Homeschooling, Opinions & Experiences

Fellow Parents I Need Your Help


My daughter brought me “The Hobbit” and asked me to read it to her. Knowing it’s too much for her age I asked why she wanted to read it. Her response, “I want to read books like you do, with no pictures”.

Sounds easy enough, there is a wealth of classic children’s literature I could read to her, but as I went through my memory of my favorites I realized, she can’t handle most of them. She is an extremely sensitive child.  If I read Anne of Green Gables, she would spend days trying to understand why someone would give up their child, if I chose Charlotte’s Web she would spend the whole book crying about why Wilbur has to be eaten. No, she has not made the “baby cow in our pasture will be eaten” connection and yes, I will probably make up a lie about where he went. Don’t judge, seriously, let it go, I need your help.

Do you remember any children’s books that are light and gentle?

62 thoughts on “Fellow Parents I Need Your Help”

  1. Some possible suggestions from my childhood would be the ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ series by May Gibbs. There are three or four of them. ‘Brownie’ by Dorothy Wall, and ‘The Magic Pudding’ by Norman Lindsay.
    These are all very cute. They are also all very distinctively Australian, which may or may not work for you.
    ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame is in a similar kind of vein. For something a little different, she might enjoy something by Roald Dahl. I always did.
    Good luck. If you find the right one, it’s effects can be profound.
    I often read Brownie to my boys, using the same copy that my mum read to me when I was their age. It is a strange delight.

    1. I am not familiar with the Australian books and am going to make sure I find them. I’m excited to introduce them. Funny, most of the children’s shows that we allow our children to watch are Australian, because they are so gentle and have good messages. Thank you, Thank you!

      Wind in The Willows is one of my favorites too and literally the only book I could think of.

    2. Reading the same copy your Mother read to you, that’s got to be a wonderful feeling! I have boxes of books in storage my Mother brought to me when she decided to rid herself of “stuff’, I think I need to go through them.

  2. My children all love the Little House on the Prairies series. The first time I mentioned trying those books, they groaned. But now that we’ve actually read a few, they are fascinated. There’s even a Little House cookbook with recipes from the books that your little ones can help with.

    1. I thought about these too, but I remember Laura learning about farm life, which included the killing and slaughtering of animals for Winter. She’s just not ready for that.

      1. I know the first one (Little House in the Big Woods) has a chapter about pig-butchering time, but the rest of it is pretty good. I wonder if you might censor that chapter. The other books might be easier. I don’t remember any animals being butchered in the other books in the series…

  3. Hello Deidre, I’ll start by contrasting my upbringing with that of my children. I came late to reading, and wasn’t read to much. Accordingly, I don’t have good suggestions for your age category. I have invited my children to reply to you. They were raised reading. At this moment, I am surrounded by two full walls of books. I suspect my wife has some thoughts. Ramona ( and Betsy (Carolyn Haywood) are good books for young girls.

    I would suggest continuing to read books with pictures, but look for more words. Dr. Seuss is fun for all ages. Fox in Socks and a few of his similar books can be a challenge to read aloud, and usually quite hilarious.

    You do want to start with novel-size books, though, since she has requested. I suggest a little of both.

    I do recall enjoying Runaway Ralph (also Beverly Cleary), and The Cricket in Times Square. Those were read to my class in school. Seems like second grade for Ralph, and fourth grade for the cricket.

    I remember going to the library very young. It was a beautiful old building with a wonderful children’s section. I don’t remember the books from that time though. I do remember going. It was good. Consider trips to the library to let her pick her own books in addition to your reading time with her.

    By the time I was reading well, I read a lot, but not many books, and not fiction. My grandfather had stacks of National Geographic, Popular Science, and Scientific American. Back then, those were good publications, and the PS and SA, I read thoroughly. (NG had too many pictures, and was sometimes embarrassing ;-).) I also read the encyclopedias and my mother gave me a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for my 10th or 11th birthday. I still have it! (Grandpa gave me his set of Encyclopedia Britannica before I completed high school. I still have those too.)

    I found, unprompted, Madeleine L’Engle’s Winkle in Time in the school library in fifth grade. That was and still is the most important book I have read. I highly recommend. Probably not at four years old, but I read aloud most of L’Engle’s books to the children, and Joseph was quite young then. Nathan is four years older than Joseph.

    The next most important book to me is CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, which is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. Not for the faint of heart.

