Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Review: The Rainey List of Best Books for Children

Our family loves books.  By reading we learn about God, ourselves, and the world.  We learn wisdom:  how to live well in this world, and what ‘live’ and ‘well’ and ‘world’ mean.  We go places we could never go on our own and learn from other people’s hard work and hard-won experience.  And we have fun.

However, if we read the wrong books we learn only foolishness that wastes our time and, potentially, encourages us to waste our entire lives.

So it is vital that we choose our reading material wisely.

David Rainey, a Christian homeschooler and a librarian, sees his List of Best Books for Children as his family’s legacy to share with booklovers everywhere.  David and his daughter Anna recommend over 500 out of thousands of books that their family has read, discussing each one in a chatty and informative way.  They share toddler books worth reading over and over (like Good Night Moon), as well as funny books, inspiring books, read-alouds, and children’s novels.  These books will provide hours of enjoyment and learning.  I am convinced that children exposed to these books will become accustomed to what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

Although more and more modern authors are building negative influences into their books, the Raineys focus on ‘good books that are also clean and free from controversial issues, profane language, romantic plot elements, inappropriate humor, and undesirable role models.’ (p 133)  If these restrictions sound extreme, remember, the age range is 0-12; of course controversial issues and romance need to be addressed with older children.  As for the other restrictions, sin for sin’s sake is never appropriate, no matter one’s age.

David presents his family’s favorites arranged according to age and type of book, from board books (remember Spot?) and picture books for all ages to poetry, chapter books (Alexander McCall Smith has written mysteries for children!), and children’s novels (from Homer Price and 21 Balloons to Detectives in Togas).  Obviously he includes older books, but he also has many newer ones that I am eager to discover.

I am fairly fussy about what books young children should read, and when I look at booklists I check how closely the author shares my values.  The Rainey List of Best Books for Children resonated with me in almost all aspects.  In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone else point out that the first 19 books about the Boxcar Children are much better than the later volumes.  The only objection I have to Rainey’s recommendations (but do recall that I have not read many of the newer children’s books) is The Secret Garden, a lovely story with strong elements of pantheism.

Not only does The Rainey List of Best Books for Children bring back wonderful memories, but it also sent me to the library website to request a few of the most intriguing newer titles.  I was startled to see Eats, Shoots, and Leaves:  Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!  in the list, but it turns out this is a funny children’s version of the adult grammar book with a similar title.  There’s also The Girl’s Like Spaghetti:  Why, You Can’t Manage without Apostrophes!  Of course, I requested both.  Also the Alexandar McCall Smith books about young Precious Ramotswe, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Celenza, and Click, Clack, Moo, a hilarious picture book about cows that type.  In fact, our family of teens and adults has already started enjoying the new books.  Thank you, David and Anna!

The Raineys also present some useful lists that will enhance trips to libraries and bookstores:  gift books for various ages, books that teach life lessons, princess books, dinosaur books, truck books, fairy tales, and award-winning books.

Of the various tips scattered throughout the book, this is the most important:  get your children to read aloud to you even if they can read well.  First of all, it’s fun and builds relationships.  Furthermore, all sorts of problems can be noticed if you do.  For example, your eager and proficient young reader may not really be reading at all but may have come up with an impressive array of other skills including memorization, guessing, and picture-reading.  When young, my husband ‘read’ like that until his father noticed him keep on ‘reading’ when he turned two pages at once by mistake; one of Rainey’s children did something similar.

If you have children, I highly recommend The Rainey List of Best Books for Children.  Written by a librarian who is a homeschooling father, it is full of excellent book recommendations for ages 0-12.  It would make great gift—I gave a copy to a mom of newborn twins named after Louisa May Alcott and Beatrix Potter and am giving one to my sister as well—and it is becoming my new favorite baby gift.  This book would be valuable for homeschool, church, and public libraries as well.

For more information, see the website.

Note:  There are other great book lists, but many of them, like Honey for a Child’s Heart, Honey for a Teen’s Heart, and Books Children Love, are dated; The Rainey List of Best Books for Children includes very recent books as well .

Somewhat related:  Older readers and their parents would benefit from Reading with Purpose, a guide to discernment in reading written by Nancy Wilson.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

DisclosureI received a review copy of The Rainey List of Best Books for Children from David Rainey and have shared my honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Raising Homemakers, Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *