I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

My List of the TOP Book Lists {and other tips for developing a reading culture}

Developing a reading culture in your home seems like a simple enough plan...just immerse your family in literature, right?!

Well, yes...and no.

While surrounding your children with books IS the first step to cultivating a love of reading and a story-formed home, there really is more to it than merely scattering a random stash of books around a house.

Creating a literary home...a home where books are a part of the family rhythm and culture...takes intentionality. It requires a purposeful selection of reading material and a schedule that gives priority to reading.

Since beginning my monthly "What We're Reading" series two years ago, I have received numerous questions from homeschooling mommas desiring to grow lifelong readers. Two questions, in particular, continue to land in my inbox. Today, I'd like to answer both.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Where do you find quality book suggestions for your kids to read?

On the whole, when it comes to reading, I'm more about quality vs. quantity. There is nothing innately wrong with reading a fluffy book (generally referred to as "twaddle" in most literary camps). I, too, enjoy a light, no-brain-required kind of read every now and again. But, trade show books (the cheap pop culture-type books flooding the shelves of the book section in Target and Walmart) should be read sparingly. They are like the junk food of a book-lovers life. You can indulge in them on occasion, but for the sake of your literary health, you wouldn't want to make a steady diet out of them.

But with the plethora of books lining the library shelves, how is a momma to know what is quality and what is twaddle? What passes the Philippians 4:8 checklist and what should just be passed on by?

Over the years, I've come across some great resources and booklists from trustworthy reading authorities. These have become my GO TO spots for selecting books for my kids.

Great books about great books

The following books are completely dedicated to providing wonderful book lists for kids of all ages. Keep one OR ALL of them handy when you are selecting books at the library, purchasing books for your own home collection, or suggesting titles for your kids to explore on their own.

Honey for a Child's Heart- This is a MUST HAVE for those who wish to promote quality literature in their home. I prefer the older edition, however, as I think the book suggestions mentioned in it are more in line with my faith values.

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families- This book was written by Sarah Clarkson, the formerly homeschooled daughter of Clay and Sally Clarkson and editor of Storyformed.com.

Read Aloud Handbook- This book is a bit more liberal-minded when it comes to title selections. So, I tend to sift through it with a more critical eye.

Biographies to Read Aloud with Kids- Biographies are not limited to chapter books. This book is dedicated to helping parents and educators find engaging and historically accurate biographies for all ages and reading abilities. Most of the recommendations within its pages tend to be recently published books, some of which have themes that may not be in line with my faith values or social beliefs. That being said, I think it makes for a great addition to the reference library of a living literature-based home.

Quality on-line booklist 

Other sources for book suggestions

While not completely fool-proof, the "customers who bought this item also bought" section of Amazon can usually provide book suggestions of a similar style, genre, or reading preference.

My current favorite resource is Goodreads. Not only is this a great site for helping me keep track of potential books I'd like my family members to read, it also provides relatively good book recommendations for all of us and is a safe place for my kids to begin exploring book titles on their own. 

Be sure to keep a running list of authors that you have come to trust and enjoy. As a last resort, you can always explore more of his/her titles knowing that they will probably be written in the same style and with the same quality as the ones you have read previously.

Now that I've found a good book for my child, how and when should he read it?

Please know that there is no one RIGHT way of conducting a reading time in your home. The most important thing to remember is that you need to carve out time for reading every day.

Here is a video detailing how reading time is currently done in my home.

For more details regarding what reading time looks like in my home, be sure to head here>>
To learn more about our morning time, check out how we always start our day together.

I don't think it is necessary to conduct formal comprehension interviews or to fill the day with endless reading assignments like book reports and worksheets. Tacking on "busy work" leaves less time for actual reading and ends up being a kill-joy to the reading process negating the very goal you are trying to attain-a fostered love of reading. I do think, however, that encouraging book-themed conversations throughout the day is an excellent way to create a literary culture in your home and spark a reading passion in your kids.

More tips and resources for developing a reading culture

Playing Pooh Sticks together

One final word

Remember, by patterning the reading culture in your home after the way lifelong readers read, you will be encouraging your children in good reading habits. Handing a child a mediocre story might compel him to read that ONE book, but it will not ignite a love to want to read the next one. Cultivate reading conversations in your home by introducing a reading vocabulary and by encouraging dialogue centered around the stories that you are reading together and individually. Avoid strict adherence to a curriculum-based reading guide. Life-long readers tend to want to read books organically...to read books that they currently have a passion for and desire to read. Make books accessible and make them a priority, and your children will too.