    Of course, CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are the classic children’s literature. Grandpa gave me a copy of Prince Caspian in about third grade. That is what got me reading. The Chronicles were written in an order that makes sense, but it wasn’t chronological. If you find an old set, it will be in the original order. Newer sets are arranged chronologically.

    My own suggestion for beginning the habit of reading aloud to your children is the Chronicles of Narnia. There are seven books. They are beautiful and classic in all regards. I have read the set to my children twice. (Since Joseph hadn’t been born the first time through.)

    Trust your heart and your motherly instincts, but must of all, trust your daughter. She is stronger than you can imagine. Children always are.

    1. I don’t know Cricket in Times Square so I will definitely check that out. I really can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to read The Chronicles of Narnia. She would not understand the ongoing themes of good and evil right now, but it is a must read for everyone. Wrinkle in Time, the father is kidnapped. It didn’t occur to me that it would be so difficult to find books for children without pictures that doesn’t involve the harsh realities of the world. Funny thing is, I could read all of them to my 2 year old and she would be quite fine with them. My 4 year old just feels injustice so keenly.

  4. If I may be so bold, never ever lie to your children in any way. You have no obligation to explain, though usually it is a good thing, but you can defer. Just don’t fib. Don’t make up anything.

    There is one thing I’ve seen for forty years destroy the relationships between parents and children–lying, usually by the parents, but sometimes by the child.

    Santa Clause is a good example. In my family, we dealt with it gently and with deflection, but not getting direct either way until they had pretty much figured it on their own. That worked for us. My sister was much more deliberate about it. Santa, et al., were clearly labeled as fiction and pretend from her children’s youngest questions. That worked for her, and it did make for some tension with our children over the years, but it worked. Honesty works.

    In general, I’ve never seen children actually appreciate being protected from the unavoidable realities of life. Most times little bad comes from it, but never good. It just doesn’t help.

    My two bits. I’m open to deliberation.

    1. So you just glossed right over that “don’t judge” part of my post and did it anyway. I know your blog, you are a man of opinions, some I agree with some I don’t. I’m guessing it must have been a challenge to not to share them. I am grateful there are still human beings who think for themselves and share. You are one of them.

      In actuality, I will tell her a truth that has nothing to do with the reality.It won’t be an outright lie, just some serious omission. We have a small farm now, but it will be larger some day and she will see first hand the cycle of life. For now she isn’t ready. She will learn them in her time table, not mine. And for me that is the most important thing. Making sure it happens when she is ready not when I think she should know.

      Ya took away Santa, oh, so sad. I love an imagination and Santa ignites the most amazing stories in my kiddo. She believes Santa comes at night and takes her toys and gives her different ones and takes her toys to other kids around the world. A toy exchange, I have no idea where she got that, but I love the idea. I’m not taking away Santa, fairies, unicorns or gnomes. They are apart of my child’s rich imagined reality and it is valued above gold in this house.

      1. Thank you for putting me in my place. I will be more careful, and I will try not to be judgmental. I wrote because I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve seen others. Some of the things I’ve heard parents make up and tell their children has appalled me, and I’ve seen it go bad since my early high school days. It’s even worse to tell the kids one thing and live another.

        It appears to me you will not do such. It seems you have a very appropriate attitude, and I will again encourage you to trust your instincts as a mother. Always pay attention to your daughter. She is your best guide for leading her.

        Please, don’t take me wrong regarding Santa. We worked with imagination while ensuring truth was present. We didn’t quash it. I think all my children believed in Santa for a while. It was my sister who didn’t let that even get started in her house. Fantasy and imagination were significant for each of our children. We work with it, not against it. I think your approach will work well.

        Since you asked for help, I was trying to help with that reply too. I was trying not to judge. My intent was example, not condemnation.

        Of my own, two in particular have had a very keen sense of justice and injustice, and it can be difficult.

        Thank you for reviewing my blog postings. I hope it gives you some context for me. Please know that you are entirely welcome to comment anything on my blog, on any article.

  5. I particularly resented untruths told to me as a child about animals. The worst that could come of child realizing that the cow will be eaten is that they will become a vegetarian.

    1. I had to see first hand the slaughtering of an animal on our farm when I was very small. It was in my nightmares for months. I just can’t do that to my kiddo, not now. And yes, I was a vegetarian for a large part of my life. So if she decides to do just that, I would jump for joy.

