I limited my choices to books that I read when I was a kid. There are certainly newer ones available (see Lawn Boy) but then I would be evaluating them based on reading them as an adult and I wanted to come up with a list of books that had an impact on me earlier in life. I tried to limit my choices to books that encourage the attributes employers and colleges are looking for in our kids. Things like: problem-solving skills, confidence, teamwork, motivation, communication skills, and discipline.
I realized as I was trying to recall all the books from my childhood that the memories of the preschool level and early elementary books had more to do with feelings about Mom or Dad who read them too me rather than the books themselves. Reading to our kids (regardless of which book) is worth the effort.
It was too difficult to choose which of the following books was better than any other book so I have not prioritized them.
- The Mad Scientists' Club and The Three Investigators - These two series had much in common. Both involved groups of kids working together (teamwork) to either solve mysteries, build cool things, or help people. Nobody had any super powers and there was not a single magic wand to be seen. This made it seem that achieving great things was possible, even for a normal kid (a muggle?).
- Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective - Similar to the Scientist and Investigator books, Encyclopedia also was based in reality and solved mysteries that even the grown ups could not figure out. He was analytical, confident, and was cool because he was smart. He occasionally had help but he often succeeded on his own.
- Why Are There More Questions Than Answers, Grandad? - This one is out of print but a few years after my first child was born I found a used version and bought it for him. I love this book. By the end, you get the message that it is OK to ask questions when you do not know something but also that even a little kid can sometimes solve his own problems.
- Treasure Island - Work is called work for a reason. Even jobs we like can sometimes require discipline and even courage to get through a tough day.
- Horton Hatches the Egg - Trust, responsibility, commitment. What employer would not want to hire Horton after his achievement and impressive display of loyalty to his job?
- What Do People Do All Day? - Sometimes I think that this book should be required reading for all High School seniors. At least they would have a broader view of what jobs exist in the world before they head off to college to "find themselves".
- Where the Wild Things Are - You can always come home. Taking risks is easier when you know that there is a safety net.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Listen to your mother!
- White Fang (Great Illustrated Classics) - I must have read this one a hundred times. It had all the right ingredients; adventure, fighting, camping, dogs and wolves. Since it was also in comic form it was more accessible to me at a younger age. There was a happy ending but it did not come easy and similar to Treasure Island, the message that life can be hard and persistence and hard work are necessary is a good one.
Which books would you add to this list?