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Recommended Reading

    American History     European History     Ancient History     Bible Stories     Legends and Folklore

The Recommended Reading section of the Young Readers curriculum is organized differently from that of the other Heritage Classical Curriculums. Instead of requiring that students read three or four specific books as their core reading assignment, we suggest that students read at least one book from each of the five categories listed below.

The books recommended here represent the some of the most substantial general histories in the Young Readers collection. Most of our books are biographies, legends, or history stories that cover only a single topic and there are no "comprehensive" histories in the entire collection. Nevertheless, we recommend that students read a few of these collections of history stories in order to gain breadth. Additional selections can be made from the complete list of the books on the Books Summaries page.

American History Selections

The American histories listed below cover much of the same material, but each takes a different approach to presenting the major events and characters. We recommend that all students, before graduating from the Young Readers collection, familiarize themselves with at least one of the following books. Great Americans for Little Americans is a short, simplified introduction to famous Americans, Pratt's American History Stories series is the closest we have to a comprehensive American history text, and America First is an especially good choice for family read-aloud.

      Great Americans for Little Americans     by Edward Eggleston

This book is a popular introduction to American history for very young readers. It contains dozens of simply told stories of warriors, statesmen, explorers, scientists, inventors, men and women of letters, and other famous Americans. Featured are Marquette in Iowa, Penn and the Indians, Thomas Smith and the beginning of rice culture in South Carolina, Franklin and the ants, Putnam and the wolf, and dozens of other stories. The collection of sketches features inspirational stories as well as short histories.

      America First     by Lawton Evans

This delightful collection of stories from America's past recounts one hundred interesting and romantic incidents from America's history, and provides character sketches of dozens of early American heroes and heroines. It makes no attempt to relate or explain complicated government issues, and does not provide a chronological or comprehensive account, but instead focuses on stories of great human interest, and reads like a book of fairy tales.

      American History Stories: Vol I-IV     by Mara L. Pratt

This four volume series is a very simple history of the United States from its colonial age to the end of the civil war. It was written for grammar school children and relates American history through short stories, character sketches, poems and songs. The first volume covers the landing of Columbus through the French and Indian Wars. The second relates the Revolutionary War period in detail. The third covers the time from the end of the Revolutionary War to the middle of the 19th century, and the fourth focuses on the years before, during, and after the civil war.

European History Selections

Within the Heritage History online library, the field of European history is broken up into several divisions—Britain, Spain, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe—since each of these regions have distinctive cultures. As far as Young Readers are concerned, however, these cultures can all be considered as one European Civilization. European History is too complicated to summarize in a meaningful way for young readers, but the following books provide anecdotes from history that introduce some of the leading characters of Europe.

      Old Time Tales     by Lawton Evans

This collection of over forty stories and legends from history are related by a master-story teller. They are perfect for reading individually, or aloud to younger children. Most of the stories are from European History and include both legends and folklore, and history stories. Well known stories, such as William Tell, Joan of Arc, and the death of Roland are told as well as lesser known classics such as "The Mouse Tower", "Dmitri the Pretender", and "Berth of the Big Foot".

      Stories from English History     by Hilda Skae

This book recounts six stories from English history, beginning with that of the Celtic hero Caradoc, and ending with Sir Francis Drake. Other tales include the story of Augustine of Kent and the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings, King John and the murder of his rival Prince Arthur, and the story of the Black Prince at Crecy and Poitiers.

      Stories from French History     by Lena Dalkeith

This beautifully illustrated book tells seven of the most picturesque stories from the History of France. They include the story of Clovis and his Queen Clotilda, Charlemagne, Saint Louis, the Crusader, Joan of Arc, the Huguenots and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Another approach to European history that sometimes appeals to young people is to read folklore and adapted literature. Most of the books in the Legends and Adapted Literature categories are European in origin. The Little Cousin from Long Ago and Twins of the World Series also feature historical fiction that introduces young students to various European cultures.

Ancient History Selections

Once Young Readers are ready to learn "real" comprehensive history, the Heritage program recommends that they begin by studying Ancient Greece and Roman History. There are a variety of reasons that Ancient history is especially attractive to younger students. It is not surprising therefore, that several of the following books are also recommended as "beginner" core books in the Ancient Greece Classical Curriculum.

      Stories from Greek History     by Ethelwyn Lemon

In this short, but beautifully told book, only six of the many inspiring stories from Geek History could be told. They include the story of Solon, the law-giver of Athens, Themistocles and the battle of Salamis, Pelopidas and Epaminondas and the Boeotian Wars, Timoleon and the liberation of Sicily, Demosthenes, the orator of Athens, and Alexander the Great.

