Twaddle-Free Literature by Grade Level

51BlGAcUHnL(This reading list is simply my personal idea of twaddle-free reading — it isn’t the Twaddle-free Gospel.) 🙂

Living Books = books that are well-written and engaging–they absorb the reader–the narrative and characters “come alive”; living books are the opposite of cold, dry textbooks.

Twaddle = dumbed down literature; absence of meaning

This list of recommended reading is now included in the new book, A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.

I’ve included direct links to the books on so you can browse the reviews of other readers to get a better idea of which books would be appropriate for your home and/or classroom. Just click on the book’s title for further information. also offers free shipping on orders above a particular amount (usually $25), so if you have several books you’d like to order, it can be just as inexpensive to buy from Amazon as to order through your local bookstore. Plus you get the fun of having books delivered to your door — that’s always big excitement at my house! 🙂


The age designations for this list are only approximate. A child’s listening level will often be several grades higher than their personal reading levelfeel free to choose books from an older list if you’re planning on reading aloud to your children. My husband and I began reading aloud to our children from chapter books (such as Charlotte’s Web) before their third birthdays. Don’t under-estimate your child’s ability to comprehend or listen to fairly advanced material.


Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
The Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The Original Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright
Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, by Jean de Brunhoff
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Kindergarten / Grade 1

Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban
Billy and Blaze, by C.W. Anderson
A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams
Corduroy, by Don Freeman
The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh
Curious George, by H.A. Rey
Frog and Toad All Year, by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
Little Bear, by Else Homelund Minarik
The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper
The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown
Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack

Grade 2

The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit
The Random House Book of Fairy Tales, by Amy Ehrlich
Tikki Tikki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Marjery Williams
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne

Grade 3

Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry
Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat
Paul Bunyan, by Steven Kellogg
Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter
Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, by Clyde Robert Bulla
Story of Dr. Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting
Stuart Little, by E.B. White
Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White

Grade 4

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
King Arthur, by Roger Lancelyn Green
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Lord Fauntleroy, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allen French
The Sword in the Stone, by T.H. White
Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois
Redwall, by Brian Jacques
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Grade 5

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.
Gentle Ben, by Walt Morey
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
Lad: A Dog, by Albert Payson Terhune
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

Grade 6

Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
White Fang, by Jack London
The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Grade 7

Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain
Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Grade 8

Christy, by Catherine Marshall
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
The Divine Comedy, by Dante
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
Emma, by Jane Austen
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis
Paradise Lost, by John Milton
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Grade 9

1984, by George Orwell
The Best of Poe, by Edgar Allen Poe
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway
The Pilgrim’s Regress, by C.S. Lewis
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Grade 10 – 12

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ, by Lew Wallace
The City of God, by Augustine
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Guilliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy + The Hobbit), by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Odyssey, by Homer
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
Silas Marner, by George Eliot
The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee


Click on the book titles to order directly from Amazon.comthe world’s largest on-line bookstore. Many titles are offered at significantly reduced prices from the recommended list price (often at 10 – 30% off).

Many of the listed books also qualify for free shipping (providing that you meet minimum order requirements). With free shipping, the prices can be even less expensive than buying from a local bookstore … but you also have the added convenience of never even leaving the house! I personally get a thrill seeing the UPS driver walking up to my front door with a box full of brand new books.

51BlGAcUHnL(Excerpted and adapted with permission from A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Deborah Taylor-Hough is a long-time homeschooling mother of three (now adult) children, holds a Master of FIne Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics (University of Washington), as well as being a freelance writer and the author of a number of books including the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series and Frugal Living for Dummies.  Visit Debi on Facebook.

NOTE: Stop by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook:-)

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16 responses to “Twaddle-Free Literature by Grade Level

  1. Many of those books are what I consider cold and dry. Anything you read forces you to use Your mind. Those are all just “the classics”. I would never force a kid to read those vs. ‘wimpy kid or Goosebumps or whatever they wanted.

    • I personally believe there’s always room for books “just for fun.” This list is the sort of literature I used with my kids (and they loved it, by the way, and found them deep and entertaining) for “school” reading, but my children were always free to read widely and deeply from whatever interested them during their free time. I found that book series were a great way for kids to start reading independently. And I agree that reading in and of itself is an enrichening activity, but I wanted to make sure my children had the opportunity to feast on the best and much of that includes classic literature. By starting them being read to from great books when they were young, they developed a taste for classic literature (which I believe can be an acquired taste for people not exposed to it). All that to say, I believe that the educational choices in any one family will be, and should be, different from other families. Our children are individuals. We’re individuals. Feel free to do what works with your family. I’m glad I did so with mine. 🙂

    • A favorite expression of mine is “twaddle is in the eye of the beholder.” That’s why I said in the very first sentence of this post that this list is just my idea of twaddle-free reading. I don’t believe the list would look the same in every family. Various tastes and different sensibilities. 🙂

  2. My sons are 6 and 2, and we’ve read many of these fabulous books. 🙂 this is a spectacular list!

    I’m wondering, do you know of any twaddle-free books (both picture and chapter books) that include diverse characters?

    We’ve read picture books by Patricia McKissack, and we’ve read the chapter book, Anna Hibiscus. However, finding diverse lists of twaddle-free books has been difficult for me.

  3. Sorry if this was already address–is this meant to be a listening grade level, or read-on-their-own grade level?

  4. LOVE it! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I would love a copy to print out, esp. if you posted links with the books.
    Thanks so much for your list. :0)

  6. Thanks for this post.
    Is there any way you can make a PDF of this list?

  7. We are working our way through this list, checking out books from the library and then ordering the “keepers”. Thank you!

  8. What a great list!! Thanks so much, passing it along!!

  9. I am not a homeschooling mom, but a frustrated with children’s media mom. 😉 I am the mother of two intelligent boys who read well above their grade level. We struggle to keep them in books that are both challenging and appropriate for them. Thank you for this list. Some good reminders here, for sure.

  10. Thanks for this list. I have several books and resources for twaddle-free literature, but I see different titles on each one I read. I love that! More choices!

  11. Bless you, my daughter will love this list! I see lots of my old friends here, too 🙂

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