  6. I wanted to add that your daughter sounds so sweet. Empathy toward others is truly one of the best best values one can instill in a child. I think I would just explain that while there are truly sad things that happen during life, this is a made-up story written by an author. I, myself, don’t read factual books about things that make me sad if there is nothing I can do to improve the situation. I don’t want to fill up my head with thoughts about mean, uncaring or mentally ill people and whatever bad things they inject into someone else’s life. Reading is for enjoyment or education and you are so right to pick books that she finds enjoyable.

    1. That’s my sentiment exactly, there are other ways to slowly introduce the negatives in life. I’m not going to start with her new found love of reading as a method for life education.

      The oddest thing happened to me after I got pregnant with her. I could no longer handle violence, or injustice. I couldn’t watch the news, or read anything that wasn’t good and positive. It affected me profoundly. To this day I still carry that. I do my best to avoid the news and some books I used to love I can no longer read. She brought powerful empathy into this world almost as soon as she was conceived.

  7. I didn’t catch her age, but some of my first chapter books were Sweet Valley Kids, the Babysitters Club, The Railway Children, and then as I got older, the old Nancy Drew books. ect.

    1. These were all some of my favorites, but she is 4. So not ready yet. I also read Trixie Beldon, akin to Nancy Drew. Thank you though, this is why I posted. Finding something for her young age and sensitivity is extremely difficult.

      1. Deidre, we really may be kindred souls. I had a mini-preteen crisis when it became apparent I would NEVER *BE* Trixie Belden. Hours of crying. But I still have the books. For when we’re ready. 😀

  8. I have a similar problem with my son. He was reading at 3 years old, and was ready for chapter books so early. Now he is 6, and I pre-read all his reading material first, because I don’t want to expose him to concepts too mature for him. We are also Christian, and I intend not to expose him to conflicting worldviews for a good few years yet. So I pre-read everything. It does get exhausting pre-reading everything for a voracious reader!

    I think someone suggested Beverly Clearly, and the Betsy-Tacy stories. They are probably the easiest to deal with emotionally, if she’s not ready for Little House, Narnia, Charlotte’s Web and Green Gables. My criteria are different from yours, so my son does read those. I may not be the best at suggesting books for you because, while we have a similar issue, our criteria are so different.

    I think that you may find some of the other books by the Green Gables writer would be pretty good. Oh, and nobody gives Anne away, by the way. Her parents died when she was a baby. But she spent several years in a difficult childhood before Green Gables, so maybe that’s a moot point. But The Story Girl and The Golden Road may be lighter.

    And Edith Nesbit is a pretty awesome story-teller, too.

    1. I hadn’t thought of any of Montgomery’s other books. Thank you. I read Beverly Cleary so long ago I remember it being intense, but not necessarily frightening. I’ve researched a few books mentioned today and bought 2 so far. I was really excited when she asked for chapter books until I realized she’s still discovering the not so nice things about the world and I just can’t let her experience a single one in the confines of reading. I sure hope by 6 she’s ready. Because I want to read them all over again too. You are right, Anne did lose her parents so even more of a tough one than I remember. I think I’m going to do as Lonnie suggested and take a trip to the library and spend a few weeks rereading a great many books until I find some she is read for.

      On a side not, you are a hero in our house. Our daughter wrote her name for the first time on Friday. For a little girl who avoided writing letters and yet to have such a love of letters was a little heartbreaking for me. But after a few writing practices she declared ” I need to write my name”. And so she did. All because of little pencils. Thank you once again! To you it was just a suggestion, but to this household you changed the course of my little girls learning.

      1. That is so sweet of you to tell me. I am so glad to have been able to recommend something that had such an impact! I can remember how amazing it was to see my own little guy writing his first letters. He was an early reader, but was slower with fine motor, so he was also reading chapter books before he was writing! And it was such an amazing, proud moment for him when he wrote his first word! I’m so glad that my little recommendation led to that wonderful moment for your little girl, and it’s so nice of you to tell me so! You made my day!

  9. You might want to check out Junie B. Series. They are so funny and they were my children’s first “chapter books”. They have some pictures but they have chapters and they have no serious topics to tackle. They are just about a silly second grader getting into antics.

  10. Chapter books that she may enjoy are the “Hank the Cowdog” series. He’s a cowdog (obviously) on a farm. He sees himself as the “sheriff” but is incredibly dumb. He gets into scrapes with other animals. I don’t recall anything dealing with butchering. I do recall one where Hank and his sidekick are very scared of what turns out to be the scarecrow. (Hank has an overactive imagination and really builds things up to more than they are.) Our 16 year old daughter reads these to our 3 and 5 year old girls complete with hick accent. Awesome to listen to from the other room. Many of the books are often available on tape or cd at the library. Curious George books often come in chapter versions as well.

