Secular Homeschool Recommended Book List

Secular Homeschool Reading and Book List

Secular Homeschool Reading & Book ListOn any given day you will find multiple conversations focused on books in our online community. Rich discussions of authors and subject matter, innovative ideas for related lessons, and always a plethora of recommendations for more books. Reading back through hundreds of threads in various SEA Homeschoolers Facebook groups these 25 books have been recommended time and time again. Having read nearly every book on this list I can certainly understand why. This book list is secular homeschool approved.

Secular Homeschool Reading & Book List

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall – A funny, insightful, and colorful story about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty – Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer in this book that celebrates creativity and perseverance.

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Johnathan Tweet – Told in an engaging call and response text this book takes children and adults through the history of life on our planet and explains how we are all connected.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – Somewhere between fairy tale and fable is the tale of a China rabbit named Edward, transformed by the lives he touches as he learns about love, loss and consequences.

Matilda by Roald Dahl – A brilliant, but lonely girl with special powers and neglectful parents finds courage and friendship while facing off against surprising characters from her daily life.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters – The roots of our family tree reach back millions of years to the beginning of life on earth. In this family album you’ll meet some of our oldest relatives–from both the land and the sea–and discover what we inherited from each of them along the many steps of our wondrous past.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this unforgettable illustrated novel told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself is a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen – An ecological mystery made up of endangered miniature owls, Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House scheduled to be built over their burrows, and the owls’ unlikely allies–three middle school kids determined to beat the system.

Holes by Louis Sachar – Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. Now he has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and humorous tale of crime, punishment, and redemption.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – This epic trilogy tells the story of Lyra and Will, two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds. They will meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul-eating specters. And in the end, the fate of both the living and the dead will rely on them. Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes–if it isn’t destroyed first.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – August was born with a facial difference that had prevented him from going to school. Starting 5th grade he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid, but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. What follows is a powerful story of a community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – This exciting series follows the demigod son of Poseidon and his friends on a quest that will have them meeting gods, battling monsters, and taking on the Titans from Greek mythology.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – Jacqueline Woodson, the acclaimed author of Another Brooklyn, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. In vivid poems she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – This story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – This 4 book series follows 15 year old Eragon who believes that he is merely a poor farm boy, until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save or destroy the Empire.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it takes readers to the roots of human behavior, to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Imagine a school in a castle filled with moving staircases, a sport played on flying broomsticks, an evil wizard intent on domination, remarkable friends, limitless secrets and surprises, and an ordinary boy who’s the hero of a whole world he doesn’t even yet know. This is the story that comes to life in this marvelous series as each of the seven books chronicles one year in Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – In Nazi Germany, 1939, the country is holding its breath. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett – Armed with only a frying pan and her common sense, young witch-to-be Tiffany Aching must defend her home against the monsters of Fairyland. Luckily she has some very unusual help: the local Nac Mac Feegle–aka the Wee Free Men–a clan of fierce, sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – Inspired by the author’s childhood experience as a refugee, fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama. This coming-of-age novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

1984 by George Orwell – The year 1984 has come and gone, but Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. A startlingly original and haunting modern classic of “negative utopia” that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – The story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, he leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art. This powerful tale based on the author’s own experiences chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – A masterwork of twentieth century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. In a world where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. Their job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. When a fireman meets an eccentric young neighbor who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, then she suddenly disappears…he begins to question everything he has ever known.

Animal Farm by George Orwell – As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals, and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, a razor-edged fairy tale that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.


More articles about secular homeschool & reading

Reading Comprehension Activities
The Importance of Reading Aloud
Building the Habit of Reading Aloud

Secular Homeschool Reading & Book List

The Importance of Reading Aloud

The Importance of Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to your children is so important. I cannot stress that enough. It may be one of the most important things you do for them, educationally speaking. Most parents can find the time to read a picture book or two with their infants and toddlers, but once a child learns to read, that snuggly read aloud time usually ends. But, I think it’s actually more important to continue that read aloud time, well into their school years. 

But my child is fully capable of reading their own books. Why should I read aloud to him?

