There’s a world of books out there for kids to read, and it’s hard to weed through them for the good stuff. Reading is an extremely important part of life, but for Christian parents the content is crucial when handing books to our kids. I’ve been raising daughters for 23 years, so I’ve come up with a few favorites that are worth recommending. To me, these stand out as some of the most excellent books for girls.
I wrote a similar list for boys, and so this one has many of the same qualifications. We don’t just want what’s popular or entertaining; we want books that meet some pretty high standards. We give the girls books from classic literature, true stories, imaginative stories, and non-fiction awash in biblical standards. The books in this list meet our standards for quality, content, and biblical femininity.
That means that the language is beautiful. The storytelling is gripping. The characters have high morals (or learn them along the way). The message is lasting and biblical. The story and the hero (or heroine) are unforgettable.
There won’t be a lot of mindless gobbledygook. There won’t be twaddle. And there won’t be secular feminism. (Read and listen to the history of feminism and why it is not biblical at Sheologians.) We won’t read stories about zombies or vampire love stories, but we will read stories about girls who followed God’s excellent plan in their ordinary and extraordinary lives.
In this very modern age of cultural confusion, I want my daughters to read books about girls and women who are very confident in being female, who embrace their role as given by God, and who glorify God in that role. I want stories that illustrate the beauty of motherhood and biblical femininity. That doesn’t mean the stories are only about timid doormats or girls who never accomplish anything. It means that they embrace their God-given role in society and still do great things (whether they are big or small).
Oh, and my list for boys is certainly a great addition to this list for girls. My oldest daughter and I both enjoy reading every western Louis L’amour wrote, and both of my daughters have enjoyed the G. A. Henty novels, originally written for boys. And here’s why I love this: reading great books by and about upstanding young men gives my daughters a standard to look for when they are of the age to be interested in boys. They will have read countless examples of real men who are masculine, chivalrous, and God-honoring.
Finally, the books listed here follow a bilibcal worldview. They may not necessarily all have a “Christian” theme or character, but the overall story will reflect biblical values.
Reading Levels and Ages
To the best of my ability, I have designated age groups for these books. But don’t let that limit you. I have found over many years that even unabridged classics are great as read-alouds to younger children, while favorite children’s stories can be enjoyed over and over by teens. That being said, here are the age designations:
Y – Young girls who are reading well on their own
O – Older boys who can read just about anything
A – All ages will enjoy the story; older girls will enjoy reading independently, while younger girls will enjoy listening to them being read aloud.
If you have a younger girl who is not really reading long chapter books yet, I highly recommend reading aloud from most of the books on this list. The content and the stories are so fun that girls who can’t yet read the books on their own will definitely enjoy the stories. We also use Audible.com for this purpose. Read 5 Ways to Use Audible in Your Homeschool here.
Abridged or Unabridged?
For young voracious readers, I always recommend abridged classics. These give girls an introduction to a classic story in a form that is not long or overwhelming. As they grow older, they will not be intimidated by the unabridged version of those same classics because they already know that there’s an exciting story to explore. I have seen this very thing in my two oldest daughters, who are now grown.
For older girls, teens, or advanced readers, I do recommend unabridged classics, because they are a thousand times better. The author’s intent is all there without sacrificing the beautiful language or important content. And by reading unabridged classics, girls are exposed to a wide variety of writing styles, which is better than any “literature overview” class they could take in high school or college.
Hardback, Paperback, or E-Reader?
I am a huge proponent of building a home library, so I love to encourage readers to buy beautiful, sturdy versions of these great books. They look so nice on a bookshelf, and can be passed down to your children and grandchildren. Of course, budgets sometimes require the least expensive copy of a book, and that’s okay, too! We have a wide variety of books in our home library. We often purchase them for very little money at used book sales and thrift store. But whenever possible, we find the pretty hardbacks and buy them for our library and for gifts.
Visit my Knowledge Keepers Page to read all about building your own home library: why, how, and and which books to begin with.
The List of Excellent Books for Girls
Some of these are so obvious you’ll wonder why I had to bring them up, and some will be new to you. Add them to your list and enjoy!