    “Caddie Woodlawn” and “The Courage of Sarah Noble” are both good, easy chapter books. They both have to deal with Janette Oke’s “Love Comes Softly Series” is similar to Little House on the Prairie. The first book does deal with Marty’s loss of her husband and her coming to be mama to a little girl who’s own mama has died. In my opinion, the books deal with these situations gently and without burden. You may weep over the losses, but new relationships are quickly formed to fill the void. If you start with book 2, these topics are a background and not the focus of the story at all. The lives of the characters are beyond that point, so to is the story.

    We have five daughters, ranging in age from 16 down to age 3. All of them have been ready for things at different levels. They all have vivid imaginations that take what they hear/read to the furthest possible point. I understand your desire to not grieve your 4 year old more than needed. 🙂 Life will throw her things that are hard to comprehend without doubling down on it by reading story after story that begins with heartbreak.

    Enjoy your hunt for good books!

    1. Hank the Cowdog sounds perfect! I am ashamed to admit I did not know Curious George was a chapter book first. So much to learn. I do remember the Love Comes Softly series from my teenage years. Never thought of them for her age. They were very much “gentle” books. Another good idea. Thank you so much for stopping by and the kind words of understanding. It’s just so important that reading becomes a great love for both my girls and with my oldest’s extraordinary empathy so many things will break her heart quickly.

      A 16 year old reading with a hick accent to her little siblings, I imagine as her Mommy that’s quite a heart warming experience.

  11. Bless her sympathetic heart. What a gift you have there, to mold and shape for the future! Try these books. Some might be hard to access, but are worth it. The Five Little Peppers Amelia Bedelia (sp?) Charles & Mary Lamb’s Shakespeare (some, not all of this one) Also, upper-grade biographies don’t contain illustrations, for the most part, and are written in an engaging way, and leaving out horrific and disturbing facts. I’m thinking of the missionary biographies that used to be published by Barbour. Not sure who publishes them now. For children, but not too many illustrations: The Boxcar Children (original series is better for being milder.) Many of the comedies, such as Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, although written for children, make great read-alouds. I think, though, that in the Anne books, her parents had died. Hmm. Probably worse, eh? Check antique books. Currently, the vogue is that if a person just lived and died, then it’s not a story and publishers don’t want it. Even the very mild and comforting Sarah, Plain and Tall begins with death of the mom and ends with horrific drought necessitating a move and leaving Daddy behind. Might have to teach her that sad, bad, unfun, challenging things can happen but God helps us. Then show her how He helped the people in these stories?

    1. Fantastic! So many good suggestions. The Charles and Mary Lamb’s Shakespeare sounds interesting. Midsummer Night’s Dream might be a good one. Yes, Anne’s parent’s did die, I’ve been corrected a few times now. Doesn’t make it better, but makes me worry about my memory a little bit.

      You hit on a very good idea, I wouldn’t mind a little adversity story line where the character can learn, help and change the course of the story. It just really has to be gentle in it’s ways of dealing with it. She’s a smart kid, but also very imaginative. So the hard truths of the world really aren’t on her radar. But she is starting to ask questions and I think soon this will be a non issue. She recently asked if the eggs we eat are baby chicks. I explained the difference between fertilized eggs and not. I told her we need a rooster to make baby chicks and we don’t have a rooster. She then promptly asked for a rooster and told me we would have to stop eating eggs afterwards. *sigh* She’ll get there, soon I hope.

      1. Reading all the comments, now. Sorry my internet was horrible this morning and I answered you in my email, so did not know someone else had already caught the Anne thing, plus, I wasn’t sure, since I’ve not read the book, but only watched the movie. We never know what the movie producers will change.
        Anyway, I also missed the idea that a kid-level book would be good. And I just thought of the Nate the Great series. The older ones are disappearing fast, as they were probably politically incorrect or something, but they are hilarious little who-dunnits that include Nate figuring out what happened when something disappeared, or whatever. He always leaves his mama a note saying where he will be, and he always cleans his plate. It’s just cute. Lotsa pictures, though.
        I really think she would like The Five Little Peppers. It’s about five siblings and their adventures as poor children. I think the most disastrous thing that happens is that a cake falls. And they fill the hollow with daisies and it becomes the best cake, ever, or something. Really gentle.
        One last remembrance: Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories. Not one story, but a collection of very gentle stories (for bedtime, they have to be, right?) Six books. Really good. Also, any of the Pathway Readers, again collections, but great, simple, gentle stories.
        Oh, and if you need a new bookcase after this post, I know a guy who makes good ones, in Arkansas. 😉

  12. Many of the books my children have enjoyed do have some rough parts but I think they remember them well because of the sad things that happened. My Oldest (age 10) who read the Hobbit this year did break down and cry at the death of a character. You could check the reading list from Sonlight for her age and get the books from your library. Many of the books listed in the above comments are on the Sonlight reading lists. Also ask your librarian for suggestions.

