What is a classic?

A classic can be defined as something — literature, music, art, movies, even people — that teaches essential principles and truths and can be read, watched, listened to and learned from over and over, year after year. Each time a classic is experienced (read, watched, etc.) new information, principles and concepts can be learned.

“The more you read a story — the same story — the more it works on your mind. Like a beautiful flower bud, the story only opens up, and flowers, with time.” — In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah

Why read classic literature?

Most importantly because they teach timeless principles, values, and truth, they help us learn through story, and through the experiences of the characters — all of which will improve our lives, if applied. Classics do it in such a way that it is relevant, usually enjoyable, and enduring, so you can come back to it again and again.

Because it can be difficult for children to understand original classic literature, the best approach is to familiarize them with the classic stories — abridged and illustrated — so as they grow up and are then introduced to the original work, reading it becomes easier because they’re already familiar with the plot and characters.

Ideally, you could or would read the same classic stories over and over again as your children grow, increasing the difficulty and reading level of the books as you go.

Having plenty of classics around (and all reading levels) is important to introducing your children to classical literature.

Why are stories so important?

For millennia, mankind has known about the power of story — to entertain, to teach, to inspire. People would tell stories, memorize them and pass them down. Then they began to be written down. With written stories and books, people began to forget stories, and their importance, especially in the Western world. We began to see stories as merely entertainment, instead of powerful tools for teaching important lessons.

From author Tahir Shah,

The stories make us what we are.. they teach us about our ancestors, give our children the values they will need — a sense of honor and chivalry, and they teach us what is right and wrong… stories are like a mirror, they reflect society.”

Why reading levels?

Children gain confidence in reading when they are able to easily read a book. Starting with books that have beautiful pictures with few and simple words, and then increasing word count and difficulty as their ability increases is the ideal way to develop a love of reading. There are lots of reading series that do this, but one of my favorite is Usborne Books ‘Reading Program’. (Years ago I used to sell Usborne Books, and that’s how I was introduced to them. I no longer sell the books — I am NOT an Usborne consultant — but I still believe they offer very high quality books, especially classics for children.)

The books are carefully graded and from one level to the next, there is a gradual but clear progression in terms of subject, style, story length, sentence structure and vocabulary. This gives children the satisfaction of mastering real books and making measurable progress.” — Usborne

Usborne has seven reading levels, and many more books than are shown below.

I’ve hand selected the classics from each of the levels that our family has read and love.

Where to Buy?

Depending on where you live in the world, you can purchase Usborne Books at local book stores, or online:



First Reading Level One

Designed to be the first real books a beginner will tackle, with very light support from a parent or teacher. They are 32 pages in length, comprising the main story (up to 150 words) and up to six pages of fun, reading-related puzzles. — Usborne

level one first reader level one fr level 1


Aesop’s Fables, Stories & Mythology

foxstork lion_and_the_mouse elephant trunk anansi-and-the-tug-of-war first-reading-old-macdonald-farm foxcrow wind  anansi-bag-wisdom fr_the_ant_and_the_grasshopper fr1-the-greedy-dog rabbits-tale three_wishes

For reading aloud:

The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables 

King Midas & The Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from Ashanti by Gerald McDermott


First Reading Level Two

Level Two titles stretch the reader a little more than Level One, with more advanced storylines. They are 32 pages in length, comprising character pages or maps, the main story (up to 250 words) and reading-related puzzles. — Usborne

level two fr level two fr level two 2


Brer Rabbit & Clever Rabbit

fr_brer_rabbit_blackberry_bush fr2_brer_rabbit_down_well

lion clever_rabbit_and_the_wolves

For reading aloud:

The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris

Nursery Rhymes

first-reading-one-two-buckle-my-shoe_ fr2-little-miss-muffet


For reading aloud:

Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose by Scott Gustafson

Tales From Around the World

first-reading-stonecutter fr_the_genie_in_the_bottle

fr2-the-roly-poly-rice-ball magic-melon

For reading aloud:

