Bedtime Stories for Cultural Literacy


** Almost the last of the repeat posts from the old days and old blog I wrote this two years ago and when we moved out here I briefly considered finding these books a new home. When it came down to it they are both too rare and too much of my kid’s childhood for me to part with them. For now, they are boxed. When we either move home or finish more shelving here I plan on re-shelving them.**

We read aloud here a lot. (Not exactly a spoiler)  I had some late readers, and I didn’t want their reading level holding them back. The habit really stuck. Growing up I had teachers who read aloud during class time, and that laid the foundation for what eventually became my passion for books and my love of reading. I wanted the same for my kids. Over the years, I’ve read them thousands of random books. If I had to give instructions on what to read a child today, I would say fairy tales, mythology, tall tales, and classics. That would be quite a book list and would be very hard to compile into any sort of order. The idea would be to give your child cultural literacy. No matter what faith you hold, stories from the Bible eventually will come up while reading the great books. It is part of our culture to refer to not only the Bible but other mythological stories. As with any plan, I started with the end in mind. By high school, I wanted my kids to be able to read and understand the great books. The best way to do that is to become familiar with them while they were young in small friendly chunks.  I was thrilled to find this series because it covers all of that and then some.  The My Book House series is a great read aloud for either home school or bedtime reading. In fact, the stories are relatively short in most of the volumes and are perfect for tired parents to read at night.  While researching, I found this information about the author, editor Olive Beaupré Miller and promptly became her biggest fan.

The My Book House was the first collection of children’s literature specially arranged to meet the developing needs and abilities of children at different ages. Each entry had to meet the following three criteria (taken from Miller’s introduction):

“First, To be well equipped for life, to have ideas and the ability to express them, the child needs a broad background of familiarity with the best in literature.

Second, His stories and rhymes must be selected with care that he may absorb no distorted view of life and its actual values, but may grow up to be mentally clear about values and emotionally impelled to seek what is truly desirable and worthwhile in human living.

Third, The stories and rhymes selected must be graded to the child’s understanding at different periods of his growth, graded as to vocabulary, as to subject matter and as to complexity of structure and plot.”

Olive was also quoted in the Journal of Education in October 1922:

“Scientific reading, history and biography are absolutely necessary,  it is true, but it is from the fairy tales that many children get their first clear perception of the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. A small child soaks up every idea and impression presented to him…”

If you are looking for one series that you can use for years at a time, this is it. Olive intended for you to read this series starting around the age of 3-4.  In the intro of book 8 she mentions,

” Volumes eight through twelve are the volumes which we definitely regard as a school help for the child, since at this age, he is generally reading complete books, usually of doubtful literary merit, and adding little to that background of culture, which he must have if he is to be a truly educated man or woman.’

I think Olive Beaupre Miller would have had some great conversations with Charlotte Mason. They seem to hold a similar opinion of twaddle.

My Book House, Volumes 1-12 was first published first in 1920. Olive and her husband started their own publishing company and sold the books door to door. She continued to revise the books up until 1962.  There are plenty of used complete sets available on Amazon, eBay, and I’ve even seen them at Goodwill occasionally. I got my set on eBay for $35. It is one of those things that you just have to watch out for. Ask around as many older folks probably have them sitting in their basements. I’m going to list some of the contents so you can get a better idea of what each volume contains. Dover Publications has the first two books in print. I’ve contacted them and am waiting to hear if they plan on publishing the rest. I hope that they do, although I am happy that I own the old edition.

Vol. 1 In the Nursery – of nursery rhymes, short poems like Who Has Seen the Wind, and simple Nursery Stories from many cultures, Indian, German, Dutch, Japanese, France, Scotland, England, Irish, along with only written tales. Christian Content: Mary and the Christ Child

Vol. 2 Story Time -of longer and more complex folk and written stories, as well as poetry. Stories include The Little Engine that Could, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Wynkin, Blynkin and Nod, and the beginnings of music appreciation. Christian Content: The Song of Solomon

Vol. 3  Up One Pair of Stairs–  Longer fairy tales and short stories from around the world, some excerpts from longer works, and a little poetry. Christian Content: The Story of Baby Moses

Vol. 4 Through the Gate -More longer stories, A Story of The Blacksmith (Johannes Brahms), The Boy Hero of Harlem, Cinderella, The Cowboy’s Life, The Girl Who Used Her Wits, Hansel and Grethel, How Brer Rabbit Met Brer Tar Baby, Old Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, A Song of the Canadian Lumberjack, The Story of Big Paul Bunyan, and others.  Christian Content: The boy Samuel.