    1. Crying over the The Hobbit is not reserved for the young. Tolkien has a way of making his reader feel a part of the character’s journey. I’ve not heard of Sonlight, I sure hope this isn’t one of those, “every good Mommy knows about Sonlight ” things. I will do my research. Our library leaves oh so much to be desired. We don’t have those kinds of librarians. Thank you for letting me know about Sonlight.

      1. We have horrible libraries around here too! I buy all of my books so I am very picky about what I purchase. Sonlight is a homeschool literature based curriculum. We do not use it but I have a friend that does. They list their books for each grade on their website. I just look there for ideas and happened to notice that many of the books the others recommended were on the Sonlight lists. I also check the Veritas Press reading lists and Prodigal Press lists for ideas.

        As for ” every good mommy” knowing about Sonlight…well I don’t know anything about that. My friend gave me a catalog when I was thinking about homeschooling.

  13. Deidre,
    This is Lonnie’s wife, Mary. I have been mulling over my response for a day or so now, since Lonnie asked me to give you some suggestions. Most of the books that have been mentioned are worthy of good literature and grammar. I will caution you on Junie B. Jones since it was brought up. Yes, they are funny and if you read them aloud they are okay, I actually listened to some of them with my children on a car trip once, and in that setting they were enjoyable. However, I never cared for them as a “learning to read book” due to the use of some slang, mostly contractions, grammar and attitudes. I will take Carolyn Haywood’s B is For Betsy, and Little Eddie any day. That said, for my own opinion, the best way to make a judgment for yourself is to read the books first, or at least the first couple of chapters. This will become more difficult over time as your children far surpass you in reading time and ability, especially if you add more children to the family!! However, there will come a time when you have to let them have some freedom to make their own decisions about books and for me that usually worked out to be about the time when I could no longer keep up with them. If it was something like fantasy or science fiction, I diverted to Lonnie to make the decision on.

    There do seem to be an entire group of books that have not been mentioned and that is some of the rich children’s literature that yes, while they might have pictures in them, they still have pages of text with rich literature and grammar. Many of these books were Newbery Award or Honor Winners or Caldecott Medal winners.
    Especially the books written before 1970’s like, Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, Make Way for Ducklings; Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. Marjorie Flack’s The Story about Ping; Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline books. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (George Thompson) was mentioned, and he has several other animal books that my oldest son enjoys. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, The Wheel on the School and other books by Meindert DeJong are just some other suggestions. Depending on the size of your library and the age of your librarian, you may or may not have access to some of the rich literature for children that was coming to a close as I was starting kindergarten in 1970, and that is not to say there aren’t some rich books still out there, for my oldest daughter tends to find them, but they would be more inclined to fall under the “twaddle” category as Charlotte Mason refers to books with little literary value. That in my opinion isn’t to say that every child needs to read old classics, it is just a sense you start developing as a mother who has spent over 20 years learning and growing herself to find the rich treasures of literature to offer her children.

    Lonnie and I both had different backgrounds growing up. I had a house full of books, however, as the youngest of four with my siblings 10,11,12 years older than I, and TV shows such as Walton’s, Little House, and Bonanza on, reading time became less pronounced in my home as a family occupation. Still there were my favorite books and I still have the memories of my father and mother both reading to me. On the other hand, I never had books like CS Lewis read to me, even though my older brother gave me my own set once for my birthday!! For I was that sensitive child that quit reading the Little House books that my best friend gave me one every year for my birthday when Jack, the dog, died in On the Banks of Plum Creek. I just did not like fantasy or science fiction, even though my brother had bookshelves full of it. I think because my sister was so much older I would go to her shelves and find some of the teen romances, mind you they were written mostly before the 70’s still, my favorite teen romance series is Beany Malone by Lenora Mattingly Weber and it was written during/ after WWII!! I am just now trying to collect the series for myself because the neighboring library of my teen years only had some of the books on their shelves when I found them!! I also was very much into Sue Barton and Cherry Ames nurse books. Those are the reason why my brother gave me Narnia and Alice in Wonderland (which I have yet to read, although our oldest did) because he thought I needed richer literature than the twaddle of romance/nurse books!!

