I said, we have been with Sonlight for eight years now and we’ve yet to find a book that we didn’t appreciate. It’s so nice to know that you are getting a year’s worth of fantastic literature when you decide to go with Sonlight.
With a world full of what Charlotte Mason appropriately labeled twaddle, it’s refreshing to read through the Sonlight booklist. It was a challenge to chose only ten books from the expansive Sonlight read-aloud booklist, so don't stop at these ten! Read more great Sonlight titles.
Request a catalog so you can see all the great books included in the original literature-based homeschool curriculum.