Vol. 5 Over The Hills–  Selections include Abraham Lincoln, All About Columbus, How Robert Fulton Harnessed the Giant, Casey Jones, Charlotte’s Web, The First Thanksgiving Day, George Washington and the First American Flag, Give Praise, Hiawatha’s Childhood, In Columbus’ Time, Jack and the Beanstalk, John Henry, Little Gulliver, The Nuremberg Stove, The Story of Tom Thumb, We Thank Thee, Why the Sea is Salt, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Others. 

Vol. 6 Through Fairy Halls-  Selections include The Fairyland of Science (story of the life of Henri Fabre, naturalist), The Fisherman Who Caught the Sun, Hie Away, Little Pictures from Far Japan, The Lost Spear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Musical Visit to Fairyland (A Story of Felix Mendelssohn), and others.

Vol. 7 The Magic Garden–  Selections include folk tales from Norway, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, New Zealand, Wales, Yugoslavia. Titles include Babe Ruth (The Home Run King of Baseball), Casey at the Bat, The Cataract of Lodore, David Copperfield and Little Emily, East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, The Golden Touch, The Six Swans, Vladimir’s Adventures in Search of Fortune, and others. Christian content- The story of David the Shepherd Boy.

Vol. 8 Flying Sails–  Selections include The Adventures of General Tom Thumb, A Boy on the High Seas, The Greatest Show on Earth, John Paul Jones, Sea Fever, A Song of Drake’s Men, The Tempest, A Whaling Adventure, and Young Midshipman David Farragut.

Vol. 9 The Treasure Chest–  Selections include The Adventures of Alexander Selkirk (A True Story of the Real Robinson Crusoe), The Adventures of Perseus, Buffalo Bill, George Rogers Clark and the Conquest of the Northwest, How Peary Reached the North Pole, The Labors of Hercules, Old Yeller, Pushing Westward with Lewis and Clark, and The Trumpet of the Swan. Christian content- Gideon the Warrior

Vol. 10 From the Tower Window– Selections include The Ramayana of India, The Odyssey of Homer, Beowulf, The Kalevala of Finland, The Song of Roland of France, The Cid of Spain,  As You Like it, The Children’s Crusade, Joan of Arc, Robert Bruce, and The Wanderings of Aeneas.

 Vol. 11 In Shining Armour– Selections include-  Dante’s Voyage to the Inferno, The Man Who lived in a world of Dreams (A Story of the Life of Dante), Robert E. Lee–A Hero in War and Peace, Surprising Adventures of Don Quixote, Ye Merry Doing of Robin Hood, and others

Vol. 12 Halls of Fame– Selections include-  A Boy in Russia, Down By the River Avon, The First Moon Landing (includes NASA photographs), The Gentle Genius (The Story of Albert Einstein), The Hoosier Poet (The Story of James Whitcomb Riley), Life in Concord (The Story of Louisa May Alcott), and The Man Who Made Hitler Run (The Story of Jesse Owens), and others.  Volume 12 further includes an Index of Authors, Titles, and Leading Characters; a Special Subjects Index; and a Character Building Index. The last index allows parents to look up a character quality such as cheerfulness, contentment, faithfulness, or industry and choosing stories to read the positively reveal that character quality.

14 thoughts on “Bedtime Stories for Cultural Literacy

  1. susanhomeschooling

    I still read aloud to my kids, even though they are teens and pre-teens. We read a lot of classic literature.

    1. Me too. I read aloud until they graduate, once they start college they are on their own!

  2. grtlyblesd

    Sometimes the old stories are great treasures. 🙂 I have several books from my grandmother’s house that were my dad’s and aunt’s when they were growing up in the 1950s.

    1. That’s great! I’m glad you kept them.

  3. Reblogged this on Viking Academy and commented:

    Running an oldie on this Saturday afternoon. I was so close to giving my set away this week when I started my book purge but then wisely chose to hang on to it for awhile longer.

  4. Your love Ambleside Online if you haven’t found it since writing this. These are amazing books–i know them well. You’ll want them for grandchildren.

    1. I do love Ambelside online and use their reading lists with my own spin- because I can’t leave well enough alone. 🙂

      1. Lol…I had to add stuff to suit myself too! Shhhh that’s my secret. I chart my reading from those lists here:

      2. Oh my goodness. I just clicked over and that list is so similar to my actual bookshelves, I know it’ll be helpful to me. Thank you so much!

      3. Are you still homeschooling? I have a mostly abandoned blog with some newer living book titles here–actually TWO versions of this blog are linked here

      4. Yes, I am. I have a 5th grader and a 12th grader at home. I’ll take a look- thanks again!

      5. This was my Geography plan for 10th grade. Mind you my son’s sole interest was rap music….might not meet everyone’s expectations!

  5. Margot Miller

    Never mind, I found a set on Amazon… thanks for the idea

    1. Sure thing. I hope you enjoy them.

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