Living Books that will Inspire Your Children or Grandchildren

A row of children's books on a shelf.

Inspirational and motivational books for children are a doorway to learning and exploring the world around us - the kind of books our children can get lost in, that will inspire them to excellence. This list of living books that will stimulate children's imagination and creativity.

Living Books: stories that will inspire your children or grandchildren

What started your simple living journey? Why do you love black garden soil and chickens, what started your food preserving hobby?

Perhaps it was a parent or grandparent, or a movie or TV show (Little House on the Prairie, perhaps). Somewhere in your past, something inspired you. Someone taught you to knit or crochet or sew, how to track wild animals, or to forage for wild edibles.

My grandparents gave me the gift of summers spent outdoors, rambling through the "desert" behind their little ranch, where I watched the little lizards and horned toads. 

My paternal grandma showed her love for her family by cooking large meals from scratch. My mother-in-law taught me to crochet (although I could never hope to be as accomplished at it as she was).

But reading was my favorite childhood pastime, and books inspired me in a big way. 

I was a voracious reader as a child. I read everything, even the cereal box while eating breakfast, which amused my mother who wasn't a big reader. (I know how that she just didn't "get it.")

As a young child, my father took me to the library every week and helped me choose one book that was easy to read plus a classic and another one that was a bit challenging. I read every book about horses in our little library.

Thankfully my children were all eager readers too. I just can't imagine growing up without the magic that books can bring to a child's life: adventures, travel, knowledge and imagination.

These books I loved are now called "living books." 

What is a living book?

A living book is well-written, it captivates your imagination and draws you into the story. You care about the character, the event, the situation.

These stories stay with you for days or months afterwards. In my case, many have stuck with me for 50 or more years! 

You learn something from a living book; in enriches your life in some way. It might be about history or science or kindness or understanding - but in some way, the story has changed you, it's given you something to think about, or to strive for.

It might be about survival in the wilderness, or about old-fashioned homesteading in the early days of our nation. The story might awaken a passion in your child for identifying and observing insects or songbirds. 

This list, of course, isn't complete. This is simply a round-up of what my children really enjoyed reading, and what might spark your child or grandchild to learn more about the world around them, to live simply, be resilient, and work for change in the world around them.

These stories will inspire your children as they teach and entertain at the same time.

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Share the gift of reading

If you'd like to inspire a love of adventure, resourcefulness, curiosity and imagination in your children or grandchildren, consider the following classic books for children and young adults. 

Not all of these books are about homesteading or farm kids, but adventure series set in pioneer times are just as inspiring and educational.

NOTE: These and many other classic books are also available at AbeBooks, ThriftBooks, Ebay, Alibris, and BookFinder as well as other online stores. You can also check out the "available from other sellers" listings on Amazon. If you're blessed to have a used bookstore near you, be sure to visit them.

The cover of Farmer Boy, one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - the entire Little House series is full of homesteading and simple living inspiration. The stories are timeless, down-to-earth, and have practical homesteading information woven into the stories. 

Laura teaches her readers about smokehouses, storing pumpkins for the winter, the importance of helping your neighbor and so much more. 

Farmer Boy, written about Laura's husband Almanzo's childhood, will inspire the boys in your family too.

There are also several books inspired by Laura's Little House books:

The cover of "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George chronicles the adventures of a boy who decided he was going to go live on his own on a mountain. 

Along the way he tames a bird of prey and learns how to live off the land. This book sparked my son's love of raptors, and I know he still searches the skies and hopes to someday see a peregrine falcon's silhouette.

There are five books in the series, including On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful's Mountain. There is also a Pocket Guide to the Outdoors: Based on My Side of the Mountain. My son would have loved that one!

Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading."
~ Anonymous

The cover of Hatchet, a book by Gary Paulsen.

In Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Brian is lost in the Canadian wilderness after an accident and this book records how he survived. Another excellent book for boys, even those who aren't eager readers. 

There are five books in the series (Hatchet, The River, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, and Brian's Hunt) which you can find as a set here

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A young boy reading "Let's Hatch Chicks!"

