I asked my dear friend Sandy, who owns more than 9000 books in her library to write a few posts for me about books for children. Enjoy!
Ride along on Hudson Taylor’s first voyage to China...trek through the virgin forests with George Washington, the young surveyor....painstakingly sew a flag with Betsy Ross....suffer the grief of a mother dying with Abraham Lincoln....brave the dangers of going to a remote tribe with David Livingstone.
All of these adventures and more will be yours and your children’s as you read biographies aloud. But this isn’t the only benefit to reading biographies to your children. The true story of a great man or woman will set before your sons and daughters a wonderful example for them to follow. Most of the heroes of today’s society are not fit to be copied. But godly men and women of the past and present as well as the great statesmen and patriots of our American heritage are worthy of presenting to our children. Reading biographies helps us understand the backgrounds of these people’s lives that lead to the great feats they did usually in their later lives. Let’s raise our children’s dreams to those thing that are noble and good, that are unselfish and of pure motive, that are full of worthy character. All of this can be done by reading aloud biographies to them.
Reading the tales of great people also indirectly teaches history to your children. This is so much more effective than a straight historical account in a textbook. The people of history “come alive”. After all, what is history? God’s work in the lives of people involves in the circumstances of life.
Many series of biographies are available today at reasonable costs. Not everything you can sign out of libraries will be good for your children to read. Choose carefully. Remember that most of the public library books will not be written from a Christian perspective. So a great American who was a Christian will be presented without that important part of his life being portrayed. Those who opposed Christianity throughout history will be presented as worthy role models. So be careful when you are picking biographies. Listed below are some good sets of biographies and some good publishers, as well as some sources for finding these for your family. Grade levels listed are approximate and for your child reading the book for himself. Of course, these books can be read aloud to children younger or older than listed.
It may take awhile for your children to learn to really appreciate a good biography because this type of literature is rarely assigned in school work today. And when was the last time you read a biography? Perhaps I can challenge you to read at least one. I find the missionary biographies particularly interesting. When I read these, my problems become petty; my “sufferings” are meager; and my faith is found wanting. I need these giants of the faith to keep my life in perspective. We love biographies so much that our family has collected almost 2,000 of them! You are welcome to come by and borrow some for your spring and summer reading. We also have some excellent audio cassette and CD sets of great biographies. Wonderful for traveling time!
Childhood of Famous Americans - This popular set was first published in the 1950's and some of the 200+ titles have been reprinted in paperback now. We have found almost 100 of the old edition at book sales. They are wonderful stories, telling about the childhood of famous American people. Our children loved them. Each book is close to 200 pages with black and white sketch drawings or silhouette illustrations. For grades 3-5. Not from a Christian perspective but do not mock these heroes for their beliefs and Christianity.
The Sower Series - Published by Mott Media, a Christian company, these biographies will tell of the true Christian character of many famous people such as Appleseed, Morse, Wesley, Handel, carver, Webster. For grades 5-8, about 150-200 pages.
Men & Women of Faith series - This set is mainly of men and women who were missionaries and portrays their faith in God including Carmichael, ten Book, Elliot, Stam, Muller, Kuhn, Slessor and Carey. Reading level is grade 6 through adult. Published by Bethany House.
Hero Tales - four volumes - by Dave & Neta Jackson. A family treasury of true stories from the lives of Christian heroes. Short biographical information and three stories that display the person’s character plus Scripture verses and thought provoking discussion questions. For all ages.
Biographies for girls by Tracy M. Leininger - Priscilla Mullins, Nan Harper, Sacagawea, and Dolley Madison. Available from Vision Forum. Other titles of biographies from this company as well for boys and adults.
Living Principles of America - Audio dramatizations of America’s Greatest Heroes. CD. Each set has 12 stories.
Your Story Hour recordings - Audio dramatizations of American heroes. CD.
Focus on the Family Radio Theater - They have produced many biographical audio dramas. For example: Squanto, Corrie ten Boom, William Wilberforce, John Newton, etc.
Voice of the Martyrs - Beautiful picture story books of famous people including St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, and others. Lovely!
The Reading Parent
I had a parent who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
Blackbirds stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a parent who read me plays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every child has a right to know.
I had a parent who read me
Tales of Gelert the Hound of the Hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness bent with his final breath.
I had a parent who read me the things
That wholesome life to the child heart brings -
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each parent of children were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold,
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a parent who read to me.