When you read to your child you should provide a mix of material that is at their level of understanding and beyond their level of understanding.
Books they can easily understand can be fun and enjoyable. But books that are beyond their current reading ability can provide a challenge that broadens their understanding, knowledge and vocabulary. And that can help them do better in school. Reading classic literature is a great way to do this. Classics are classics for a reason. Books that have remained popular with several generations are those that are most appealing to children.
You can start introducing classics to children as early as 5 or 6 year of age. You should continue to read to your kids through the elementary school years, even if they're good readers themselves. Let them read easier books to themselves. You can read the more challenging books.
How to Introduce Classics to Young Readers
Before you introduce the original version of a book, try to find abridged or other simplified versions. Many early readers and picture books provide a basic overview of classic stories. If possible, start with those. If not, try to find an abridged version.
Before you start reading, give your child an overview of the story. If you have never read the book yourself, search online for overviews or reviews. Giving your child an overview can pique their interest and the story will make more sense.
When you read, you may have to do quite a bit of explaining to make the story understandable. As you get further into the book, the amount of explanation will most likely decrease. If you feel that some sections of the book are either inappropriate or way beyond your child, skip them. Don't read too much at a time. Three to five pages a day should be enough unless your child wants more. You may be able to increase this amount if your child's understanding has increased.
If you feel that a book is just too hard and requires too much explanation and if your child is disinterested and tuning out, stop reading and move onto another book. Like adults, children have different tastes. If one book doesn't work, don't give up. Move onto something else.
If your child enjoys the book, move onto the original. Many classic books are available online for free. Gutenberg.org is a great place to find classic literature for kids. Online books are great if you have an eReader, or a tablet like the Kindle Fire or iPad. Look for used literature classics at library book sales or used bookstores. Use the same methods that you used with the abridged version.
Classics for Young Children
The following are classic books that you can introduce to young readers: kindergarten and elementary students. Many are available in an abridged form:
- Treasure Island
- Little Women
- A Little Princess
- The Prince and the Pauper
- The Adventures of Pinocchio
- Beatrix Potter books
- The Nutcracker
- Oliver Twist
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Watership Down
- Alice in Wonderland
- Wind in the Willows
- Peter Pan
- Anne of Green Gables
- The Little Prince
- The Secret Garden
- Jungle Book
- The Call of the Wild
- Winnie the Pooh
- The House at Pooh Corner
- Little House on the Prairie
- Charlotte's Web
- Emily's Runaway Imagination
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
- Swiss Family Robinson
- A Christmas Carol
- The American Girl Series*
* American Girl novels aren't classics but their historical books are fantastic. They introduce kids to various time periods in American history.
More on Books for Children:
- Educational Chapter Books for Preschool and Elementary Age Children
This is a list of educational chapter books for 4 to 10 years olds that cover science, vocabulary, history, geography and biography.
LT Wright (author) from California on July 24, 2015:
I've found with reading to my kids you can expand their knowledge a lot with challenging material. It does require lots of explanations but it's worth it when their vocabularies explode.
Book Bug on July 24, 2015:
Wow, this takes me back! I read a lot of those book on your list as a kid. :) The best child classics are the ones that can speak to both kids and grown-ups, which is where you separate the good books from the ones that are just passing fads. Good themes are universal, after all, and I am strongly of the opinion that good literature shouldn't be "watered down" for kids. They need to be challenged like everyone else. Love your opening paragraphs. Great hub. Thanks for sharing!
LT Wright (author) from California on August 18, 2012:
Desi Halse on August 18, 2012:
What a helpful guide this is. Thank you.