April 22, 2020

Teaching From Home: What Novels Should My Child Read in Elementary School?

by:  John Crowder

John Crowder, Owner of Crowder Education in Pocatello, Idaho

I remember, years ago, reading an article about what young children (i.e., children in elementary school) should read.  The article promoted the idea that it didn’t matter what your child read, as long as they were reading.  Other articles and ‘studies’ said that, in order to overcome gaps in reading, what students read had to be relevant to them; characters in novels should speak as they do, using the latest slang terms popular at the moment.  Otherwise, the argument went, students would become uninterested and not spend enough time reading.

These arguments, while probably well-intentioned, are wrong.  In fact, it does matter, and it matters very much, what your child reads.  There are a few reasons for this, some having to do with character development, but in this article I want to focus solely on the academic development of your child.

The ability to read and to understand what you’ve read is the fundamental skill that needs to be acquired through schooling, whether formal or informal.  Success in every subject, history, science, economics, government, even math, depends on a student being able to read and comprehend.  Reading good literature, as opposed to ‘fluff,’ will help your child achieve maximum success by providing the following:

Richer Vocabulary: Reading classic literature will expose students to a much richer vocabulary than what they’ll see in books filled with popular slang expressions.

Critical Thinking: Classic literature, literature that has stood the test of time, is classic for a reason.  Classic literature exposes one to the great ideas that humans wrestle with, from the meaning of justice to the concept of duty to rights vs. responsibility and more.

Ability to Express Yourself: Readers of good literature see examples of how to construct an argument and how to express themselves both verbally and in writing.

One set of books that I highly recommend for elementary school students is the Great Illustrated Classics series.  These abridged versions of classic tales provide students with all of the advantages noted above and have the added benefits of helping children develop a love of great writing while providing an outline of books that will be on their reading lists in middle and high school.

These books were a staple in the private school that I operated for over a dozen years.  I saw over and over again students’ reading and writing skills reach very high levels.  Many of them scored consistently in the 90th percentile and above on standardized tests.  They developed a love of good literature.  They were able to articulate ideas around fundamental questions at a much earlier age.  By middle school they were winning scholarships and cash prizes in writing and speech competitions.

What students read matters.  I encourage you to help your child excel by introducing them, in elementary school, to good literature.

The Great Illustrated Classics, and other classic works for children, can be found at Amazon.com by clicking the link, below.

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