    I say all that to indicate that sometimes I think what our children are exposed to at a young age and read aloud to them does factor into what they are more willing to read or not read on their own. Two of our girls and one of our boys are much more sensitive to negative things in their reading while our second daughter and oldest son, see life much more realistic and accept life in their reading of fiction and in daily life. I, myself, am having my eyes opened more and more each day as I research and learn from others around me and the growing never stops for ourselves, nor does the monitoring or mentoring of our children. One of the characteristics of gifted children can be super sensitivity to the world and the injustices in the world. It wasn’t until I started researching to home school our children, our oldest was going to be a high school senior and our youngest was entering K, with the four older having been in our public school’s gifted program, that I learned this about sensitivity!!
    I just figured my children were like that, because I was like that, I never realized it was because they might actually think or reason differently than most of the people in the world, so yes, it is something to be learning and growing yourself as you walk this journey of life with them. I prayed often for wisdom and I still do and now I find myself praying for my children to have wisdom for their own decisions.

    If you are not familiar with Charlotte Mason, you may read her works here at Ambleside Online. Do not get overwrought with looking at their curriculum program, I read your blog on Pre-K Curriculum and you are doing just fine. I think Lonnie mentioned something about nature and the snow treasures and Charlotte Mason had a lot to say about children and nature. That link should take you directly to Vol. 1 – Home Education – I highly recommend you read her works for yourself and not try to read someone else’s adaptions or explanations first. I did not do that because I thought I would not be able to read her Victorian English writing and understand it, but I was mistaken. I have decided that first sources are my first choice as I am learning myself or critiquing something to use for my children. I have two friends in our local Charlotte Mason group and maybe later I will send you their links as well. Another mentor in my walk to finding rich, worthy literature for my children is Jan Bloom from BooksBloom here is the link to her two books that she has compiled and written author notes on hundreds of books for children or adults to read.
    They now reside in my parents hometown, although they travel most of the year to Homeschool Conventions and sell used children’s books. Be sure to read her Home and Who We Are page as well. Finally, Living Books Library with Liz Cottrill and Emily(Cottrill) Kizer (?sp).

    If you are ever interested in starting your own homeschool lending library they have information on their website, or you may just take a peek into their library under that heading. The Home page with this link should take you to a recent blog about her grandson and reading poetry, speaking of which, that is another source of “adult looking” words and books but that can be very “safe” for the moment for you and your daughter. Winnie the Pooh comes to my mind. Read through Liz’s blogs and get to know her and glean from her lists of book recommendations and writing about using books to educate your children. As with any blog, you may or may not agree with everything that she says, and she does have some things to say about “safe” reading, but she and her daughter have helped to stretch and grow me. I do know that each of my children are different and a book that my older son read in 4th grade is not a book that my younger son is going to read, nor does my 3rd daughter read the same things as her older sisters. Granted, I have my own theories on that, but that is for another day. (Or into the wee hours of the morning as this response became!)

    Mary Schubert

    1. Mary, thank you so much for all the time you put in to this comment. So many wonderful resources.

      The Junie B series… since she’s 4, she is garnering new words to use everyday. I think it best to skip slang and improper grammar usage for now. Sounds like something for later. I ordered the Cricket in Times Square after your husband’s suggestion. Having lived in NYC I’m excited to share a bit of the city with her. This is exactly why I created this post. I knew somewhere out there was a Mom who had bookshelves like I do and would have knowledge I do not. All the literature I have and remember were the classics, which are beautiful, but just not for my little one’s emotional level. I lost a brother at 5 to a car accident and lived on a farm. I knew a great deal about the realities of life, so I read books well beyond my years by her age and honestly might have been a bit bored with “twaddle”. That term tickles me, I get the idea, but there is a point where reading is still a worthwhile endeavor for vocabulary, grammar and imagination. So I’m not too concerned. I must be honest and say I really only gave Charlotte Mason a cursory read. It did not speak to me the way Rudolf Steiner did as a method of education. Knowing now I will be integrating so many different styles to fit my 2 very different kids, I think I will need to scrutinize her a bit more. Like I told your husband, I could read just about anything to my 2 year old and she would not be phased. Being born so close together I assumed my kiddos would have come from the same gene soup, but they are different in every way imaginable.