      Stories from Roman History     by Lena Dalkeith

This short book tells stories of several of the most famous characters of Roman History. Included are Heroes of the early republic: Horatius and Coriolanus; Heroes of the Punic and Macedonian Wars: Hannibal, Fabius Maximus, Paulus Amelius, and Scipio Africanus; and leading men of the Late republic: the Gracchi, Pompey, Julius Caesar. Each story is told in simple terms but engaging terms.

      Stories from the Iliad     by Jeanie Lang

This short version of Homer’s Iliad is part of the Told to the Children series. It is very short, very well written, and recounted in a suitable manner for younger children. The action begins with the story of Helen and Paris and ends with the death of Hector. The story of the Trojan horse and the fall of Troy is not included.

      Aesop's Fables     by Milo Winter

This beautifully illustrated version of Aesop's fables is one of the most popular renditions of Aesop’s Fables ever published. It is just as delightful for adults and older children as it is for beginning readers, and like much of the other literature that descends to us from Ancient Greece, reminds us of the sophisticated wisdom of the classical sages.

An alternative to introducing younger students to Ancient History is to focus on Greek Mythology and historical fiction. The Ancient Greece Compact Library includes a good selection of mythology that is appropriate for young readers. The folklore of Ancient Greece is of outstanding interest to youngsters and is often better appreciated by younger children than by preoccupied teenagers.

Bible and Saint Stories

The stories of the Bible, simplified for children, are perfectly suited to young readers. Many Biblical characters are icons of western civilization who symbolize universal virtues, vices and moral difficulties. The essential morals of the stories are well understood even by grammar school students. The early years are a perfect time to focus on Biblical history so students will have a clear idea of Christian values before they embark on a serious, comprehensive study of world history.

      The Nursery Book of Bible Stories     by Amy Steedman

This beautifully illustrated book retells many of the most famous stories from the bible, especially those most appealing to youngsters. It includes twenty-four stories from the Old Testament and twelve stories from the New Testament, each told in the manner of a children’s tale. The pictures that accompany these Bible stories are outstanding.

      Heroes of Israel     by Lawton Evans

This collection of ninety Bible stories cover the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Nehemiah, and was authored by a master story teller. It recounts the stories from the Bible most suitable for youngsters in beautiful prose. The illustrations are few, but of extraordinary quality.

      God's Troubadour     by Sophie Jewett

This story relates how a gay, courtly young soldier, who grew up amid wealth and privilege became a knight of Jesus Christ. After he had a vision went on a pilgrimage he gave up earthly ambitions and vowed devotion to Lady Poverty. He founded the Franciscan order of monks and proved himself a 'little brother' to all men, and a friend even to the birds and beasts. It is a charming tale and a Christian classic.

Like the stories of the Bible, the stories of saints tell clearly how God continues to work in the lives of his people. Some saints, like Joan of Arc and St. Patrick, are important as national heroes as well as Christian heroes, while others are known primarily for their Christian virtues. The stories of a few saints, such as St. George and St. Christopher, are more legend than fact. In all cases, however, the life stories of Christian heroes are a testament to the role of faith and the spiritual reality of human existence.

Legends and Folklore

Most youngsters need little encouragement to legends. A legend is simply a popular children’s story that has been told so many times over the ages that it takes on a life of its own. Many famous children’s legends have some shadowy connection to real historical characters and others are rooted in primitive religious stories. In either case, legendary characters are a staple of regional folklore and helpful in understanding the character and ideals of civilizations.

      Stories of Robin Hood Told to the Children     by H. E. Marshall

This lively retelling of the Stories of Robin Hood chronicles the events of the time in which Robin Hood lived, while the heroic Richard the Lion-hearted was absent from England and the kingdom was under the rule of his devious brother. The story recounts how and why he came to live in the Greenwood, and the adventures he had there with Little John, Maid Marian, and the Sheriff of Nottingham in a manner attractive to youngsters.

      Stories of Siegfried Told to the Children     by Mary Macgregor

Siegfried is the central character of a legend that is based on the Nibelung, an old German poem. The epic is filled with of strange adventures of tiny dwarves and stalwart mortals. In this retelling, Siegfried wins the accursed Rhineland treasure, takes Kriemhild as bride, and comes to an untimely end, passing the curse of the Rhinegold on to his enemies.

      Stories of Roland Told to the Children     by H. E. Marshall

Roland was the nephew of Charlemagne and the most famous of his knights. The stories from this book tell of incidents near the end of the hero’s life, as told by the Epic poem, the Song of Roland. The story recounts the incidents at the Battle of Roncesvalles in which Oliver and Roland were killed. It also tells of the treachery of Ganelon, Charlemagne’s ultimate revenge, and the death of the traitor.

The Young Readers library includes several volumes of "Adapted Literature" as well as legends. In each case the author has rendered a classic from literature in simple enough terms to be enjoyed by a young reader. There isn’t necessarily a clear distinction between legends, folklore, and adapted literature since ancient folklore has often made its way into classical literature and visa versa.

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