Literacy is not only the key skill required by almost all education formats but also one of the most influential factors in any learning endeavor. Even children too young to read independently garner an incredible amount from listening to books read aloud. They significantly increase their language skills, attention span, memory, visual awareness, and emotional response and regulation. And, of course, reading together offers children time to cuddle up with parents for quality bonding time.
Parents have the power to give their children all these benefits well before their kids enter kindergarten. Starting when their children are still just babies, parents can teach them to love literature and find joy in books for their whole lives.
Reading aloud is also a unique opportunity to instill important values. This hinges on which books parents choose and what these books communicate. In this way, daily read-aloud time can do double duty, supporting both educational development as well as teaching moral values.
At this point, you might find yourself asking, “What possible morality is conveyed in The Very Hungry Caterpillar?”
I have good news for you: Before I was a mother myself, I used to be a librarian at both public and private libraries while specializing in reading instruction for special needs students in schools. As a result, I have amassed quite a long list of favorite books for all ages—and most of them are hidden gems, not titles offered in conventional bookstores. All of them offer simple moral lessons on sharing, gratitude, purity, cooperation—and so much more.
Here is a list of 25 children’s books that convey traditional values. Yes, there are even board books for the youngest babies! These are arranged by general age but can be read to older or younger children, depending on attention span and interest level. In parentheses after the titles and authors, I have also noted what facet of traditionalism is present in each book.
Even the simplest illustrations and stories can help children see the importance of themes like family, virtue, and nature. Let’s stock our home libraries with traditional literature for all ages. After all, it’s never too early to start reading to your children!
Baby and Board Books
1. Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root (This rhyming book features the mother and child bond illustrated through animals in nature.)
2. God Bless You, Little One by Tilly Temple (Bedtime prayers here cover extended family, parents, and gratitude for God’s blessings.)
3. I Love You Like No Otter by Rose Rossner (Sweet illustrations focus on the loving bond between parents and children.)
4. Gossie & Friends by Olivier Dunrea (This collection of gosling stories focuses on the joy of the great outdoors, and the illustrations include lovely European farm buildings.)
5. The Mitten by Jan Brett (This is a retold Ukrainian folktale, with classic Scandinavian illustrations.)
6. So Many Bunnies by Rick Walton (In ABC format, this features a big family with 26 siblings and an attentive mother.)
7. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (All the classic barn animals are reviewed here, focusing on appreciation for farms and nature.)
9. All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan (This features an intergenerational family reflecting on their homeland, with beautiful oil paintings by Mike Wimmer.)
10. Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola (Traditional shearing, spinning, and weaving is shown by a shepherd in this book, with a vocabulary index in the back.)
11. A Little House Picture Book Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Some of the earliest Wilder books have been made into picture book format.)
12. Homeplace by Anne Shelby (This shows the rich history and lifestyles of multiple generations living in a log cabin over almost two centuries.)
13. The Hat by Jan Brett (More classical Scandinavian illustration follows preparations for winter on a farm.)
14. Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (This is a Christmas tale featuring the meaning of the nativity set.)
15. Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett (This is the classic folktale with a plot twist at the end, filled with rich Scandinavian illustrations.)
16. Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik (This Canadian bear family focuses on family bonds, the innocence of childhood, and simple living.)
Kindergarten and Beyond
17. With You All the Way by Max Lucado (Medieval knights compete in a test of virtue and perseverance, with illustrations by Chuck Gillies.)
18. The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman (Delightfully detailed illustrations show a big family with two engaged parents, where sibling cooperation saves the day.)
19. The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop (This book focuses on purity by featuring a princess using wisdom and discernment.)
20. Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges (The classic tale of Saint George exemplifies courage, faith, and hope, with beautiful illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.)
21. Brave Young Knight by Karen Kingsbury (This features a young knight learning the true meaning of strength, faith, and honesty.)
22. Bearskin by Howard Pyle (This features classic fairytale elements including courage, trust, and faith—illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.)
23. Just the Way You Are by Max Lucado (This book features the unconditional love of a father.)
24. The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury (This features virtue, chivalry, and traditional gender roles.)
25. The Christmas House by Ann Warren Turner (This Christmas tale offers an intergenerational family, holiday traditions, and the value of steadfast living.)
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