      I can not thank you enough for all your information and resources. I’m looking forward to learning about them all. Truly, thank you, I’m always happiest when I’m learning something new and even more so when it’s for my little ones.

      1. Deidre,
        You are welcome. I have to admit, I do not know anything about Rudolf Steiner, so I will have to look into him. I have read some of John Holt’s materials, and Charlotte Mason, depending on what you read or how you read her can be stand offish to more of an unschooler, but what I am learning is that there are gems of truth to glean from various sources and then I must make those my own and decide what works for my family. A good friend of mine has commented how everyone wants to claim they are an expert on this or that and she tends to shy away from those people. What drew me to Charlotte Mason was several things, but as I read her materials, for me, I sensed that she saw children learning naturally (not just in the outdoors though) and that is what I wanted for my children, but my older ones also grew up in the out of doors more than my youngest, just by default of time and circumstances. On the other hand, there are things I read from Charlotte Mason that I disagree with, or that I have a totally different perspective on what she might be saying, and interpret her works differently than those in my discussion group do. I will even tell people, she was still trying to bring education to the masses and not necessarily homeschool and have people differ on that opinion, that is okay. The only one I am trying to figure out is how to incorporate her method of teaching or any other method of teaching, and blend it to become the best for teaching my children. In our state we have the freedom to choose a path of education that bests suits our children and not answer to anyone else for it. A privilege we fight for every year.

        All of those different experiences you have had and your children’s personalities will dictate what materials you incorporate in your home education. And feel blessed that with only two children you are recognizing the differences between them. Many people don’t see that at all, or until they have many children. Our first two were very different, then as we had more, we saw patterns of likeness but still they are all different. Birth order, family circumstances, mom and dad growing and maturing ourselves, all have impacts on our children.

        Since I am responding again to this post, let me give you another link: – Crystal is in our Charlotte Mason discussion group and has blogged about their adventures from the age of your children, but she has changed her blog and I am not seeing some of the things that I noticed before, but I thought you would like some of the things she suggests on her Math blog.

        Honestly, it was searching on the internet for something about scheduling Charlotte Mason lessons that I found a site, I am not even sure that I bookmarked but after reading another lady’s approach to their lessons, the light bulb finally went off in my head. The way I had tried to pattern and organize my plan of attention for my older children, that followed someone in our group just was not working. I could not break free of that mold though until I read the comments on this other blog. Set yourself to be free to follow your motherly instincts with teaching your children, God put them there, and when you start struggling with what you are doing, evaluate “who am I trying to please?” I say that, because even when you think you are just gleaning information, you can still put yourself into a box, thinking you have to do something a certain way or it is wrong. At least, I struggle with that.

        I will continue to peruse my shelves and those of our library for worthy, sensitive books for your daughter.


  14. My daughter was very similar as a small child, and we had a similar issue. Just because the *ability* to read a selection is there it doesn’t mean the maturity to digest the content has developed– as you well know! My daughter read Little Woman quite young, as well as the Little House books, before moving on to a diet of pretty much exclusively old, old literature. Lots of Henty and the like– because she was most comfortable with the handling of the more mature themes (wars, etc.) in that era of literature.

    1. Truly this is what I’m up against. Emotional maturity is still that of a very emotional 4 year old. So far I’ve gotten a lot of suggestions and am starting with The Magic Pudding tonight. I’ve already read through quite a bit and it tickles me. So I think it’s going to be fun. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad I’m not the only one in this boat.

  15. Diedre, my comment will not be as helpful as the ones above, but even negative info is helpful, right? I wanted to expose my 5- (soon to be 6-) year old son to “the classics.” We found a couple of the Moby Illustrated Classics among my old books and so we started with “Treasure Island” and “The Adventures of Robinson Caruso.” Spencer was thrilled and asked for more, so we bought lots on eBay. Oh my! I had forgotten just how violent many of the classics are. Even “Tom Sawyer” and “Huck Finn” have their dark moments. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Moby Dick” are quite frightening in parts, as is “Call of the Wild.” I had never read “Black Beauty” as a child so I had no idea that the book focused on the maltreatment of the horses. I am lucky that my son is not as timid as your daughter, but I still cringe at some of the content in these books. I am thrilled to be exposing him to the classics, but my husband and I have agreed to “re-read” or “pre-read” the titles first from here on out!

