Classics can be tough for kids, especially those written in the 1800s. If they aren’t specifically written for kids, then forget it. It will be absolute torture trying to read the big words. This list of classics are the easiest you will find. They hover around a 5th or 6th grade reading level. That’s about the same as a Harry Potter book. If your kids aren’t ready, then consider reading it to them. Morals galore!
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (1877)
This is the story of a horse’s fall from grace in the 1800s. Black Beauty begins his life on a fancy horse farm in England. He becomes a carriage and hunting horse for a family who cares for him well, but with each subsequent owner, he is treated poorly. Whipped to exhaustion, his health suffers. He retires to life as it began, but not without the reader shedding a few tears.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (1952)
Classic telling of the runt pig, Wilbur, who is saved by Fern and later sold to a local farmer. When he realizes, what the farmer intends to do with him, the spider Charlotte steps in to help by spinning words in her web like “Radiant” and “Some Pig.” Eventually her plan succeeds and he is saved from the slaughter.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1911)
This is the original tale of Peter Pan, the boy who never wants to grow up. Surprisingly it is almost identical to the Disney version. Peter comes to Wendy, John, and Michael’s nursery in search of his shadow. He teaches them to fly and convinces them to come with him to Neverland, so Wendy can be a mother to the lost boys. Of course, they will encounter pirates, indians and mermaids.
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers (1934)
This is the book that inspired the award-winning Disney movie by the same name. Much is the same, though most will agree the changes in the movie improved upon the book. Mary Poppins arrives on the doorstep of 17 Cherry Tree Lane just when Jane and Michael Banks need a new nanny. She has magical abilities and takes the children on outings they will never forget.
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1883)
This is the book that inspired the animated Disney film Pinocchio. The premise is the same. A poor wood worker crafts a marionette with human-like qualities. Pinocchio is basically a good boy, but he is gullible and easily convinced into making bad choices. He regrets every bad choice, and promises to do better, but it takes more lessons than you can count. As with Mary Poppins, many scenes had to be removed to make the film a manageable length.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922)
The endearing story about a cherished toy. A boy receives a stuffed rabbit on Christmas, along with other, more exciting toys. The rabbit is placed on a shelf until one day he becomes the toy the boy loves most. The wise, old rocking horse tells the rabbit that being loved to the point of no longer being pretty is what makes a toy become real. Approx. 40 pages.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932)
Although written and published much later in Wilder’s life, this is her memoir of growing up in Wisconsin in the late 1800s. This is the first in a 9 book series. It chronicles her everyday life growing up as a farmer’s daughter. Days are filled with chores, frolicking, sometimes hardship. The biggest take-away is the respect and love this family shares.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
Mary has led a sheltered and spoiled life in British India. Her parents have recently died and she is sent to live with her uncle in the English countryside. Bored and nothing to do, she explores the grounds and discovers a secret garden. The scullery maid’s brother, an avid naturalist, fills her with excitement about the coming spring bloom. Meanwhile, her uncle’s tantrum-prone son is living the same the closed in, spoiled life she did in India and she bring him into bloom just as she does the garden. The longest book on the list.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (1950)
Four siblings, sent to the countryside during the London bombings of WW2, discover a magical wardrobe while playing hide and seek. They enter a magical world called Narnia where animals talk and an evil witch-queen turns her enemies to stone and keeps the land frozen in Winter. Only Aslan, the lion, can help the children save Narnia.