If you want your child to grow up to be a successful lifelong learner, you must do one thing—teach him to love to read. And choosing the right books is half the battle.
I struggled to learn to read. It was laborious.
Who cares that C-A-T spells “cat”? Why does it matter that Sally and Ned jumped over a fence? Can I go outside and look for lizards and baby frogs now?
Perhaps your child can relate.
But my mom had a theory. She thought that if she taught us to read lots of living books—well-written, fascinating books that make knowledge “come alive”—we would grow to love to read and, thus, love to learn.
She was right.
She made each of us kids read hundreds of books during our homeschooling years—often 100 or more each year. We devoted several hours each day just to reading.
Some books were short and a breeze to read through. Others were difficult and forced us to work just above our reading level.
Fiction, expository works, spiritual helps, biographies, poetry—all of them changed my life and laid a foundation I could build on to become a lifelong learner. These books taught me about the world—and why we so desperately needed Jesus to come and rescue us.
I may have felt frustrated at times with my reading list. I might have had many “I don’t want to read this!” moments.
But I’m so grateful to my mom, because this discipline solidified a valuable habit in my life.
And while every book my mom had me read affected me for the better, here are a few of the books I think impacted me the most in middle school and high school:
49 Life-Changing Books for Middle School and High School
- The Bible
- Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy (For boys, try God’s Gift to Women by Eric Ludy.)
- Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot (For boys, try The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot.)
- David Brainerd: Man of Prayer, Oswald Smith
- The Aeneid by Virgil
- Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
- The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
- The Iliad by Homer
- Wealth of the Nations by Adam Smith
- Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford
- The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
(This book let me see firsthand the intent behind communism and socialism—an intent devoid of God. The book prepared me for when I heard professors sing communism’s praises in college.)
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- City of God by St. Augustine
- Confessions by St. Augustine
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
- From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
- Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
- The Anti-Federalist Papers, edited by Ralph Ketcham
- The Constitution
- The Declaration of Independence
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
- The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson
- Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
- Foxe’s Books of Martyrs by John Foxe
- God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis
- Devil’s Island by John Hagee
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
- Set-Apart Femininity by Leslie Ludy (For boys, try The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley.)
- Jane Austin’s books: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abby (For girls)
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley (For girls)
- Little Women by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
- Little Men by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
- Eight Cousins by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
- Jo’s Boys by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (For girls)
- For an Audience of One by Mike Pilavachi
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
This list is certainly incomplete. But it serves as a sample of the kinds of books I read—the kinds of books that taught me to love learning.
Jenny Rose Curtis is a homeschool grad. In 2014, she graduated from Stetson University with majors in Spanish and Communications. She works at Charisma Media as a copy editor and co-host of the “Charisma News” and “SpiritLed Woman” podcasts.