This post is an answer to a reader who must have seen my post on Lenten reading. She specifically requested a list for kids under 12. For those of you with older kids, I’ve included teens as well! I wrote a version of this for National Catholic Register a couple of years ago – I tried not to overlap here too much; regardless, anything from either list is highly recommended! Keep in mind, this is an organic list – please comment with your own great recommendations!
Pre-school, Elementary and Middle School
Because there is such a wide range of reading levels in this age group, it’s virtually impossible to judge exactly where any particular book would fall. I would consider just about any of these books to be a great read aloud for younger kids. I’ve estimated age appropriateness, but please check out the links so you can see for yourself how each book would work for your family.
Gloria Children’s Books (12 Volumes) – Ages 3-8; These tiny treasures are beautifully illustrated and simply written for the youngest of souls. And yet, with titles like The Our Father, Ten Commandments, The Story of Mary, The Rosary, The Hail Mary, The Guardian Angels, The Holy Family, Favorite Prayers, The Apostles Creed, The Mass, The Boy Jesus and The Sacred Heart of Jesus, these books provide wonderful catechetical instruction.
Treasure Box Books – Ages 3-9; Available individually or as a set of 10 or 20, these are perfect books for younger children! Reprinted from the 1950’s, each book includes wonderful poetry, games, and stories about saints, guardian angels and more. They inspire a great love for God, and are full of doctrine that is taught for the hearts and minds of little children. On top of all that, the illustrations are lovely.
Angel Food for Boys & Girls (4 Volumes) – Ages 3-9; Wonderful little stories, each of which shares an important moral. Just a little skim through Volume II will find The Boy who Weighed an Elephant (purity), The Orphan’s Plea (love of God), The Boy who Dusted the Devil’s Tail (never trust the devil), and many more.
The Weight of the Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso – Ages 3-103; A beautiful picture book about the value of a Mass and a life lesson for an unbelieving baker. This is a precious story that you will read with your children over and over again.
King of the Golden City by Mother Mary Loyola – Ages 7-107; Great book to read with First Communicants! Mother Mary Loyola does a dynamite job of demonstrating that our Faith is about not “rules,” but rather, love. That said, she does inspire readers to live a life of orthodox faith in response to Christ’s love for us and our desire to be united to Him. (There is a study guide available for this book.)
Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Wellborn – Read aloud ages 3-10; self-reader grades 3-5; I love reading this to my kids! The stories are lively but brief, and Wellborn demonstrates that the issues we face today are the same issues faced by saints of 1,000+ years ago. These stories offer inspirational alternatives to worldly responses when addressing the human condition.
Christopher’s Talks to Catholic Children by David L. Greenstock- Read aloud with ages 7-11; otherwise information for ages 7-107; Sadly, this book is out of print. But it is so good that I highly recommend searching high and low for a copy. It will be well worth your effort. As a convert, I’ve learned many things from children’s books – this one in particular. Greenstock inspires a great love for Christ and His Church, along with a desire to know, love and serve Him as a member of the Body of Christ. He takes challenging doctrines and simplifies them for young ears without removing a scintilla of their depth or beauty. I’ve read this book aloud to my kids at various ages.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – Grades 4-8; Newberry Medal historical novel that takes place during the time of Christ. It is about a young man’s conversion from blind hatred and vengeance to understanding and love. A story that will move hearts and minds.
Outlaws of Ravenhurst by Sister M. Imelda Wallace – Grades 5-8; A great novel with many lessons on the Catholic faith. This quote from an Amazon review speaks volumes: “My late husband was taught by Sister Mary Imelda in Auburn, Nebraska back in the late 20’s. As a reward for their good behavior she would read her next installment as she completed it. He never forgot the story and always felt that this was what gave him his love and devotion to the Eucharist. This is a must for…Catholic youth.” (There is a study guide available for this book.)
Creative Catechism Series from Holy Family Press – Read aloud and work along with younger children, or independent for Ages 8-12; These are not regular reading books, but rather, informative activity books. We have given them for Easter gifts and as supplements for First Communion gifts. They are also great for a family road trip or a rainy day. Available titles: Miracles of the Holy Eucharist, Mary Our Mother, Our Lady of Fatima, Children’s Prayers, The 7 Sacraments, Sacramentals, Guardian Angels, The Great Battle for Heaven, The World of the Holy Angels, Creation, The Ark and the Rainbow
33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley – An engaging and doable preparation for Marian consecration. Gaitley profiles four great saints to illustrate the role of Mary in our lives. This is a great book for teens who have little time, but want profound inspiration in bite-sized chapters.
Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters by Peter Kreeft – All the letters I would love to write to my teens, but written from the heart of a loving father. These letters are short, easy to read, and yet packed with catechetical wisdom that only the intellect of Kreeft can offer.
The Gospels – One chapter a day is a sure way to renew your relationship with Our Lord through Lent.
Home for Good by Mother Mary Loyola – Unlike most of the recommendations in this section (which were written for a broad population), this book was written specifically for teens about how to navigate the temptations of the world – poignant for that age when the world beckons from every direction. The wisdom here speaks to teens today with as much relevance as it did to those for whom it was written over 100 years ago.
Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis – the classic spiritual guide upon which countless saints meditated daily. Each page speaks directly to the heart of the matter; timeless wisdom for all.
The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn – Revives a great love for the Eucharist, using Sacred Scripture to demonstrate the value of the Mass, and its supreme role as heaven on earth. Hahn’s enthusiasm is contagious – this is an inspiring read that will help teens to approach Mass with renewed eyes and an open heart.
A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith by Frank Sheed – From beginning to end, this is a thorough yet concise guide that will lead us on the proper path toward our true Home. Profound and life-changing.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – In this great work, Lewis offers a rational argument in favor of Christianity. Compelling – particularly for teens who are hearing from every direction that faith and reason are incompatible.
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis – A must read for everyone who risks allowing the world to distract them from life’s purpose (meaning EVERYONE). Lewis’ humor is engaging and his angle – letters from a senior devil to his protege on how to trip up humans, that they might forego heaven for an eternity in hell – make this the most original plea for holiness ever written.
A Second Look: Encountering the True Jesus by Mark Hart – The first line in the introduction is, “The road from your head to your heart is the longest journey you’ll ever take.” Need I say more? Hart brings a unique and amusing perspective to profound biblical texts. He speaks in a way that invites teens to relax and engage.
The Story of a Soul by Saint Therese of Lisieux – A “little way” to holiness. I have met countless young ladies who were forever changed by this humble work of profound faith.
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and Saint Claude de la Colombiere – A tiny book of monumental proportions. This will help every teen to know that, no matter the challenge or however great the struggle, we can trust that God will use it to guide us toward our greatest purpose, which is perfect union with Him.
The Way by Saint JoseMaria Escriva – Brief bits of wisdom that don’t beat around the bush – Escriva offers the frankness that teens are looking for, divided into categories for easy reference or organized meditation.
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