The Prairie River series by Kristiana Gregory was one of my youngest daughter's favorites. Set during the Civil War, fourteen-year-old Nessa ages out of the orphanage where she grew up. Faced with a bleak future, she heads West for a new life. 

Nessa is a sweet and resourceful girl who learns how to make her own way on the prairie, but be aware that she does deceive others in her determination to get away from her terrible situation. 

The Prairie River series includes A Journey of FaithA Grateful HarvestWinter Tidings, and Hope Springs Eternal.

In fact, Kristiana Gregory is one of my daughter's favorite authors. She also loved the Dear America series -Ms. Gregory authored many of those books as well. 

The complimentary series for boys is called My Name is America. Both series focus on admirable young characters in historical settings who are resourceful and aren't afraid of hard work.

But my daughter's all-time favorite was (and as an adult it's still a favorite) When Calls the Heart, a series about a young teacher in the Canadian West by Janette Oke, and she told me to be sure to include it in this post. There are six books in the series, which are perfect for older girls. 

Non-fiction books for children

Living books contain a story, but a non-fiction book written by someone with a passion for their subject can also be considered a living book.

The cover of "Keeping Chickens"

A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey of the blog Tilly's Nest teaches children the ins and outs of raising chickens as pets, and includes such fun activities as building chicken forts and cooking egg-based dishes such as Mexican egg pizza.

Ms. Caughey is passionate about her chickens, and strives to pass that love to children through this book.

A book on a table: Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy

I'm including Sunflower Houses: Inspiration From the Garden--A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups by Sharon Lovejoy even though it's written more for adults to read and then share the projects with their children, grandchildren or other little ones in their life. 

This delightful book will help you share your gardening passion with children through activities, crafts, stories, games and planting projects. Why not plant a floral clock garden or a sunflower house for children to play inside?

Field Guides

Often a living book can ignite a flame in your child, and a field guide can help to further that interest. A field guide might not be considered a living book, but they can be a great companion book.

My son, after reading My Side of the Mountain, was obsessed with birds of prey. His goal was to see a peregrine falcon in the wild, and although he hasn't yet found one, he can identify many other species. The book inspired a love of raptors.

If your child has an interest in birds, trees, mushrooms, birds of prey, insects, wildflowers - whatever his or her interest is - look for a guidebook or field guide about their interest. 

Some field guides are written about a particular region such as the Birds of Oklahoma field guide in the photo. These can be especially interesting.

You might be encouraging a future entomologist, marine biologist, botanist or some other kind of "-ist" who will love his or her career because it's also their passion.

A collection of guide books and field guides on a wooden table.

For young children

For younger readers, Charlotte's Web is a fun read about life on a farm and at the county fair, told from a spider's perspective. 

I've been told that "Charlotte" was based on a yellow-and-black garden spider, also called an orb weaver, of the species Argiope aurantia. These spiders weave an interesting web with a "zipper" in it, which is how Charlotte weaves her words in the story.

The orb weaver is my own favorite spider; can you guess why? Because I fell in love with this book as a child. 

Each year, around the end of summer, I start seeing the orb weavers' webs, and then eventually their egg sacks. I always call these spiders Charlotte, and although I'm not a spider-lover, I protect these "Charlottes" and their egg sacks.

"Let's Hatch Chicks," a book that answers a child's questions about what happens inside that egg.

Let's Hatch Chicks!: Explore the Wonderful World of Chickens and Eggs by Lisa Steele explores what happens inside that egg as a chick develops and finally hatches. 

Ms. Steele's knowledge and love of chickens is evident in her books and her blog Fresh Eggs Daily.

The story is simple and easy for a young child to follow: Violet, a lavender Orpington hen, is ready to hatch eggs. The book also explains how chicks develop inside the eggs day by day, and will hold the interest of older children and adults as well. 

The illustrations are charming and will enchant all ages. 

I'd love to know about your favorite books from childhood. What recommendations would you add to this list? 

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A young boy reading a book.

Good books will inspire your child's curiosity, resourcefulness and imagination. This list suggests more than a dozen classics that will make great gifts.


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