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Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – There is almost nothing as Americana or classic for children as the Little House books. If you’re only familiar with the TV show, please do yourself a favor and read these right away. There is very little similarity between the TV series and the actual books. As usual, the books are so much better. These are classics worth reading at any age, and read repeatedly. (A)
Beatrix Potter animal stories – What little child doesn’t enjoy stories of talking animals? I think that’s why Peter Rabbit and other Potter tales are still so popular. Excellent read-aloud for the very young. (Y)
Thornton Burgess Animal Stories – These are different than Beatrix Potter stories, in that the animals are living (and talking) in their actual animal world. In a very sneaky way, children learn about the habits of different animal breeds through simple stories, such as why some birds nest in trees, while others nest on the ground, and why some mommy birds feed the babies while other daddy birds take this job. It’s all done in the form of little stories and conversations between the animals. Priceless! Read more about these books in my post here. (Y)
Christian Liberty Nature Readers – More animal stories! These are more similar to the Burgess books described above, but with a slightly different storytelling method. While you’re reading these stories to your children, you are also teaching them science and all about God’s amazing creation. (Y)
Charlotte’s Web – A beautiful classic (again, involving animals). (Y)
The Secret Garden – When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors. The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. With the help of two unexpected companions, Mary discovers a way in—and becomes determined to bring the garden back to life. (From the publisher) (A)
Black Beauty – Also called the autobiography of a horse, it is the tale of a horse who endures many unpleasant masters before finally finding a peaceful life. (A)
Pollyanna – A wonderful story of a girl who finds the good in everyone and everything!
Hinds Feed on High Places – This is an allegory, told about a girl called Much-Afraid who learns to trust in the Shepherd. It is WONDERFUL. There is a beautiful children’s illustrated version and the full version, which is great for teens and adults.
Elsie Dinsmore – an old fashioned classic series written in the 1800’s, Elsie Dinsmore is the story of a little girl who is being raised by relatives in less-than-pleasant atmosphere. But it’s the character of little Elsie that really stands out to readers. She strives to serve God and please Him in her actions and words, despite the treatment she receives at home. Excellent character example in a good story. Be sure to get the original versions published in the 19th century by Martha Finley. (A)
Anne of Green Gables – Who cannot love Anne, the red-headed orphan who seems to cause trouble everywhere she turns, and spends her time trying to construct the most wonderful life? Get the whole series! (A)
Little Women – A classic worth reading in both abridged (for younger girls) and unabridged versions. The March sisters will forever be a part of your daughters’ growing up memories. (A)
A Little Princess – Similar to Anne of Green Gables and Elsie Dinsmore, the main character in this story is a mistreated little girl who must wait patiently for her circumstances to improve. There is so much in the way of character training in this story. (A)
Hiedi – Poor little orphan Heidi is sent to live in the mountains with her hermit grandfather. Though he is supposed to raise her and give her a good life, Heidi is the one who brings his world to life. Another beautiful story of a girl in difficult circumstances who changes the world for those around her. (A)
Jane Eyre – Continuing on the theme of orphans and underdogs, Jane Eyre is a classic for older girls. Jane’s childhood is one of suffering and mistreatment, and her young adult years are a bit of a struggle. But she shows remarkable maturity and sympathy (and love) for others despite her difficult upbringing. (O)
Beautiful Girlhood – A must-have! This is a bit of an old-fashioned book of advice for girls and it is wonderful. I’ve read it twice with my daughters so far, and look forward to reading it with my youngest in a couple more years. Excellent!
