As a kid growing up, books took me to the most wondrous places. My imagination learned to soar and discover places not found on any map.
Here is a list of 12 books you should read before you’re 12. I had help assembling this list: a librarian who is passionate about children’s books, a math teacher who has taught across the globe and my eleven year-old daughter who shares her love of books with her father and two rescue dogs.
In no particular order:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August, a 5th grader who has physical limitations just wants to be treated like an ordinary kid. The story is told from his point of view as well as his classmates, his sister and others. It is about people with differences who embrace each other. Ultimately it is about kindness.
- Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson. An element of fantasy in this book about friendship. A story of saving and rescuing. I asked our librarian, Cara McConnell why fantasy is important? She explained, “being creative and going off to different places is good – it is important to nurture going to new places…in your head.” In this case the character does it to escape bullying.
- Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. A dog book. A family gets a tramp – a story of the relationship that follows and what the dog does to rescue a family that didn’t want it.
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. A family helping Jews in WWII. Told from the girl’s p.o.v. as a family supports each other in horrible times.
- The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Fascinating story of being a mentor: A guide helps people to understand themselves and discover their potential. On top of that – it’s a whodunit!
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. A classic story about redemption. Seeing people for who they are. It’s about friendship & love & sacrifice.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl. A story about family, choices, &…consequences.
8. Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Time travel and the story of a little boy who is different. A great sci-fi read.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. A kid doesn’t like school & looks for places to go. He’s always bored & never happy….until he goes on the most fantastic adventure! With illustrations by Jules Feiffer.
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. A jewel of a book about a seagull that doesn’t fit in with his flock. “The story,” Math teacher Jenny Carvalho said, “re-affirms a faith that each of us can find a way for ourselves.” With stunning photographs by Russell Munson.
- The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver. My eleven year-old daughter Natalie loved this book. “It describes a deep love relationship between siblings,” she told me, “you connect with the characters – the character pretends to be someone she’s not – she runs into obstacles and realizes at end you have to be true to who you are.”
“We should read books with each other and to each other,” Cara McConnell said as we discussed these books, “People should have shared experiences. Research shows that books help us – we read a narrative and as we stand in someone else’s shoes – we become more empathetic – we want to raise kids who can look passed their own noses and care about the world around them.”
- Old Turtle by Douglas Wood, Watercolor illustrations by Cheng-Khee Chee. My wife and I have given this book to more kids and adults than I can remember. It’s a guide book: A fable of the spiritual connectivity that exists between everyone and everything. Hopefully it instills in kids what Einstein called “a circle of compassion – to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” A lighthouse of a book for kids as they begin to discover and map out their own identities.
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
Coming in a future post: 7 Books to read before you’re 7!