Books That Stand the Test of Time

Introduce your class to some all-time favorite titles to inspire a love for reading within them.

By Ann Whittemore

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Group of kids reading

As children, we find books that seem to stay with us and never leave our side. We love them like old friends. These are books that stand the test of time, the ones we pass on to our children, and read aloud to our students, knowing that at least one of them will take that same book and make it a companion for life.

What Makes a Good Book?

As a teacher, I’m going to say the story element is what makes a good book. Whether the book is a narrative, historical fiction, or biographical, there are several elements we all cling to. A good book has to have good characters, plot development, rich language, strong imagery, a brilliant ending, and connect to real life. These are the literary elements we attempt to instill in our young writers, and they are exactly what we pick out when we send them home with a book to read. However, how do you know the book you’re choosing is one that contains all the pieces? How do you know your class will enjoy it? How do you know you are meeting the learning needs of the child while providing him with a story he will love? The key to being a good reader is wanting to read. Once a child is hooked, he's hooked for life. But how do we introduce a fantastic kid to a fantastic book?

Share the Books You Love

My first suggestion is to love the book yourself. Share books with your class that you read in your youth. Oftentimes, what touches you will touch them too. Choose books that appeal to who they are as a classroom community. Build interest in the book by truly sharing it as an old friend, provide background information that will help readers connect to the story, and read it with them, even if only a little, to help them hear the story’s voice. Even the oldest learners can appreciate hearing a story now and then. Once they're hooked on that book, deepen understanding with related writing activities, art projects, and literary circles. Make the book come to life, and it will. I truly believe that discussion, at times, can win over reluctant readers. When they read with purpose, in order to participate, have an opinion, and engage in the learning process with peers, the assigned book won't seem like a chore, but a challenge.

A List of My Personal Favorites

So which books do I think stand the test of time? Here is a list of some of my personal favorites. Many of these are already on classroom shelves, have won awards, and have made readers out of even the most reluctant kids. These books are well-loved, have intriguing characters, bright and vibrant descriptive language, and are filled with real-life themes we can all connect to. Lesson Planet houses hundreds of resources for many of these books.

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White 
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
James and the Giant Peach: A Children's Story by Roald Dahl
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Stuart Little by E. B. White
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harpper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keys
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Call of the Wild by Jack London
A Separate Peace by John Knowles