Books That Shape a Child’s Imagination


John Gilpin’s Ride, from R. Caldecott’s Picture Book. Click the picture to go there…

If you are familiar with classical curriculum based on the literature that has shaped the imaginations of generations of children and adults in the West, you’ll appreciate the resources gathered here.

These resources are based almost exclusively on the classics themselves, most of which have long since passed into the public domain. The books are what John Senior, the late Great Books professor at the University of Kansas called the thousand good books every child should have read.

The resources fall into two categories. First, an easily accessible database of the thousand good books. Click on the drop down menu and you will find them broken into four age appropriate categories: Nursery, Grammar School, Adolescent and Youth 16+. The categories are suggestions, and some children will advance more quickly than others to the higher levels. Right now, the Nursery section is completely populated. The next two, Grammar School and Adolescent have at least one title by each good book author available. I’m currently working to upload at least one title for each Youth 16+ author. I’m actively uploading at least five books per day through the week. Eventually, every single book will be available.

Second, I’ve started a monthly magazine containing seasonally appropriate excerpts from the good books accompanied by the original artwork. The idea is to make it easy to get these stories, poems and pictures into children’s hands in a graphically pleasing way. The first issue, a proof of concept to determine if it is sustainable, is available now as a single copy purchase or as an annual subscription. The subscription offers a 30 percent savings. That said, if you are unable to afford either, I can send you a coupon code on an individual basis.

The Heart of the Matter

What should you do with these books? Use them as part of your children’s (or grandchildren’s) education, whether they are homeschooled or attending private, charter, parochial, or public schools. There are roughly 130 good book authors, and more than 1000 books. Check back often to see what has been added.

In reading the thousand good books, one receives an education in freedom. Not freedom for hedonism, but freedom for pursuing truth and virtue. They stimulate the imagination. With proper guidance, they can instill natural virtues. Many of these stories, especially those of the fairie variety, come from all over the world. They are an artful retelling of stories that have survived for hundreds and often even thousands of years. Andrew Lang especially, in publishing his many colored Fairy Books, dove deep into the pool of world history in compiling his works. These books are a treasure trove, and they should be the bedrock foundation of a fruitful education. 

Will your children read them all? For most, of course not. Some of them are heavily geared toward girls, others toward boys. Most have been interesting to both over the years. Some of them are heavily illustrated toddler’s books that delight the eyes as well as the ears. You’ll read those to your little ones at bedtime or during storytime. Others are appropriate for early readers, where you have your children read passages out loud to you and help them when they struggle with pronunciation and bigger words. The list continues upward into works appropriate for adolescents and young adults.

A Cultural Inheritance

What John Senior reminded us is that most of the books are thoroughly Christian in worldview and content, and they are a tremendous aid, along with healthy amounts of time spent outside exploring, in shaping your child’s imagination.

man holding magazineIf these projects sound appealing to you, I can use all of the encouragement I can get! To keep it fair and to ensure these resources are widely available, I’m not going to charge for access to the 1000 good books. I’m uploading them to ISSUU so you can view and download them on your digital devices. Since they are widely available in digital format, a tablet or ebook reader gives the best reader experience. I know that some have reservations about giving children access to digital devices, and I’ve addressed the topic in a recent blog post. With tight parental controls, you can lock most functions so that only the ones you want (primarily reading books) are accessible.

I encourage you to sign up to receive Good Soil magazine when subscriptions become available. For now, please enjoy the thousand good books where they reside in the drop down menu. I wish you and your children many hours of interesting reading. 

Check back often, as I’ll be regularly adding content.



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