Classic Books that Captivate, Shape, and Transform Your Children

If you read one book every day, it would take you more than 100,000 years to read every book in the Library of Congress.

Sound overwhelming?

It gets even more daunting. Every day, the Library of Congress adds about 10,000 books to its catalogue. You’d never be able to catch up.

With such an incredible number of books in the world, which do you choose to read? Which do you assign for your children to read?

I suggest you ignore the inundating stream of new books and focus on reading the classics.

Classic literature will teach your children while engaging their hearts, imagination, and passion.


Classic novels explore the great, timeless issues of the human heart.

When you read the classics, you identify with the characters as they wrestle with universal subjects and themes.

According to professor Mitchell Kalpakgian (author of The Virtues We Need Again: 21 Life Lessons from the Great Books of the West), classic literature shows you the true nature of things. It teaches you the structure of reality. It presents enduring and timeless truths that touch your life – no matter your age, your ethnicity, or where you live.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

In his classic Don Quixote, Cervantes says the “ultimate end of writing is both to instruct and delight.”

A classic novel engages both your mind and your heart.

Every time you re-read a classic, you discover something new. The novel never stops teaching you.

Through classic literature, you see and understand the world more fully and completely. Today’s trendy issues fade away, and universal human struggles come into focus.

A classic novel profoundly influences your imagination. It forever changes your subconscious and directs your passions.


Your children hunger for truth.

Classic novels contain a treasure trove of wisdom. Great writers pass this wisdom down from generation to generation.

According to Mitchell Kalpakgian, this wisdom counteracts “trendy ideas and modern ideologies.”

Classic literature presents these lessons in a way that deeply touches your heart and soul. It captivates you.

These books inspire us. They don’t preach lofty sermons or give us moral lectures, but they draw us into stories that resonate with our desire for love and our longing to participate in something bigger and better than ourselves, says Rea Berg, children’s literature expert and specialist.


When you read a classic, you participate in a conversation that spans centuries.

Classics enchant and entertain you, just as they have enchanted and entertained readers for decades.

When you read a classic, you participate in the triumphs and downfalls of characters who have captivated and repelled thousands of readers before you.

The book brings you into the “great conversation” between the top thinkers and writers of all time.


Classics change your perspective, nourish your soul, and equip you for life.

“We can strip the knight of his armor, to reveal that he looks exactly like us, or we can try on the armor ourselves to experience how it feels. Fiction provides an ideal opportunity to try on the armor.” – C.S. Lewis

You can choose to live an unimaginative life, or you can choose to imagine life as different characters, says Rea Berg, who publishes classic children’s literature through Beautiful Feet Books (

For example, when you read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, you decide what path you will follow:

  • Will you refuse to forgive and instead focus on vengeance like Madame Defarge?
  • Will you sacrifice yourself for others like Sydney Carton?
  • Will you choose nobility over timidity like Charles Darnay?

The choice is yours, but these unforgettable characters demand you choose.

My favorite go-to lists that I used every time I browsed the library or bought books were these two… they’re worth their weight in gold. I marked the initials of the child who read each book next to its description. These lists opened up a world of books that were great, wholesome, and taught major life lessons.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson

I cannot overstate how immensely useful these two guides were – we used them weekly for years on end.

[Note: If you choose to purchase these through the links above, I will receive a very small commission that helps continue to fund this homeschool community.]


Classic novels for older children:

  • 1984 by George Orwell – power and control corrupt
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – turbulent times bring out the best and the worst in people
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – through trial, you mature
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – protect the beauty of family
  • Paradise Lost by Milton – life holds the wretchedness and sadness of evil
  • Paradiso by Dante – love has no boundaries when we receive it from its divine source
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – a happy marriage offers lasting contentment
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – life isn’t easy, but the human spirit overcomes even the worst trials
  • The Iliad by Homer – no matter how great the tragedy, life goes on
  • The Odyssey by Homer – family is the center of civilization
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – fear breeds racism, compassion takes strength


Classic novels for younger children:

If your children are still too young for the classics listed above, Rea Berg suggests reading Newbery and Caldecott award-winning books. Here are some of her favorites:

  • Crispin, The Cross of Lead by Avi
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith
  • The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
  • The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
  • Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey


Classics come alive through discussion and application.

Take time to read these books alongside your children. If possible, read them out loud together. We made it a habit to continue reading books out loud together into the teen years. It’s one of the best choices we made.

The value of classical literature does not come from finishing as many books as possible. The value comes from internalizing each character’s struggle and, in small ways, making our own choices every day.

Discuss each novel with your children as you read.

Which characters do they love? Why? Which characters do they hate? Why?

Would they make the same decisions and choices as the characters? What would they do differently?

Stories have the power to captivate, shape, and transform you and your children.

When your children immerse in the classics, they will grow to be better “characters” as their own stories unfold.

Let Your Voice Be Heard!