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Using Literature Guides to Find Great Books

Many parents and teachers would love to use more trade books in the classroom, either to replace or supplement textbooks. Many times, however, it seems to be too much trouble to find titles that accurately match up by grade level, historical period, or by geographical region. In addition, many educators want a short book summary or even warnings about potential inappropriate language or other questionable issues, in order to make appropriate selections.

In my own homeschool planning, I have found several excellent resources to help in my quest to find great books to use in my curriculum. These literature guides are the map to help me match up titles that go along with the topics, people, region, or time periods that were are studying—and they save me lots of time that is better spent teaching or reading with my children.

by Elizabeth Wilson

An author who advocates the Charlotte Mason approach to education wrote this book, and the titles do reflect Judeo-Christian values. It includes lists of books for many areas and subjects including: animals, art and architecture, bible/spiritual teaching, biography, crafts, hobbies, domestic arts, dance, drama, geography, history, horticulture, humor, language, literature, poetry, rhymes, math, misc. music, outdoor activities other than group games, physical education, reference, science, technology, and special days and seasons.

by Christine Miller

According to material in the book’s introduction, this guide is a glorified list of books, commonly available from public libraries and homeschool catalogs, which are useful for learning history using literature—real books—rather than textbooks. Christine Miller has taken suggestions from many resources, catalogs, and other literature resource guides to create a comprehensive (and chronological) resource for all educators. Each section (historical era or geographical region) is subdivided by reading level.

by Gladys Hunt

This resource includes an indexed list of the best children’s classics ever and an extensive annotated bibliography of books worth reading, arranged by their suitability for various ages. However, Mrs. Hunt also provides insightful articles and ideas for family reading, nurturing young readers, parenting, and what makes a good book. This resource is definitely based on Christian principles.

by Carolyn Hatcher

This guide is unique in that it can be referenced specifically by setting, author or title, as laid out in the table of contents and index. It is also arranged by reading/age level, which makes it very user friendly. As with the other resources, the author gives a brief summary of the book as well. There is also a great section about the use of ‘living books’ and how they are a superior way to educate children and teens.

by Kathy Keller

This tiny resource packs a big punch! It is limited to American History, but the chronological list includes biographies, classics, historical fiction, and some non-fiction titles arranged by grade level. All titles have been screened from a Christian perspective and are historically accurate, although suggestions are included from both secular and Christian sources. Sections include: Early Explorers, Early Indians and Pilgrims, Colonial America, American Revolution, Westward Expansion, Civil War Era, Progressive Era, World War II, General US History, and Cookbooks.

Although there are probably many resources available that adequately give book suggestions, I have personally used these specific guides and have found them to be extremely helpful. The books are easy to use, and most of the titles are easy to find. I also like the summaries and suggestions by grade level. Most of all, I like the convenience of using these literature guides—the research and legwork has already been done for me, and I can do what I do best—TEACH!

*Originally posted at the National Writing for Children Center on September 29, 2010

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