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If life can be seen as a series of experiences, then reading is the tool through which we can truly understand those experiences.
Reading consistently from an early age can give children countless perspectives on human interaction. This is incredible for social development, especially considering the large base of knowledge they will have when encountering new situations.
Childhood reading has proven educational benefits: an extensive vocabulary, advanced critical thinking, fluent verbal communication and memory improvement, among others. The transferable nature of these skills serves your child regardless of their desired path. Perhaps even more universal is the empathy that grows in the mind of a young reader. It can inspire compassion and understanding through simple words of kindness and wisdom. This emotion is shown toward various characters, often even fictional.
Here is a list of 12 books that every child should read before they turn 15. The works listed below are ordered by age level, beginning at the youngest.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This classic story ventures into a child’s imagination after being sent to bed for bad behavior. The main character, Max, learns about the ideas of freedom and love. Ultimately, he comes to appreciate his mother and returns to his life as a child. The lesson within this work is perfect for young children who crave to disobey. The language is simple, direct, and very engaging.
Elmer by David McKee
Elmer, the multicolored elephant, is a model for overcoming the fear of fitting in. This work is all about inclusivity. Furthermore, it rejects conformity and celebrates people being themselves in front of the world. This message is foundational in that it can shape children’s understanding of their friends, family, strangers and even themselves. McKee approaches the topic in a very heartwarming manner.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
An outstanding read for both children and adults, this work pulls at the heart strings while simultaneously preaching about human treatment of nature. It is set over the span of a man’s lifetime, showing how desire can lead to selfishness and how only love is required to experience true happiness. It also displays the very real harm in taking advantage of those who care for us. This is a remarkable piece of early childhood literature.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
This powerful Stonewall Award-winning children’s picture book is based on Julián, a little boy entranced with some women he sees on the subway, dressed as mermaids. In this lovely celebration of gender-fluidity, self-love and imagination, the takeaway for any child is the freedom and courage to tell the world who you are.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Set in a school with an evil authority figure, this story is immediately relatable to children. Matilda inspires young people to believe in themselves despite outside negative influences. Having a superpower in school might seem a little unrealistic, but it highlights the value of being uniquely talented. The ending shows that properly challenging and bettering yourself can help you feel at home.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Growing up can feel very chaotic and directionless, prompting feelings of fear and anxiety. This novel, however, shows the detriment of removing the ability to choose. It warns against complete uniformity by presenting a world which, albeit peaceful, lacks all emotion. Children will be able to learn that the capacity to decide what is truly right or wrong makes them human beings.
Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This is the first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and it makes the list over the others solely for its introductory status. Percy Jackson’s chronology adeptly intertwines adventure, Greek mythology and the struggles of growing up. The importance of destiny in these works shows the difficulty of managing others’ expectations while also forging your own path. Riordan has multiple series related to this world of gods, enemies and teenagers; each book elicits a more passionate connection from the audience.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Curtis centers this story on the Watsons, an African-American family from Flint, Michigan, and details their trip to Birmingham. The novel is so important for its portrayal of the time period and the difference of minority treatment in each location. Perhaps more crucial, though, are the characters. The Watsons serve both as an introduction to a new culture for many and a beacon of representation for many others.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
There are a number of incredible Holocaust accounts and historical fiction pieces, but this stands out due to the novel’s point of view. Presenting such horrific information may seem overwhelming, but the events are seen through the lens of a 10-year-old girl. She is very much left in the dark, and by having that slight separation from the reality around her, the story approaches tragedies without fully realizing their weight.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It would be difficult to find a school without this novel somewhere in the curriculum, and rightfully so, considering how it opens the eyes of so many young people to unjust systems rooted in communities across the United States. Taking one step further than Number the Stars, this work has a child narrator; Scout, watching her father defend a black man in a very racist town. So many lessons about morality and public behavior can be found within this book and others like it.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This is a coming-of-age story rooted in themes of generational poverty, systemic racism, alcoholism, and familial violence. Junior explores life both on and off the reservation, and he is confronted with the harsh realities of an unfair world. The work gives visibility to several underrepresented groups.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
The title may not be quite as familiar as the author, but this play is an ideal introduction to the world of Shakespeare. Some translations can be useful for the language, but the plot is relatively simple. The main character spends the majority of her time disguised as a man, which brings into question the ideas of gender fluidity, sexuality, and social norms. As a romantic comedy, it entertains and provokes extraordinarily.
With so much to gain from exposing literature to children, this list offers novels that can strengthen a young person’s love of reading and convey new ways of thinking. Present are extremely varying topics, writing styles, genres and authors. We are sure the books listed here will heavily contribute to the blossoming of your child in every sense.