The Story of My Life (Helen Keller) – Autobiographies are my favorite way to teach history, and the story of Helen Keller is history AND character. This girl did everything she could to beat the odds, and her story is remarkable! (O)
The Hiding Place – Another autobiography by a world-changer! Every person should read this true story of hiding Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. There are some disturbing parts of this very real story, so I recommend it for mature readers at a parent’s discretion. (O)
Mary Rowlandson – This is another difficult but true story of an American woman’s capture by Indians in colonial America, and her testimony to God. Definitely for older readers. (O)
A Chance to Die – When Elisabeth Elliot writes a story about an incredible woman, it’s a double bonus! A Chance to Die is a vibrant portrayal of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary and writer who spent fifty-three years in south India without furlough. There she became known as “Amma,” or “mother,” as she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a refuge for underprivileged children. (O)
The Savage My Kinsman – Speaking of Elisabeth Elliot…the world was shocked by the news that Auca Indians had martyred Jim Elliot and four other American missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. That was the first chapter of one of the most breathtaking stories of the 20th century. This book tells the story in text and pictures of Elisabeth Elliot’s venture into Auca territory to live with the same Indians who had killed her husband. And my recommendation: read everything Elisabeth Elliot wrote. (O)
Stepping Heavenward – The classic, Stepping Heavenward By Elizabeth Prentiss, will lead you on your own unforgettable journey as you follow Katherine through her life from sweet sixteen to her grown-up later years. As she learns that true happiness is found in giving oneself to others, you, too, will be immeasurably encouraged to step heavenward—to live with greater Godliness, humility, tranquility, and hope. (O)
Alone Yet Not Alone – This book is based on a true story of two young girls in colonial America who are kidnapped by Indians. It is an exciting story of history and God’s protection and faithfulness. (A)
Ride the River – Echo Sackett is a 16-year-old Tennessee girl who must travel alone to the “settlements” of Philadelphia in the 1830’s to claim her inheritance. It’s part of the series of Sackett novels by Louis L’amour, and one of my favorite books! (O)
Abigail Adams – I grew up reading the books in the Sower Series books, and this one was very influential to me as a girl and a history lover. She was the wife of President John Adams and the mother of another President, John Quincy Adams. She was a Christian and a great example of biblical femininity. (A)
Susannah Wesley – She was the youngest of 25 children, and the mother of 19, including the founders of the Methodist Church, John and Charles Wesley. Her story is one of deep devotion to God in her conviction and raising of a large family. Excellent character model! (A)
Passion and Purity – In her classic book on relationships, Elisabeth Elliot addresses dating, courtship, and sexual purity in her straightforward and old-fashioned manner. This book should be required reading for every teen. Follow it up with her book Quest for Love, stories of couples who followed the advice in Passion and Purity. (O)
Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God – These are the stories of five ordinary women-Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare-who trusted in their extraordinary God as he led them to do great things for his kingdom. Noël Piper holds up their lives and deeds as examples of what it means to be truly faithful. Learning about these women will challenge readers to make a difference for Christ in their families, in the church, and throughout the world. (O)
Home-Making – Originally published in 1882 as Home-Making, this book is about a lot more than simply “keeping house.” The Christian Family lays out the joys and sorrows of family life, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each member. In an age of family fragmentation and disintegration, Miller sets before us the ideal of family unity and harmony. Using illustrations and anecdotes, he paints a picture of the beauty of The Christian Family. (O)
Mother – This is a difficult age to be a woman. The woman who aspires to raise children for the glory of God, to develop the ministry of the home, or to co-labor with her husband is deemed “old-fashioned” or “unfulfilled.” The modern lure of independence and career has bewitched an entire generation to exchange the beauty of Christian womanhood for the temporary enticements of a society at war with the family. Amidst this confusion, Kathleen Norris’s Mother is a refreshing call to sanity. Mother is the fictional tale of a young lady who leaves home and repudiates family life in the hope of finding personal fulfillment through independence and a career. She decides that home life is a poor choice in the face of life in the big city. But God dramatically changes her heart, and she realizes that wealth and position are illusory and that independence can enslave a young lady. She discovers that the greatest woman she has ever known is her mother. Now she longs for home and for motherhood. (From the publisher) (O)
Laura Ingalls Wilder – While Laura wrote the famous Little House books, that’s not the extent of her writing career. She wrote the original story in Pioneer Girl, before the stories were re-written in children’s books. I like that one, too, because it is more historic and straightforward, with lots of notes. I also love Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, which is a collection of her newspaper articles throughout her adult life in Missouri. So much fun information, wisdom, and history in this volume!
Janette Oke – You may be familiar with When Calls the Heart (Canadian West series) from the popular TV series, or Love Comes Softly and the rest of that series, but there are even more great books by Janette Oke, and they are all worth your time. I like them because each book has as its main character a young lady or woman who faces some difficult circumstance and always learns to trust God. For me, these books also reinforced the joys in ordinary life (cooking, childrearing, marriage, and home) as I read them. The Women of the West series would be a great place for teen girls to begin.
Jane Austen – Her novels tell the story of polite society in the era known as the Recency Era of England in the early 19th century. Her movies may be more famous than her books, but as you know, the books are always a thousand times better. I recommend all of them! Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, and Mansfield Park is my second. But really, they are all equally wonderful. I wrote all about her books and using them to teach history here.
Excellent Book (Lists) for Girls
There are some great books that have family read-aloud recommendations of high-quality books for kids.
I know there are plenty more excellent books for girls that I have forgotten or not yet discovered. What would you add to this list? Comment below!