There are a number of reasons, but I’ll list my top 5 (plus one):

5. Reading aloud creates a family bond, especially if there are siblings listening as well. Your children will fondly look back on their memories of listening to you read aloud, giggle over how you did “all the voices,” and fondly recall favorites stories heard at your knee. Just because a book is considered “children’s” literature, doesn’t mean it’s childish. Many of my favorite books are written for children! A good story is a good story, and you may find that you enjoy many great books just as much as your children (if not more!). Some of my favorite memories are of reading aloud to my children.  Getting to share my favorite stories with them means I get to enjoy those books in a whole new way. I get to see their excitement when Harry learns that he is a wizard, laugh with them at the ridiculousness of Gandalf trying to sneak a dozen dwarves into Beorn’s hall, and cry with them when Wilbur loses his best friend. We can have big, juicy discussions about the unfairness of death, the realities or racism, and how media affects our lives all while snuggled together on the couch enjoying a good story.

4. Reading aloud will help to stimulate their imagination. When you read aloud, you don’t have to choose books at any particular reading level. When your daughter is still just getting comfortable with easy chapter books, you can also read aloud books far above her level. You can expose them to fantasy worlds full of talking animals, knights and battles, distant countries… the literary world is open to you! Literature is peopled with characters that your children will want to emulate and filled with places they’ll want to pretend. Poetry will fill their minds with beautiful language and spark their own creativity with words and stories. Reading fairy tales and mythology with show them how stories have evolved over time, and give them the cultural background to understanding many of the novels they will read over their lifetime.

3. Literature will expose them to difficult ideas and situations in a safe way. Life is full of hard truths, and what better way to learn of them than from a beautifully written story read to them by someone they love and trust? Charlotte’s Web shows that sometimes, a beloved friend dies, not from any terrible illness or violent act, but simply because it’s part of life. Literature will also build empathy – they’ll put themselves in the characters place, wondering how they would react in the same situation. Our world desperately needs more empathetic people. So read to your children widely, about people who live far differently from them so that they can grow into compassionate and empathetic adults who will change the world.

2. Reading aloud to your children can increase their vocabulary. Again, because you aren’t limited to choosing books within their reading level, you can expose them to a world of beautiful language. This will also help build their thinking skills – rather than interrupt the story to ask about a particular word, they’ll be more apt to use context clues to try and figure it out themselves. When you read good books together, you no longer need a separate vocabulary curriculum. If you want to go deeper, you can choose a word or two from a book every day, or just pepper your normal conversations with those words that you want them to pick up. The more they hear, the richer their vocabulary will become.

1. Reading to your children, daily, starting when they are very young, will build their attention span. A child who’s been read to his whole life will be able to concentrate and pay attention to something for far longer than a child who spends all of his time playing video games or watching television.

I want to share some of my family’s favorite read alouds:

The Importance of Reading Aloud - Secular Homeschooling @ SEA HomeschoolersWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Watership Down by Richard Adams

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

But most importantly – reading to your children will give them a love of literature.  I mourn for the children who grow up thinking Winnie the Pooh is just a brightly colored cartoon character and never get to meet Charlotte and Wilbur, Sara Crewe, Charlie Bucket and Tom Sawyer. Reading aloud will give them a respect for the written word, introduce them to the wide world and the great conversation and build their cultural literacy. It will give them a legacy of great literature to pass on to their own children.

Read more articles about secular homeschooling

Check Out these Great Children’s Books at SEA Books & More.
Five Reading Comprehension Activities
Vetting Secular Science Curriculum
Choosing a Service Project for Secular Homeschooling Families


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschooling curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been a secular homeschooling parent of four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

The Importance of Reading Aloud - Secular Homeschooling @ SEA Homeschoolers

Building the Habit of Reading Aloud

Building the Habit of Reading Aloudbuildingthehabitofreadingaloud
As a homeschooling parent, there are many things you do to make sure your child is getting the best possible education. You can research curriculum, create the perfect learning space, and search out great learning opportunities in your community. But often, reading aloud to your child slips off the to-do list. Maybe you think that once they can read to themselves, reading aloud is irrelevant. Or maybe, life just takes over and you can’t seem to find a way to schedule it in to your day. But reading aloud is one of the most important things you can do for your children – whether they are 2 or 12.