Stories From Around the World by Heather Amery

Stories From Around the World for Little Children by L. Sims


First Reading Level Three

Level Three titles encourage the reader to develop reading stamina. Stories include a strong element of repetition, with repeated language to help the reader gain confidence. — Usborne

level three inside fr level three  fr level three 2


Classic Stories

goose turnip wolf  fr3-tom-thumb chicken licken magic porridge

gingerbread-man red hen noahs-ark pigs golden_goose fish that talked

For reading aloud:

A Treasury of Children’s Literature by Armand Eisen


First Reading Level Four

Level Four titles continue to build readers’ stamina with stories of up to 750 words. The narrative is more developed, there is more text on each page and sentence structure and vocabulary are more descriptive. — Usborne

level four fr level four  fr level four 2


Fairy Tales & Fables

9781409581017-fr4-jack-and-the-beanstalk fr_thumbelina town country mouse first-reading-tin-soldier red riding hood fr4-snow-white

9781409550754-clever-jack-and-the-giants cinderella-first-reading4 the-goose-girl magic-wishbone goldilocks ugly duckling

For reading aloud:

Fairy Tale Treasury by Rosie Dickens

World Folk Tales

the-golden-carpet emporer nightingale dragon painter baba yaga

For reading aloud:

The Kingfisher Treasury of Stories from Around the World by Linda Jennings


Young Reading Series One

Series One titles are for children who have just started reading on their own. They are 48 pages long and typically contain several short stories or one longer story divided into chapters. They use fairly short, simple sentences and everyday vocabulary. — Usborne

young level one   yr level one 2  yr level 1


Legends, Fables & Folk Tales


yr_the_magic_gifts ali baba

sinbad monkey king

yr_minotaur yr1-the-_wooden-_horse

For reading aloud: 

Illustrated Arabian Nights by Anna Milbourne

Fairy Tales

cinderella yr hansel gretel rapunzel rumpelstiltskin emperor new clothes jack beanstalk puss boots snow white sleeping beauty george-and-the-dragon elves-and-the-shoemaker-new frog prince little mermaid nutcracker princess pea runaway-princess-young-reading1 tinder box bill goats

For reading aloud: 

Illustrated Fairy Tales by Sarah Courtauld

Illustrated Hans Christian Andersen by Fran Parreo


Young Reading Series Two

Series Two titles are for children who are reading more confidently. They are 64 pages long and use varied sentence lengths, more complex sentence structure and more challenging vocabulary. — Usborne

young reading level two  yr level two  yr level two 2


Classical Literature

yr-christmas-carol  alice_through_the_looking_glass_cover adventures-robin-_hood midsummer yr-aesops-fables            black-beauty-yr yr_east_sun_west_moon gullivers-travels hamlet-new hercules-worlds-strongest-man yr2-macbeth perseus-and-the-gorgon robinson crusoe spartacus king-arthur-2013_ yr-jason canterville ghost enchantedcastle yr2_firebird magicalbook phantom opera snow queen swan princess yr_twelfth_night treasure island yr2-tempest


Young Reading Series Three

Series Three titles are for fully confident readers who still need to gain the stamina needed for standard length books. They use advanced sentence structure and vocabulary and have more complex plots with subplots. — Usborne

yr level three 2  yr level three yr level three 3


Classical Literature

    yr3_beowulf anne-of-green-gables yr_bleak_house_ yr3-don-quixote frankenstein great expectations jane-eyre journey-centre-earth yr3-kidnapped young-reading-little-dorrit little women moonfleet othello the-odyssey the_prisoner_of_zenda dr-jekyll-mr-hyde war-and-peace yr3-white-fang pride-and-_prejudice adventures-of-huckleberry-finn yr3-count-monte-cristo yr3-wuthering-heights

These are some of our favorite classic books for children. Even while I was creating this post my kids came and said, “Oooh, can we get that one, and that one?

What classic series does your family like?

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December 3, 2015

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