Great Educational Gifts: BOOKS!

great-educational-gifts-books-4(This post contains affiliate links)

Last week I shared some fun, educational games that you could get your children for Christmas.  Check out the post “Great Educational Gifts: GAMES!” if you missed it.

This week I want to give you some suggestions for books that would be wonderful Christmas gifts!

Of course, we all know it’s important to encourage our children to read every day to help build their reading skills.

For some children, this is no problem, they LOVE to read! Our daughter was such an avid reader that she would use a lot of her free time to read, sometimes reading late into the night, much to our consternation! Her passion for reading helped develop her love for writing and motivated her to get her college degree in English.   She’s currently working on her first novel with the hope of publishing it sometime in 2017!

Other children aren’t so excited about reading; it’s hard to get them to read regularly.  They’d rather do anything else!  One of our boys was like this, so we had to be creative to get him to read more.

Maybe you also have a child who isn’t so excited about reading.

Here are some things that worked for us to encourage our children to read more:

  1. We read aloud to them every day from good literature – this provides some great family bonding by the way!
  2. We found a variety of good fictional book series that were interesting to them and drew them in so they wanted to read them all.
  3. We participated in our library’s book reading challenge in the summers
  4. We participated in Pizza Hut’s Book-It reading challenge.
  5. We participated in Book clubs through our homeschool co-op

To be honest, I think a love for reading is more easily caught than taught!  If you show your children that you have a love for reading, they will likely follow in your footsteps.

You might be saying now, “But Kris, I DON’T really love reading!”   I understand, I know it’s not everyone’s passion!  But reading is such an important skill; it has such a big effect on how your children will do in all their other subjects.  I’d encourage you to give it your best to try to at least read aloud to your children on a regular basis… this will usually be enough to help develop their love for reading. Many of the books I’m recommending here are also available in an audio version on CD, so you can just enjoy listening right along with your child rather than having to read!

Okay, enough on that, I said I’d share some great books you could get for your children for Christmas, so here it goes (this list is NOT exhaustive, I just don’t have room to list all the good books available out there!):

Note: I’ve put them in order according to age appropriate levels:

Pre-readers (for you to read to them):

The Story About Ping: (Marjorie Flack)  The story of a little duck named Ping who explores the world around his home on the Yantze River.  the-story-of-ping

Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)  : A story about a hard-working steam shovel and how Mike Mulligan tries to save it.  A classic!mike-mulligan

Curious George books (Hans A Rey)  :  Hilarious stories about a little monkey with lots of curiosity!  Kids love these books!


The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) :  A classic story about a little rabbit and his family, a must read!


Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak):  A fun story that children love – lots of great pictures.


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein A great story about the gift of giving that will inspire your children to be more generous.


The Story of Ferdinand  by Munroe Leaf :  A story about a bull who didn’t want to fight in the bullpen in Madrid. A favorite children’s classic.


Love you Forever by Robert Munsch:  A cute story about how much a mother loves her child no matter what.


Are You My Mother? (Eastman)  A story about a little bird looking for his mother.


Early Readers: (these are also great read alouds!)

Level 1:


Big Dog, Little Dog (Eastman): An early reader teaches that total opposites can be the best of friends.



Go Dog Go  (Eastman) A cute story about dogs that gives kids great reading practice and makes them laugh too!


The Best Nest   (Eastman)  Mr. & Mrs. Bird have some fun adventures as they look for the perfect nest.



Level 2:

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff:  Entertaining stories about Danny and his pet dinosaur.


Little Bear Series by Else H. Minarik: Fun stories about the antics of a little bear.



Frog & Toad Series by Arnold Lobel cute stories about the antics of two friends, the from and the toad.  Children love these books!


Young Cam Jensen (Adler)  Intriguing mysteries solved by the one and only Cam Jensen.


