Childhood is full of simple pleasures made up of playing games like tag, hide and seek, eating ice cream, learning to ride a bike and more. For many kids, going to sleep is not a favorite childhood activity. However, most kids do love a good bedtime story. Thinking back on our own childhood, many of us still remember our favorite books. And, many of these books, although written long ago, contain themes and lessons which still resonate in today's fast paced and modern world.
We talked to parents, teachers and kids to find out which classic books they still read and love today and suddenly it became difficult to limit the list to just 15 selections. Here are the best of the best!
Best list of classic children's books with a modern twist
1. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
This beautiful book tells the story of a stuffed, toy rabbit who becomes the favorite toy of a little boy. Sadly, the little boy contracts scarlet fever and is sent away to recover. His belongings and toys are packed up to be destroyed as they were thought to be infected with germs. The rabbit felt very sad and cried. A real teardrop fell, at which the rabbit was visited by a fairy and became a real rabbit, living happily ever after in the forest among the rabbits there.
Message: A toy rabbit becomes real through the love of a child.
2. The Little House on the Prairie Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
At first, you may think a book about a pioneer family in America in the 1800's would not be enjoyed by or relevant to children today. Imagine, the Ingalls family didn’t even have indoor plumbing let alone iPads to play with! But this series of books document life as it was for a young girl in the American west nearly 150 years ago and kids today will enjoy reading of the adventures of Laura and her family.
Message: Teaches children about American history and the hardships pioneers faced.
3. Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
'Oh, The Places You'll Go!' is an inspirational story about a young boy known only as "you." Throughout the story, the boy is encouraged to travel and learn, which symbolizes the importance of continuing to explore and try new things throughout one’s life. Every spring, sales of this book skyrocket as people gift this book to high school and university graduates.
Message: Live your dreams!
4. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
This book has girl power written all over it but young boys will also enjoy the story. Young Harriet, who wants to be a writer when she grows up, spends her days observing people in her neighborhood (also known as spying on them) and writing notes about what she sees in her notebook.
Message: We are all unique and talented in our own way.
5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
With gorgeous illustrations, this book is loved by children and adults alike. The story revs up the imagination as a boy named Max is punished for his bad behavior and sent to bed without supper. Max, through his imagination, winds up sailing to an island filled with beasts known as wild things. He is eventually crowned king of the wild things.
Message: The perfect underdog story! Just because things aren’t going well right now doesn’t mean you won’t conquer the world someday or maybe even today!
6. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The perfect story to help a child prepare for sleep. This classic bedtime book features a bunny who systematically says goodnight to everyone and everything before retiring to bed.
Message: Time to go to sleep!
7. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
A must read for chidren who love animals. The book is told from the perspective of a horse named Black Beauty. Black Beauty has endured many adventures and difficulties throughout his life and has crossed paths with various people who treated him poorly. Fortunately, he has also met many people who treated him kindly.
Message: We must treat animals with love and respect.
8. Mary Poppins by by P.L. Travers
Message: Imagination, a fun read for children of all ages.
9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Called one of “the greatest childhood classics of all time” by The Guardian, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a caterpillar who loves to eat. Children will enjoy the colorful pictures of all of the treats the caterpillar eats before wrapping himself in a cocoon and eventually emerging as a beautiful butterfly.
Message: Transformation. Also, helps children learn counting and the days of the week.
10. Tacky The Penguin by Helen Lester
The quintessential story of an odd bird, Tacky does not fit in with the other graceful and quiet penguins. He wears loud shirts and sings horribly. One day when a group of hunters visit the penguin colony where Tacky lives, he scares them off by slapping them on the back and singing loudly. It’s then that the rest of the penguins realize and begin to appreciate his unique qualities.
Message: It’s important to be yourself.
11. The Lorax by Dr. Suess
This extraordinary book tells the story of the Lorax who makes it his personal mission to save the trees from being chopped down by a corporate giant.
Message: You have to stand up and fight for what you believe in and it’s important that we all preserve and protect nature.
12. Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day by Judith Viorst
The title of this book says it all! Who can’t relate to having a day like Alexander? Numerous funny things go wrong for poor Alexander. The reader feels for Alexander while still chuckling at his misfortune.
Message: Everyone has a bad day once in a while.
13. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The book tells the story of a tree and a young boy. At first, the boy and the tree share a friendly relationship but as the boy grows he becomes greedy demanding more and more of the tree. At the end of the story, all that remains of the tree is a stump.
Message: Don’t allow others to take advantage of you in the name of love and friendship.
14. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
A small train engine is asked to try to pull a train over a steep mountain. The small engine agrees to try and while doing so repeatedly tells himself, “I think I can, I think I can.”
Message: Even if you are small you can do incredible things. Never give up.
15. 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
This beautiful story was written after September 11th and tells the story of Kenyan Maasai warriors, who, saddened by the terror attacks on the U.S. decide to give a gift to America, a gift of 14 cows.
Message: We must all be kind to one another.
Quotes from classic children's books
There are some beautiful and meaningful quotes from some of these books which will resonate with children and adults alike. A few of our favorites are:
"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
- Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go
“Some days are like that. Even in Australia.”
- Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
- Dr. Suess, The Lorax
“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”
- Carmen Agra Deedy, 14 Cows for America
“My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”
- Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Reading is the perfect family bonding activity and yet at the same time, it inculcates good reading habits and values to children who are absorbing knowledge like a sponge. Nevermind if you've been asked to read the same book for the 999th time. Pick your books wisely and protect them with good care, who knows, your children could pass these classic reads to their own children.