There are numerous benefits to reading aloud to your school age children. It creates an important family bond as you share favorite books together, it inspires your child’s imagination, and it builds their vocabulary as well as sense of empathy. When you read aloud to your school age child, you can choose books at a much higher reading level to share with them. Your 4th grader might not be ready for the challenge of a book like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg by themselves, but you can read it aloud to them, and simultaneously tackle the issue of running away from home with learning about renaissance era artwork and Michelangelo. When you read a book aloud, you turn a solitary activity into a fun family activity.

If you have a reluctant reader, you can find books that you know would appeal to them, even if they aren’t able to read them on their own. My twins were late readers, one more than the other, and they will often lament that they dislike reading. The act itself feels boring to them. But I can’t tell you the number of books they will list as favorites because we read them together. They love to quote favorite stories and create art based on beloved books like The Hobbit and Watership Down. Both of those books would have seemed overwhelming if I had just handed them off to be read independently. But as a shared experience, they became instant favorites, to be reminisced about and quoted.

I find reading aloud to my children a fantastic way to teach them difficult life lessons. Dealing with a death in the family? Read aloud Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson. Bullying? Read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. Want to start a dialogue about racism? Read Darby by Jonathon Scott Fuqua or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I find it’s easier for my children to grapple with difficult subject matter, like death, war, racism, and the general unfairness of life, when they can pin that subject to a well written story. Somehow, these topics become less scary when they can be found within a story read aloud to them by a person they love and trust.

Well-read children become well-read adults. They are more likely to be highly educated, good writers and great communicators. They will be more likely to pick up a book as an adult, rather than flip on the television or play on their smart phone or tablet. This next generation of children growing up in a time of amazing technology are quickly becoming addicted to screens. Reading aloud to them now is a great way to counteract all the technological “noise” and give them time to develop their imaginations away from screens.
Our lives are busy. We’re constantly running our children from activity to activity, trying to schedule our days to fit in all the lessons and projects and activities. Then we have to squeeze in time to clean the house and prepare meals. Read aloud to my 10 year old? Who has time for that!? I get it. I really do, but when something is important, we shift things around and make room for it. If you can fit in math lessons, then you can fit in time for a read aloud session. Another benefit – reading aloud with your child is a relaxing, soothing activity. It becomes a time to look forward to at the end of a harried day. Who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up with someone they love and hearing a rollicking good story?

But how do you fit reading aloud into your already busy day? First – look at your routine. I bet you have the space to fit reading aloud, even if you don’t realize it. Long ago, in the early days of my homeschool journey, I read about the idea of pegs – pegging things that you want to make happen onto events that always happen. For example – you’re going to eat meals together at least twice a day, every day. So peg a reading session to a meal – poetry with breakfast, or history at lunch. You could peg your current read aloud novel to bedtime. It doesn’t have to be one huge chunk of reading – if you tried that you would likely go hoarse! Breaking it up over the course of the day not only makes it more doable, it keeps everyone’s mind fresh. It’s difficult, especially for boys – I’ve found, to sit still and stay focused for more than 20 – 30 minutes. They start to fidget, their minds wander and before you know it, they haven’t heard a single word you’ve said. Spreading out your readings ensures that they are able to focus on their lessons.

What if you have little ones in the mix? This adds a level of difficulty, but reading aloud is still doable! When my youngest was a baby/toddler, I made sure that she took at least one good nap. This is where we squeezed in all our reading aloud. When she stopped napping, I would give her some special quiet time toys – crayons and a new coloring book, Playdoh, or some other special toy that only came out during reading time. It wasn’t perfect, and she often still interrupted the story, but we still made it work. I was often amazed at the things she absorbed, even if the story was WAY over her head. And of course, she also got her own special story time, with stacks of beautiful picture books at her level.

Reading aloud is a powerful gift we can give to our children. We are showing them that books are important, and we’re leading them into the Great Conversation. We’re giving them the gift of a literary childhood, one filled with a memorable cast of heroes and villains, fantastical creatures, and historical figures brought back to life. We’re showing them that books are powerful tools, worthy of their time and attention. What could be more important than that?

Check out our post on visiting dinosaur national monument here.

541489_10201946477719418_1965114942_nEmily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-8 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 13 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest