Family reading time is a great and honorable tradition among rural families. There is nothing quite like gathering the children around the heat of the wood stove to spend quality time reading books and stories that both entertain and help instill our agrarian values. I’m often asked by parents for book ideas that meet these requirements. Here is a short list of some of favorites. (Click on cover photos for the Amazon listing)
This delightful little book captures the essence and beauty of agrarian family economy. It follows a traditional New England farm family as they produce for their needs and then at the end of the year sell their surplus at a market. From the Amazon description…
“Thus begins a lyrical journey through the days and weeks, the months, and the changing seasons in the life of one New Englander and his family. The oxcart man packs his goods – the wool from his sheep, the shawl his wife made, the mittens his daughter knitted, and the linen they wove. He packs the birch brooms his son carved, and even a bag of goose feathers from the barnyard geese.
He travels over hills, through valleys, by streams, past farms and villages. At Portsmouth Market he sells his goods, one by one – even his beloved ox. Then, with his pockets full of coins, he wanders through the market, buying provisions for his family, and returns to his home. And the cycle begins again.”
In 1805 Noah Blake’s parents gave him a leather bound journal for his 15th birthday. Eric Sloane took the diary entries and expanded on the details of 19th century farm life in the north east. It includes information on making nails, building a bridge, splitting shingles, spring plowing, making maple sugar and more. A wonderful look at life on a backwoods farmstead.
Scratching The Woodchuck
David Kline is an organic dairy farmer from Ohio. This little collection of stories and observations from his daily life on the land is priceless. Kline’s observant nature, attention to detail, and passion for husbandry are second to none. Every family should own a copy of this gem!
This book was always a big hit with my children. Amanzo Wilder is a 9 year old farm boy living in northern New York state. A vivid tale that captures the work, joy, and magic of growing up on a small north country farm. Plenty of life lessons hidden within that spur worthwhile conversation and discussion. Our family has had the pleasure of actually visiting the old Wilder homestead and were able to literally stand in the very spot that some of our favorite parts of the book took place.
Eric Sloane’s Weather Book
The agrarian life is tied close to the weather. Our livelihoods depend on it, our conversations revolve around it, and our eyes are often skyward. Eric Sloane’s “Weather Book” is a fascinating introduction to understanding weather patterns, identifying cloud types, and understanding both the science and folklore surrounding weather. My older children have really enjoyed this book and quote it often.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
James Herriot’s classic tales of an vet in rural England. These are such wonderful, detailed, and touching stories. Many stories about farm dogs, kittens, pigs, cattle and horses. My daughters absolutely loved these stories. The illustrations are beautiful.
Seasons Of America Past
One of my prized possessions is an autographed hard cover edition of this book. Eric Sloane documents early American life in a season by season format. He starts with spring, noting the traditional agrarian new year started on March 25th. This book is just full of information on our early American customs, culture and farming practices. It is so good that every year, at the beginning of each month, I read passages out of it on my podcast.
Once Upon a Time, The Way America Was
This one is another family favorite. Nice short chapters that can hold the attention of the little ones.From the description…
“The America Sloane loved was rooted in the simple virtues of our native soil: love of freedom, respect for the individual, sensible frugality, and determined self-reliance — all of which went to make up what Sloane perceived as our true American heritage.”
“Nowhere is this heritage more amply portrayed than in the work and ways of the early Americans in our pioneer days. In this book you will listen to Sloane’s talk of home and hearth, farm and field, and see all manner of tooks, utensils, buildings and rural scenes rendered in his finely detailed and lively drawings.”
The Redwall series of books are one of the best kept secrets in fiction. I challenge anyone to read the first one and not order several more! The story revolves around the community of woodland creatures who live a peaceful agrarian existence in Redwall Abby. One day their way of life comes under attack and an unlikely young mouse leads their defense. These stories are pure gold. I’ve suggested these books to many people and I’ve never had any family start reading them and not become hooked. It takes some time to get the mole accent down, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it!
Hank The Cow Dog
What can I say? You can’t be serious all the time. Sometimes you just need a good old fashioned belly laugh. Let me tell you, Hank The Cow Dog is just what the doctor ordered. The best part about these books is that you really have to be farm kid to fully appreciate all the humor in these books. We have a ton of Hank books around here. I hate to admit it but I think I enjoy reading them as much as the children. Good, clean, fun!