Inspired: A Simple Living Booklist for Children

I can trace my love and interest in a simpler way of life back to one fateful episode of Reading Rainbow.  On that day they showcased the book “The Oxcart Man” and I was smitten.  Fully engrossed in the idea that things were once, and still could be, done by hand – that there was more to life than having most video games or the biggest car.  That book fully ingrained in my head that Spring and Summer were for being out side and watching the world grow and that Fall and Winter were for staying indoors and creating, preferably sitting comfortably between a spinning wheel and a crackling fireplace.

I’ve got the fireplace and the promise of a spinning wheel.

Books stay with you longer than you might realize – one day you might crack open an old classic and realize that what you do and how you live started with those exact pages 20 or 30 years ago.

These are a list of personal favorites and high recommended books that have inspired myself and others in the various facets of simple living during childhood.  They range from books about colonial and pioneer days to simple lessons about sharing and giving back and everything in between.

Everyone’s Simple Living journey is different – one person might plant a garden and another might buy a CSA.  Another might try to do with out as much as possible and her neighbor might stay up long nights in order to choose the best companies and products on which to spend his money.  It is as much about becoming aware of how our lives affect others as it is about remembering to sit on the porch and listen to the cicadas at night.

I encourage every parent, educator, aunt, uncle and babysitter who opens a child’s world with these books to be encouraging in the ideas that may creep into their minds.  Show them how to make a loaf of bread, knit a scarf, take a walk or ride a bike, visit historical museums or talk to those who may still remember “the good ol’ days”.

My Personal Favorites:

Anne of Green Gables

The Little House Collection

The Borrowers

Ox-Cart Man

Blueberries for Sal

The Little House

The Year At Maple Hill Farm

Little Women

The Giving Tree

Additional Reading – A few more personal favorites and some amazing recommendations from friends –
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Heidiby Johanna Spyri

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

The Redwall Seriesby Brian Jacques

The Giver by Lois Lowery

Charlotte’s Webby E.B. White
All in a Dayby Nikki McClure
and so many more!!!
Keep an eye on my “Simple Living Books for Kids Pinterest Board” for more ideas!
What are you favorite books from childhood that kindled an interested a simpler way of life?  
Anything counts from books about the old’n days to  the book that made you want to start recycling, learn a new craft or just remember to stop and enjoy the world around you!
*I’d love to add some titles for older children about consumer/financial awareness and social justice in addition to anything else you might think of*

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25 thoughts on “Inspired: A Simple Living Booklist for Children

  1. We bought Sasha “Where the Sidewalk Ends” for her kindergarten graduation. Each night we have been reading a few poems before bed, I find myself turning the page and saying oh we *have* to read this one this one was my favorite. Pretty soon we have read WAY more than a few poems and it is 20 minutes past bed time 😉 I LOVE sharing my love of literature with my children. It is so fun seeing them choose the same poems as favorites as I did. We have read “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” almost every day.

    I love “Island of Blue Dolphins” other favorites included “The Boxcar Children” and the Indian in the Cupboard series.

    The girls ages 6 & 4 are finally patient enough for chapter books; we are nearly done with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The Children's Museum has a Wizard of Oz themed exhibit this summer that we will visit after the book is finished. They were so excited to hear the wizard was from Omaha 🙂


  2. Sorry — I meant to say a lot more than that, but the babe suddenly needed my attention VERY URGENTLY.

    I love this idea of teaching values and lifestyle through literature and play. You're so right — books stay with you much longer than you might think. I only read Something From Nothing as an adult, and only once, but its message has stuck with me.

    Again, love this idea!

    (PS – any chance you could/would lose the capcha thing for leaving comments? It's kind of a drag to have to type in a string of random letters before leaving a comment).


  3. I didn't even know I had the capcha thing on. I think I fixed it, let me know if it still shows up.

    One thing I still love about “Something from Nothing” is that it shows a close nuclear family helping each other (it's not in the story proper, but in the illustration) you see the grandparents helping to take care of the grandchildren, etc. I find it a great reminder that there are great benefits to raising children as part of a bigger family unit!


  4. Glad to have found your lovely blog.
    As A small child I loved the “Milly Molly Mandy” books by Joyce Lancaster Brisley. I lived in a city,but at the age of 6 or 7 the simple life in a country village with grandma and grandpa living in the next cottage, was to me a wonderful way to live. I still don't live in a country cottage, but I live a simple frugal life, growing a lot of my own food in my garden and find it a challenge and very satisfying. I am sure that those books planted a seed in my consciousness. I look forward to following your blog. Now I will read all your old posts.
    Margaret (England)


  5. I loved, loved, loved Reading Rainbow. I pretty sure I remember that episode of the Oxcart man. My mom was a first grade teacher, so she had them all on tape. I also loved many of the other books on your list, including Blueberries for Sal. I really loved the Hunky-Dory Dairy. It sounds pretty cheesy, but is was one my favorites as a kid…


  6. Wow, I read most of those books as a kid! I read your comment that “one day you might crack open an old classic and realize that what you do and how you live started with those exact pages 20 or 30 years ago” and thought, hmmm, I don't think that's true for me. But then I realized that I've read (and treasured) most of these books. Perhaps they began shaping me even as a kid to be the one my family affectionately referred to as their “tree-hugger” and to pursue a simpler life. Thanks for the insight – and the great list!


  7. This is a great list, thanks for sharing! And thanks for linking up to Your Green Resource! I'm going to feature your post this week, because I like it so much, can you be sure to link back to one of the hostesses of YGR next time when you link up, please? Thanks so much!


  8. I really had this “aha” moment a few months ago when I checked out “The Ox-Cart Man” to read to my son. I hadn't opened the book for years and when I did it was like magic, it all just fell into place!


  9. The Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright are favorites of mine that I've read to my son over and over again, and he's only 7! They were written in the 1940s and depict children's rich lives without television or a lot of consumer goods. The first book, The Saturdays, has the siblings pooling their allowances to buy priceless experiences in New York City. In the second book they move to the country and discover all kinds of simple fun there. I reviewed these books in more detail in my list of great chapter books for kids.

    I like your list! Blueberries for Sal is one of my favorite books ever. I haven't read some of these, though–thanks for the suggestions.


  10. I have a few suggestions, if you are interested. I know I'm a bit late to the party here.
    First of course is a A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor.
    Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.
    Gnomes! The original gnomes book. I was enchanted
    A Farm, featuring paintings by Carl Larson and text by Lennart Rudstrom
    Crinkleroot's Guide to Walking in Wild Places
    but the most important one is A Time to Keep, which you will love, if you have never seen it.


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