    I’m afraid some of my favorite books as a child would not benefit your daughter: “The Chronicles of Narnia” (we’ve read the first book to the kids), various titles by Frances Hodgeson Burnett (especially “The Little Princess”) and a book about orphans by Julie Andrews entitled “Mandy.”

    I do have one suggestion. Have you ever read the book “Honey for a Child’s Heart”? It gives lists of age appropriate books for kids. It might give you some ideas, although I don’t think there will be chapter books in the 4-year old list. Good luck!

    1. It’s helpful to know I am not the only one startled by how dark and violent the books of my childhood are. I don’t remember thinking any of those books were upsetting when I was her age. The Little Princess is one of my favorites from childhood, but oh my, Daddy dies and the School Matron takes all her things and puts her in the attic.Horrible!

      I am not familiar with “Honey for a Child’s Heart”. I will definitely take a look at that. Thank you for the verbal support!

  16. My kids really love “Mr. Putter and Tabby” books. They do have pictures, but are set up with “chapters” and are written as a series. They are so adorable and have really wonderful messages. They are humorous as well- even for adults!

    1. I did my due diligence after I saw your comment and looked it up. I think this set is exactly what I was looking for. Sweet, lighthearted, something I can read aloud as well as something she can read herself. Perfect. Thank you so much for taking a moment to let me know about them. Plus, we are a shelter pet only household with our alpha male kitty being an orange tabby. Perfect for us! Thank you, thank you!

  17. We enjoy Charlotte’s Web and age appropraite versions of classics we found at the dollar store… Wizard of Oz, Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island. They are shorter versions with bigger print. Easier on little eyes and attention spans 🙂

  18. They have pictures in them, but have you read any of Reg Down’s books? Fairies and animals and such. We also read some of the Little House books, and Charlotte’s Web, but you know your child best and trust your judgments on when she is ready. We also love Beatrix Potter’s stories.

  19. Oh, and Stuart Little was interesting. I don’t think my daughter loved it, but then she’s currently obsessed with books about Vikings. Go figure.

    1. Vikings?! Fantastic, has she seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon? Not historically accurate, but has a really good theme.

      I actually already bought Stuart Little already. I think she’ll enjoy it.

  20. You’ve certainly got plenty of comments to work with here – but I’ll put in the best advice I’ve gotten in awhile, too. My friend who is also a children’s librarian said to look at Caldecott and Newberry winners pre-1950. The material is cleaner – some are very beautiful and relevent – some a little slow for little kids – but it opened a world of possibilities for us. Also – Caddie Woodlawn – great book.

    1. I definitely got a lot of responses which really warms my heart that parents would take a moment and share. My poor Amazon gift card is dwindling with every comment, there have been some good ones. Like yours.

      I had never thought about it, but of course there was a time they didn’t expose children to harsh realities. Thank you! I will be looking those up today.

      Caddie Woodlawn is sitting in my cart, waiting for my next purchase. It also features my favorite breed of dog, Collies. I’m excited to read them again. It’s been so long.

    1. I think I can introduce Boxcar Children and do some editing. I know I really enjoyed them and the Little House series was one of my favorites as a little girl. Thanks for the ideas!

  21. Yes to this! I have the same problem with my daughter. She is 4 and very sensitive. And, why do they always kill off the parents in the first chapter??

    We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory together, and she enjoyed that (especially the chocolate party we had after we finished!!). Now, we are read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She loves it so far because it had a lot of silly things and pretending.

    1. Why is the question? I don’t understand why children’s books must have such nasty sometimes downright evil antagonists. Killing off the parents, or kidnapping the child is another popular theme.

      Thank you for the recommendation of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Silly is what I”m looking for.

  22. My sensitive boy loved The Adventures of Dr Dolittle.

    Even now at almost 8, he really struggles with Roald Dahl, as some of the characters can be quite nasty and some content is quite violent.

    I would caution against Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie – one of them is a lost baby, too. You may want to pre-read it before sharing it with your daughter. (I was also a very sensitive child, but I did enjoy this book when it was read to me at the age of 5).

    I find the free-reading and literature lists from this online homeschool curriculum a good fit: (Overall it is a Catholic curriculum, but these books tend to just be old fashioned classics)

    1. I looked into Roald Dahl and he is way off the charts in my opinion. It would give my kiddo nightmares. Thanks for the warning about Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie. I actually was going to purchase it, but it seems to only be in print outside the US so I have been waiting for it on Ebay at a reasonable price.

      Thank you so much for the link. What an excellent resource for so many things!

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