Level 3:

The Golly Sisters Go West  by Betsy Byars: Hilarious stories about the crazy things the golly sisters do as they go west. (there are other Golly Sister books as well as this one)


Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne: Jack and his sister Annie discover a magic tree house full of books that makes them travel through time and space to amazing adventures!


Amelia Bedelia series



Ages 9-12:  (also great read alouds!)

Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul HutchinsA faith-based series of stories based on the adventures Paul and his six brothers had growing up.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater: A humorous story about a painter who has a house full of penguins!


A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: The story of a pampered, little, rich girl who finds herself a poor orphan.


Black Beauty by Anne SewellA favorite for all animal lovers, told from the perspective of the horse.


Heidi by Johanna Spyri: The story of a five year old girl who is taken to live with her grandfather in the Alps.  Heartwarming.



Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A very popular story about a family who lived in Wisconsin in the late 1870’s that teaches children about life in that time period. There’s also a great unit study for this series called “The Prairie Primer” that I highly recommend.

Call of the Wild by Jack London: An exciting story about sled dogs during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890’s.


Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks: A series of four books about a boy whose toys come alive and the many adventures that follow. The kids enjoyed having me read these aloud to them.


The Borrowers by Mary Norton:  An unexpected story about a tiny family that lives beneath the kitchen floor in an old English manor and the many antics that follow as they “borrow” things from the owners of the manor. These were favorites at our house.


Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: A classic story of children who stumble upon a world with many adventures and an amazing lion named Aslan. There are many parallels to the story of Christ. These books were some of our children’s favorites.

Heroes Then & Now Series books 1-5 by Janet and Geoff Benge: Amazing stories of various missionaries and how God worked in and through them around the world.  We LOVED this series and even now my adult children will occasionally come home and ask to borrow one! Both boys and girls will enjoy these books. There are 15 books in this series, with three different sets.  (Set 2: books 6-10) (Set 3: books 11-15)


The Trailblazer Books by Dave and Neta Jackson:  exciting fictional stories that include true stories about various missionaries who have lived over the years.


Brill of Exitorn & The Lost Prince by Peggy Downing: fun, fantasy fiction that will have your child glued to the book for hours! Brill of Exitorn is the first book and The Lost Prince is the sequel.


Ages 13-17:

A Legacy of Faith by Amanda Hage: the story of a young girl living in the time of the Civil War, written by a homeschooler! The sequels “A Legacy of Hope” and “A Legacy of Love” are also available. Great book for a young girl.


The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry: this is said to be one of the most influential novels of our time, the story of a 12 year old boy and a world that is suppose to be ideal, but lacks color and emotions. the-giver

A Boy After God’s Own Heart: Your Awesome Adventure with Jesus by Jim George: Jim George helps young guys to understand why God is important in everything they do. And he teaches that the Bible has the answers for all the questions and issues they face as they grow older.

A Teen’s Guide to the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman: it helps teens understand their own love language and how to show love to others.

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlunda twist on the story of Robin Hood, where a maiden stands up for the rights of the poor.

Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins: the adult fictional version of the possible unfolding of the end times.  There is a youth version as well called the Left Behind Series Young Trib Force. 

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: adventure and fantasy about dragons and battles written by a homeschooler!


The Seeker’s Trilogy by Cassandra Boysen: a fantasy fiction series about a kingdom on the planet Kaern, is a forested land of kings, castles, and dragon-slayers.

Heroes Then & Now Series books 1-5 by Janet and Geoff Benge: Amazing stories of various missionaries and how God worked in and through them around the world.  We LOVED this series and even now my adult children will occasionally come home and ask to borrow one! Both boys and girls will enjoy these books. There are 15 books in this series, with three different sets.  (Set 2: books 6-10) (Set 3: books 11-15)


Know What You Believe by Paul Little: A great book to help solidify your teen’s faith in God.

Know Why You Believe by Paul Little: Another great book by Paul Little to help your teen develop a firm faith in God.

A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George:  A great way to encourage your daughter to grow in her walk with God.

