Adding extra books to your homeschool related to the main topics you’re studying is a great way to enrich your children’s education. This simple practice is easy to implement and pays off in allowing your children to learn more about your topics outside of lesson time and instill in them a love of learning.
A common practice in most homeschools is to have a curriculum spine that sets the overall topics and time periods about which we’ll be learning. In our family, we use AmblesideOnline (AO) for this and generally follow the book recommendations listed there for our primary reading with minor changes. These are the books I either read to the kids, or they read on their own, and then they narrate these back to me.
In addition to this, I search for books that supplement whatever timeframes or topics we’re learning about in our various subjects, then add them to our “free reads crate.” These are available at any time for my kids to read on their own, and I don’t require narration (unless one of them ends up in our required reading list, which I talk about more below, or if I use it as a substitution for another book in our spine). In this post, I’m sharing the resources I use to add books to that crate!
These resources include categories of book lists related to different subjects and topics (e.g., history, geography, science, etc.). You will see these repeated often in the categories below. Several of these are online shops, but I often see what titles they have in their book lists and get them from the library to see if they’re something we want to add to our home library.
Beautiful Feet Books (by grade level). Technically they sell curricula, but they also break down each of their products so you can see which books are included. I use the drop-down menu on the main page to look for specific grades and then specific subjects. You can see all the books included on the curriculum product pages if you click on the “Click to View Included Books” button.
Living Book Press (by subject). Though many of the books on this site are scheduled in the AO spine, many others are also worth looking at (especially if you live in Australia!). I like to take advantage of the periodic sales he offers to add more of these to our home library.
Yesterday’s Classics (by genre). I would venture to guess that nearly all of the families that use AO have at least one of these books on their shelves. These are high-quality modern versions of classic books that are excellent supplemental reading. Each genre page also breaks down the age ranges for each book.
Read-Aloud Revival. These are mostly picture books for elementary-age and younger children covering different topics. We used to reserve the books on her monthly book lists from the library, and my kids looked forward to new books every month.
Reshelving Alexandria. This is a database of book recommendations made by homeschoolers for homeschoolers. The filtering can be somewhat challenging, but many good book suggestions can be found in the spreadsheet.
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson. This is a great reference guide for book recommendations with short descriptions on many different subjects.
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. This was the first book of book lists I ever purchased, and I’ve used it for reference ever since my kids were tiny. The lists are broken down by age and include short descriptions of the books.
Generally, for our additional history reads, I like to look for biographies, stories from our timeframe from different perspectives, and fiction books that cover specific events in living ways.
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. This thorough tome includes resource recommendations at the end of every chapter for many different topics, though I generally just stick to her history lists.
These are the resources I use to add diverse perspectives to our history rotation. When I preview these before the school year starts, if any stand out to me that I think would fit in well with our spine, I will include them as required reading that is narrated.
Stories of Color (sorted by age and history cycle). This is essentially a very thorough, incredibly helpful database of books with categories like age/form, history cycle, culture/perspective, and genre, along with a plethora of helpful information about each book. You do have to sign up to see the booklists, but it’s all completely free and includes a wide range of cultures and nations. This is usually one of the first lists I go to when planning a new term.
Heritage Mom. Amber has lists of book recommendations specifically from the Black/African/African-American perspective broken down by age that are very helpful.
Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin. This book offers reading suggestions broken down by region and then by age level. In the past, Jamie has hosted a summer reading book club related to this book, and she also offers a guide for how to use the book in your homeschool.
We use books from these resources for whatever we’re learning about for nature study in a term and to supplement our science topics. They also include suggestions for general science/nature study reference guides that we’ve added to our home library.
Sabbath Mood Homeschool Licing Science Books. Nicole’s excellent living book lists are broken down by subject and then by age and include specific topics as well as science biographies. Some of the books can be challenging to find because they’re older, but I’ve been able to get most of them through interlibrary loan. Archive also has had a few that I’ve been able to preview first and then buy if I think they’re a good fit for us.
Nature Study Hacking Resources. Joy includes recommendations for additional reading and reference in her nature study guides and on her website. In addition to these recommendations, she also has a podcast for kids covering different nature study topics.
Read-Aloud Revival (Nature Study topics broken down by season). These are picture books mainly for younger children.
Nature Study Collective by Jamie Current. This book includes 16 sections covering different nature study topics, and each one also has book recommendations, many of which are available on Archive.
Living Art Book Archive. These are books I have listed on my site for reading to accompany your picture study time.
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson
Though living books often are written as stories and any of the books on any of the lists here could be categorized as literature, below are lists of books that don’t specifically fit into any of the other categories but are still very worth reading.
AmblesideOnline Free Reads. Along with the spine curriculum, each AO year also has a list of free reads that are appropriate for the reading level and/or age of your student. This is usually the first place I look for extra book suggestions. I also like to compare these with the two books mentioned below as sometimes they’ll differ on what age a particular book is appropriate, so I consider that as well. However, we’ve found some of our new favorite family reads through these lists.
Redeemed Reader. Whenever I see a newer book recommended somewhere, I head to this site to search for it. If they have it listed, it usually includes a brief overview, along with the appropriate reading ages, moral/worldview (from a Christian perspective), and artistic values. I also subscribe to their blog to see any new books they review.
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson. This book includes many lists for literature reads broken down by age and genre.
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
I think many living books, by default, offer stories that inspire good character in children. These particular books are either entirely about that or have sections dedicated to character building.
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson.
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. This does not include a section specifically for character-building but does include a book list for nurturing your child’s spiritual life.
Books that Build Character by William Kilpatrick, Gregory Wolfe, and Suzanne M. Wolfe.
How I Use These Lists
Usually, before the school year starts, I create a spreadsheet for each of my children with different tabs related to different aspects of their coming school year. These include a tab for each term, a tab for our book budget, and another tab to keep track of free reads. I include a column for the title, the author, a place to enter when I reserved it from the library, when it was read, and if it was a keeper.
When I find a book either on one of these lists or mentioned somewhere else that I think might be a good fit, I add it to the spreadsheet. Once I get it from the library and read through it, I’ll update the spreadsheet and then put it in the free-reads crate. My kids display their “you know you’re a homeschooler when…” side when they discover new books in the free reads crate as they have been known to run to it to be the first to grab to read the new additions.
Does anyone else out there have any other recommendations for finding books? I love book lists, so please share!
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