  1. What a great blog post, Jamie (as usual!). I am just edging into the read-aloud early chapter books with my oldest (3 years), and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much of the stories he's actually retaining. Your posts about your current reads are an inspiration for us. Growing up in a house where reading wasn't 'cultivated', I'm working hard to instill a love of reading in our home. Your blog is an extremely valuable resource for me. Thank you for it!

    1. Monica, what lovely encouraging words. Thank you. Age three is a wonderful age to start cultivating a love for books. Kudos to you! You are building a great foundation and wonderful memories, I'm sure.

  2. I always enjoy your book suggestions! You've recommended several that have proven to be real gems for us, and I appreciate your discerning eye where kids' books are concerned. The more I stumble across at the local library, the more I am aware we need to be just as guarded with the books we hand our kids as we are with the websites we let them peruse. I consider your suggestions a real public service! Thank you for sharing them! :)

    1. You are most welcome, Tanya. Honestly, I'm just thrilled that folks are willing to listen to me prattle on and on about books, because I could talk about them all the live long day!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed your video so much and appreciate the effort you put into sharing your ideas to help us all in our homeschooling. I would love to hear your philosophy about buying or borrowing books. My son is 6 and I used to barely ever buy him books as we went to the library weekly for story-time from 6 months old and he got quite a few as gifts. We were also anticipating a cross-country move and wanted to keep our home light of items. Now we are settled in our new home and our area has tons of garage sales. I have kind of gone crazy this spring buying great books for 25 cents or 50 cents but I have like 5 boxes of books with nowhere to store them, yet - it is project for summer now that Kinder is done :) Just curious to hear your take. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for writing this post, Jamie! Just started a GoodRead's page for our homeschool and sent you a "follow" request! :)
    I do have a question though--I have a 12 year old daughter who is a great reader--silently, that is. She reads at a college level, so does not have problems with understanding words, etc. She loves to read--but hates hates hates reading out loud--though when I do make her read out loud she definitely needs practice as she reads very monotone. She also had difficulty participating in ANY type of discussion about a book. Even a book that she has enjoyed reading by herself, if I ask her to tell me her favorite part of the book, or to tell me what the book was like, she answers with a "I don't know." Any suggestions? I realize I have asked two questions, 1) on reading out loud well and 2) on participating in book discussions. She does enjoy silent reading, and I don't want to make her hate reading--but I really feel it is important to be able to discuss what she read with me. I don't want to hand her a book report sheet to fill out, but I am out of ideas. Any suggestions???

    1. Yes, reading out loud is a skill every child should practice. Is there any way for you to have her read other things out loud like science text, English worksheet directions...things other than the novels? These can be read really organically in the school day so that the focus doesn't appear to be about reading out loud. She seems to want to keep her novel reading as a sacred/special thing to herself. I think you are right in wanting to respect that. Also, be sure to read out loud to her. Most reading aloud skills are acquired through hearing others read aloud.

      Regarding the book conversations...I would try to make the questions quite specific so that the answers can be short and to the point at first. She'll probably be more prone to answer them when she feels like they are simple enough and won't lead to a huge conversation. Then as she gets use to simple one or two word answers, she'll hopefully start to feel more comfortable answering more open-ended questions.

      Some examples of simple questions might be...
      Who was your favorite character?
      Was there anyone in the book whose actions or beliefs surprised you?
      Who was the funniest (meanest, smartest, etc.) character in the book?
      What new idea or information did you learn from the book?

      Don't feel like you need to ask questions about every single book she reads. That just turns book reading into an assignment, and that's certainly not the sentiment you are trying to build. As long as she seems to love reading and seems to understand what she's reading, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

      Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you--this helps a LOT! We do read out loud every day, and have since birth. She does seem to enjoy listening, and does not have trouble stumbling over words or anything--just doesn't want to read out loud herself. I am going to try your suggestions--thank you so much!

  5. I love seeing others encourage reading! Sometimes I think if we as homeschoolers only do one thing it should be read! Thanks for taking time to help others discover how important it is and how to do it.! (I have a living books reading list blog - quality books that you don't want to miss on your homeschool journey https://readingvoyages.blogspot.com/

  6. Here is a suggested book that you may wish to let your families know about. It is difficult to find material that is suited for middle grades and up


  7. Hi Jamie, may I ask what edition of Honey for a Childs heart you have? I borrowed the Fourth edition from the library and planned on purchasing it but now I see there is a 5th edition coming out but am worried about newer book recommendations as well.

    1. Great question. That does matter. I actually have the 3rd edition, because it was a book I read for a college children's lit class over 20 years ago.