A Young Man After God’s Own Heart by Jim George: A book that helps young men see pursuing God as an adventure that is worth pursuing.

Valiant Heart Series by Dina Sleiman“Sleiman launches an action-packed, historical series of adventure and romance, starring a strong, intelligent female Robin Hood who lives up to the famous outlaw’s reputation. This fun read makes a great adult-YA crossover for Robin Hood fans who enjoy a twist to a classic tale.” –Library Journal, starred review




Because I can’t list all the good books, I want to suggest some great books available that list a larger number of good literature. These books are wonderful resources for your library and will give you guidance on what books to purchase or get from the library.

“All Through the Ages” The ultimate books list, listing books according to time in history as well as age level appropriateness. Available at Heppner Legacy Homeschool Store in Elk River, MN


“Books Children Love”by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson: a comprehensive guide to the very best literature.


“Honey For a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt:


I’d love to have you write in the comments and share other suggestions for good books for children!  What books have your kids loved?



Understand Your Child’s Love Language

Photo credit: Dreamstime
Photo credit: Dreamstime

Children have a great need to feel unconditionally loved.  God created us to need love, and He sent His Son to die for our sins to show us His unconditional love. Jesus said we’re to follow His example of loving others in John 13: 34-35:


34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


As parents, we need to show our children unconditional love, in part because the way we love our children and spouse will show others that we’re Christ followers.    But, also because our children need to know they are loved! Their emotional maturity depends on it.


5 Love Languages:

Many years ago, author Gary Chapman wrote the book “The 5 Love Languages” and it quickly became a best seller.  The concept of people having preferred ways they want to be shown love has continued to be popular ever since.  In fact, many marriages have been saved because couples applied the principles of this book and began to love one another the way they yearned to be loved.


He has since written books on the 5 love languages of children and of teens.  These concepts can be applied to almost any close relationship that you have!


I believe that if you understand your children’s preferred love languages, and you show them love in the way they prefer to be loved, you’re more likely to have better attitudes during your school days!


But just in case you haven’t heard of the five love languages, let me summarize the concepts here for you before we go into how they can help your school days:


In his book, Gary states that there are basically five emotional love languages, or ways that people express love to one another and receive love from others.  People tend to prefer to show and receive love primarily in one or two of these ways.  They will feel more loved if you show them love in their preferred love language.


The five love languages and how they relate to children are as follows:


  1. Words of Affirmation- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you speak words of affection and endearment, praise and encouragement.  Words are powerful for these children.  This isn’t just praising what they do, but even more so, genuinely speaking about the good things you see in them a as a person.  Leaving little notes of encouragement for these children will go a long way. On the flip side, words of criticism can be very painful for children who have this as their primary love language.


  1. Quality Time – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you give them your undivided attention.   Most children want their parent’s undivided attention on a regular basis, but this child will want it more than the average child. They just love being together.  Loving eye contact while you’re together means a lot as well as quality conversations about what’s important to them.


  1. Receiving Gifts- a child who prefers this love language finds the giving and receiving of gifts to be a powerful expression of love.  The gifts are a symbol of your love for them.  But the gifts don’t have to be big and expensive.  Even a small token of love shows that you were thinking of them when you made it or found it. Most children like to receive gifts, but these children will tend to make a big deal out of giving and receiving gifts.


  1. Acts of Service- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when others think of their needs or wants and strive to meet them. As parents, we’re often serving our children, it’s what we do, especially when they’re young.  However, as they get older, in our quest to help them become independent, we need to be careful that we don’t miss opportunities to serve them to show them love, especially if this is their primary love language.


  1. Physical touch – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you hug and kiss them, or give any appropriate physical contact. Snuggling on the couch reading a good book, a simple touch on the shoulder when they’re working on their school work, holding hands, etc. Even a dad wrestling with his son can fall under this love language and will make him feel more loved if this is his love language.


