Most Meaningful Books You Should Read With Your Child

Meaningful Books to Read with Your Child

Like most parents, instilling a love of reading in my child was something I set out to do at first with great enthusiasm.  I crafted the nursery with a beautiful bookshelf packed with picture book classics and read to my son nightly.  But then as he got older and could read on his own, I stopped reading to him.

Recently, I realized the sadness in this and decided to use his 10-book Summer reading challenge as an excuse to read with him again, before he’s too old to want his mom to put him to bed at night. He read most of the 10 books with his Mema, but some of the books he read with me.

The best of all for Luke was finding out on the first day of 6th grade that the longest book we read this Summer (The Mysterious Benedict Society) was the first book they would be reading in class.

This recapturing reading endeavor led me down memory lane to all of our  favorite and most meaningful books we’ve read together.  I put together a list for you of the top 22 most meaningful books to read with your child before age 12, based on our faves.

Most Meaningful Books to Read With Your Child Before Age 12

  1. The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar  Ages 2+ (underlying meaning = hope that we can grow and change into something beautiful)
  2. Where The Wild Things AreWhere the Wild Things Are    Ages 2+ (underlying meaning = there is power in imagination)
  3. The LoraxThe Lorax Ages 6+ (underlying meaning = environmental responsibility)
  4. The Giving TreeThe Giving Tree 2+ (underlying meaning = divine love)
  5. Oh the places you'll goOh the Places You’ll Go! Ages 6+ (underlying meaning = the world is worth exploring)
  6. Morris the MooseMorris the Moose Ages 4+ (underlying meaning = we are unique)
  7. Hugless DouglasHugless Douglas Ages 4+ (underlying meaning = nothing satisfies like the love of a mother)
  8. Marcel the ShellMarcel the Shell with Shoes On Ages 5+ (underlying meaning = take joy in the little things in life)
  9. Mercy WatsonMercy Watson Series Ages 5+ (underlying meaning= unconditional love)
  10. NarniaThe Chronicles of Narnia Ages 6+ (underlying meaning = the world is broken but Christ is the Savior)
  11. Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia Ages 8+ (underlying meaning = the value of friendship)
  12. The GiverThe Giver Ages 9+ (underlying meaning = importance of history, individuality and independent thinking)
  13. Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society Ages 11+ (underlying meaning = power of talent and teamwork)
  14. The Boxcar ChildrenThe Boxcar Children Ages 5+ (underlying meaning = resourcefulness)
  15. Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad dayAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Ages 6+ (underlying meaning = everyone has bad days)
  16. Love you foreverLove You Forever  Ages 4+ (underlying meaning= unconditional love)
  17. An Awesome BookAn Awesome Book  Ages 4+ (underlying meaning = dream big)
  18. Miss Nelson is MissingMiss Nelson is Missing Ages 7+ (underlying meaning = importance of following rules and showing respect to others)
  19. How do we know God is really thereHow Do We Know God is Really There? Ages 5+ (underlying meaning = science supports faith in God)
  20. The tale of three treesThe Tale of Three Trees Ages 2+ (underlying meaning = we are all created for a purpose)
  21. Fly GuyFly Guy Series Ages 6+ (underlying meaning = friendship)
  22. PassagesPassages Series by Paul McCusker Ages 11+ (underlying meaning = loyalty & integrity)

What Happens When We Read to Our Children?

“In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself”C.S. Lewis

They Develop Empathy

Reading to your child helps them walk in others’ shoes.  To feel what they feel.  This helps them understand others’ perspectives and can aid them tremendously in this era where empathy has become currency.

They Develop Their Brains

We know that reading helps develop our imaginations but it’s always fun to see the science play out what we intuitively know.  A study on the engagement of brain networks supporting language, visual imagery and learning in preschool-age children measured the differences in engagement of functional brain networks supporting narrative processing for stories presented in audio, illustrated and animated formats.

The findings revealed a Goldilocks Effect. Audio by itself was too cold, making it too hard to process the language and imagine the story.  Audio with animation was too hot, not allowing for enough brain activity in understanding the story.  However,  audio with illustration was just right, allowing for the brain network supporting language to interface with the visual network of the brain just enough to spark the imagination.

The findings suggest that the illustrated format being read aloud provides “visual scaffolding” that assists the language network of the brain and encourages imagination and self-reflection in young children.  

You Form a Lasting Bond With Your Child

To this day, Luke and I still make references to Love You Forever, which I read to him over and over again when he was a toddler to preschooler.

In reading with him this Summer, it was a great adventure experiencing new characters together, some of which became “inside jokes” that we find ourselves using as daily references to other people who exhibit those characteristics from the book.

If you don’t yet have kids of your own, as I didn’t 11 years ago.. you can find a niece or nephew or in my case, family friends with kids, you can read to. When my God daughters were little, (and not yet my God daughters) the two of our families went on a camping trip together and I read them the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe around the campfire.  They are now 19 and 17 and they still remember that I read to them.

They see examples of what they want, and do not want to become

Heroes, role models and villains of stories become guideposts to our children of what they want to be and what they do not want to be like.

It can be a powerful thing for a child to have an image of someone they look up to or a character they want to emulate.  When I was young, that character was Anne of Green Gables. Like Anne with an “e”, I so desperately wanted to succeed in school and overcome my circumstances and find love.  By God’s grace I did all three, but having an example I could relate to, helped me so much to excel.

On the converse, I despised Lucy from Charlie Brown and determined I would never be like her.

I read to Luke in hopes he will find that relatable role model he wants to emulate and learns from despicable villains the ways he does not want to emulate.

TLDR

Reading to your child is an awesome way to bond, inspire imagination and showcase relatable role models of what to be and what not to become.

Here are 22 meaningful books to read with your child before he turns 12:

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar 2+ (underlying meaning = hope that we can grow and change into something beautiful)
  2. Where the Wild Things Are 2+ (underlying meaning = there is power in imagination)
  3. The Lorax 6+ (underlying meaning = environmental responsibility)
  4. The Giving Tree 2+ (underlying meaning = divine love)
  5. Oh the Places You’ll Go! 6+ (underlying meaning = the world is worth exploring)
  6. Morris the Moose 4+ (underlying meaning = we are unique)
  7. Hugless Douglas 4+ (underlying meaning = nothing satisfies like the love of a mother)
  8. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On 5+ (underlying meaning = take joy in the little things in life)
  9. Mercy Watson Series 5+ (underlying meaning= unconditional love)
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia 8+ (underlying meaning = the world is broken but Christ is the Savior)
  11. Bridge to Terabithia 8+ (underlying meaning = the value of friendship)
  12. The Giver 9+ (underlying meaning = importance of history, individuality and independent thinking)
  13. The Mysterious Benedict Society 11+ (underlying meaning = power of talent and teamwork)
  14. The Boxcar Children 5+ (underlying meaning = resourcefulness)
  15. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day 6+ (underlying meaning = problems happen everywhere)
  16. Love You Forever 4+ (underlying meaning= unconditional love)
  17. An Awesome Book 4+ (underlying meaning = dream big)
  18. Miss Nelson is Missing 7+ (underlying meaning = importance of following rules and showing respect to others)
  19. How Do We Know God is Really There? 5+ (underlying meaning = science supports faith in God)
  20. The Tale of the Three Trees 2+ (underlying meaning = we are all created for a purpose)
  21. Fly Guy Series 6+ (underlying meaning = friendship)
  22. Passages Series by Paul McCusker 11+ (underlying meaning = loyalty & integrity)

Happy bonding!

XO

22 most meaningful books to read with your child before age 12. Also includes what happens to your child's brain when you read to them and why you should read to your child

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