Early on in our family we had the opportunity to think about what we wanted our children to be really good at. We knew that a rigorous learning program could have them reading at age 3, and if applied continuously could produce children who would be very intelligent. We knew that an early start in sports, dance or gymnastics, coupled with intense effort and time could allow our kids to become truly great at physical activities. If we invested the time and energy we could have children who were very capable at a number of musical instruments- we could have our own family orchestra! As we pondered on the possibilities we realized that we needed to decide what we really wanted them to BE. We didn't really care if they grew up to be the richest, fastest, or most talented. We wanted them to grow up to be good mothers and fathers, good husbands and wives, to create their own happy families. (Of course we encourage them in school, sports, and music too, just not as the TOP priority, you get that, right?)
With that as our perspective we changed some things in our family. We are more deliberate about being home and being together. We work harder to be sure that our children will learn important home building skills like cooking, cleaning, budgeting, sharing and working together. We have fun together- we want our children to know that our family is a source of great joy and happiness. We involve them in our joyful preparations for each new baby that comes to our home. We talk about our family with love and respect, not complaint.
Julie Beck gave an amazing talk about Teaching the Doctrine of the Family. It is a powerful reminder about God's plan for us, and for families! One of the things that really struck me was this quote:
Many of our youth are losing confidence in the institution of families. They’re placing more and more value on education and less and less importance on forming an eternal family.
I want my children to know what good families look like, what they do, how they speak to each other, how they look out for each other. First, I want them to know this from living in our home. Second, from being around other happy families. And third, from reading about good families. Here are some of my favorite books that exemplify happy family relationships (you can click on the titles to read the reviews at Amazon):
The Berenstain Bears The bears live in a family and work together to solve some of the problems that come up in families: fighting, bad manners, messy rooms, etc.
Digger Man Story about a big brother who wants to buy a digger (tractor) so he can build a park for his little brother.
The Relatives Came A tale about the joys of extended family.
All the Places to Love A sweet story about family life in the country and the birth of a new baby. I dare you not to cry.
Love You Forever My mom always cried when she read this one... now I get it. Sweet story about the love between a mother and child.
Just in Case You Ever Wonder A gentle book to read when snuggling, also available as a board book.
No More Kissing Tired of all the kisses, especially for the baby, big brother takes over and ends up loving on the baby too.
I Love You Stinky Face A quirky reminder of how much a mother loves her child.
Christmas in Noisy Village About Christmas as a family in the small community of Noisy Village.
You're All My Favorites Sweetly illustrating that parents love all of their children the same.
Read-Alouds for the Young Child
The Boxcar Children (Book 1) A story that shows children working together and looking out for each other (there is no mom or dad in the story, but the sibling interactions are wonderful).
The Children of Noisy Village A charming story about the everyday life of six children living on the three neighboring farms that are affectionately known as "Noisy Village" because of the high spirits of the children.
Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories of a little girl, her family, and the challenges she meets. Fun bedtime stories.
Happy Little Family Being little is hard. Being the youngest of five children is especially challenging. This book is the first of a series of books about the Fairchild Family.
Little Bear Series An early reader, or a good read aloud- about Little Bear, his family and friends.
Henry and Mudge Series While the boy and his dog take center stage, mom and dad are still a really important part of the books. Would be good as an early reader or a read aloud.
Books for the Elementary School Reader
The Magic Tree House Series Good examples of a brother and sister interacting with each other and working together. Lots of books in the series.
The Boxcar Children Mysteries The Alden children and their grandfather work together to solve the mysteries that they come across. They work together, listen to each other, look out for each other and extend kindness to those they meet. Great examples of sibling relationships.
All-Of-A-Kind Family A story of a Jewish family with 5 girls who live in New York in the early 1900's. This is the first of the series of books about this family and how they work together to meet their challenges.
Little House on the Prairie Detailing the life and challenges of living as a family together on the frontier of a growing country. There are some simplified chapter books available for younger readers, and some picture books available for the youngest listener.
Farmer Boy Written by the same author as Little House on the Prairie, but the main character in this family is a boy.
Caddie Woodlawn Similar in genre to the Little House books. Caddie Woodlawn was a fun and adventurous girl whose mother fretted that she'd never be a lady.
Trolley Car Family A story about a family who move together to the country to live in a trolley car after their dad loses his job (the city is upgrading to buses, from trolley cars- which he used to drive). The story follows their adventures and the challenge of finding a way to make this new life style work.
The Great Brain Series Especially fun for boys, tells the stories of a boy whose "great brain" gets him into, and out of, a lot of trouble. Sometimes the trouble spills over to his family.
The Swiss Family Robinson There are several translations available. An adventurous tale of a family that faces their considerable challenges with optimism and courage.
The American Twins of the Revolution (and others in the series) These books were originally published in the early 1900's. They have books about twins, one boy and one girl about the age of 5 and show what their lives would have been like in different countries at different times. Good focus on family. Lots of books in the series. Some of the ideas about women are a little dated as the books are very old.
Books for Youth Age 12+ (and adults, too)
Mama's Bank Account An incredible book about an immigrant family and their love for each other as they face the challenges of life. Every mom should read this one!
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers Another amazing book about a young man in a family that has moved west to start a ranch only to discover that the work is much harder than they anticipated. A beautiful book with great lessons about honesty, integrity and hard work. The ending is heartbreaking. There are other books after this one, but I haven't read them.
Laddie: A True Blue Story A book with a challenging vocabulary. Hands down one of the greatest examples of family values I have ever read. This is another book I think that every mom should read!
Little Women Heart warming and heart breaking stories of the March family.
Trapp Family Singers The stories and experiences of the Trapp family from "The Sound of Music".
Shiloh Autumn An inspiring story of two families struggling during the Great Depression.
The Work and the Glory Series These stories of the Mormon pioneers span families and show in detail the love and faith and forgiveness that exist in successful families.
The Education of Little Tree I hesitate to add this, because the boy in the story lives with his grandparents after his parents have died, but his grandparents make such a happy home for him that I think it belongs here.
Through My Eyes The biography of Tim Tebow. Fun for sports fans, and Tim Tebow talks a lot about the characteristics and the influence of his own good family.
Papa Married a Mormon Papa is Catholic, and Mama is Mormon and together they build a happy family based on love, respect, faith and forgiveness.
In My Father's House Written by Corrie Ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place) telling about the home and family that she was raised in and how their love and faith shaped her future choices.
I remember my mom reading The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners at Family Home Evening and thinking that those bears were on to something when they decided to be over-kind to each other. I decided what kind of wife I wanted to be as I read about Lydia who married Nathan Steed and worked hard next to him in The Work and the Glory series. I am a better mother because of Carolyn Ingalls, and the wonderful mama from Mama's Bank Account who went without buying a new coat to get her daughter the school books she needed. These books helped me to see the beauty and joy in family life, and reading them will be a way for our children to see and understand the value of family.
I'd love suggestions! Not just for good books (although, that too), but for books that really exemplify happy family life!