I would encourage you to read the book to learn more:


“The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively” by Gary Chapman

There you’ll find a lot of specific suggestions on how to love your children in each of these love languages.


When we love people in the way they prefer to be loved, Chapman says that we fill their love tank and they feel completely loved.  This in turn affects their behavior towards us.


“People behave differently when their emotional love tank is full”

Gary Chapman from “What Are the 5 Love Languages: The Official Book Summary”


Children need to learn how to love the important people in their life in all the different love languages, and we should show them love in all the different love languages.  But they also feel more secure if you make a point to show them love in the love language that they prefer.


How can you determine your child’s love language?


  1. Realize it takes time!

Show them love with all the five love languages, especially when they’re little, but even when they’re teenagers, they need to experience love in all these ways. Teach them to show love in all the five love languages. Then:


  1. Watch their behavior and see how they try to show you love.


Do they frequently tell you how much they love you?


Do they often do something kind to help you and to show you love?


Do they want to be close to you, hugging and touching you a lot?


Do they often want to have you spend time listening to them, doing things with them?


Or do they tend to give you gifts throughout the week, a dandelion, or a picture they colored, etc.?


  1. Focus on showing them love in the way they show you love, and see how they respond. Do they seem more content and happy, more secure in your love?  You’ve probably hit on their preferred love language.


How can loving your child in their love language help your school day go better?


Chapman states the following in his book “The 5 Love Languages of Children: the Secret of Loving Children Effectively” :


“The most important fact to know about a child’s learning ability is this: For a child to be able to learn well at any age, he must be at the emotional maturational level of that particular age. As the child grows, his ability to learn increases because of several factors, the most important of which is his emotional maturity.  And parents have the greatest effect on the child’s emotional growth.”


A child’s emotional development has a great impact on their ability to learn!


A child who is doing well emotionally can concentrate better, has more motivation and will typically do better with their school work.


If a child feels unloved, they will have little motivation to tackle the challenges of learning.


How can you avoid having your child feel unloved?


Love them with all five of the different love languages, and watch to see which ones they seem to respond to most.  When you discover what your child’s preferred love language is, lavish the love on using that language!


You’ll find that your child will respond with a desire to please you and will be more cooperative with their school work! 


When their love tank is full, they will be more content! And a content child will do their school work more diligently and more willingly. Their focus and concentration will improve. It’s a win-win situation.  And it’s not that hard to do.


Of course, loving your child using their preferred love language isn’t like a magic ticket to good behavior.


Discipline is also very important in raising emotionally mature individuals.  Discipline comes from the Greek work “to train” and involves training our children to become mature adults who function well in society.


One of the most important aspects of teaching our children at home is discipline.  If our children won’t obey us, or accept our training, it’s very challenging to teach them academically! They need to respect us enough to do what we tell them to; to respect us as their teacher as well as their parent.


I want to be clear, discipline doesn’t just mean punishment when they do wrong, it also means keeping their emotional love tank filled and using positive encouragement as you train them to be respectful and well behaved.


Children are typically self-focused and are instinctively trying to be sure that they are loved.  If they feel unloved, or their love tank is low, they’ll start testing us to see if we love them.


How we respond is key.


If they still feel unloved by our response, they’ll continue to test our love by their behavior.   That’s where unconditional love comes in, we need to love them unconditionally, no matter how they behave. I’m not saying we allow bad behavior, but in our response and even in our discipline, we need to be sure that they know that we love them.  If we can use the love language that they prefer, then it will be even more meaningful for them and their love tank will be refilled.


When a child misbehaves, ask yourself: “Is my child’s love tank filled?” If not, “What can I do to fill their love tank as I deal with this misbehavior?”



I encourage you to the time to learn what your child’s love language is and strive to show them love the way they crave to be loved!


If you’ve learned some ways to show love to your children in one or more of these love languages, please share in the comment section so others can glean from what you’ve learned! I love to hear from you!!


Photo credit: Dreamstime
Photo credit: Dreamstime