Children's Classic Literature

When I think of children's classic literature, I think of book titles like Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, and Heidi. While reading through the online reviews of one of these books (Heidi), what struck me most was how passionate so many people were about this story. This book was one of my favorites too, as a child.

I’m not sure why Johanna Spyri’s descriptions of the Swiss Alps and the character descriptions of Peter and Grandfather are so compelling and connect so deeply with readers, but that “something” is what sets classics apart from books that are popular for a few years, then disappear from sight.

According to the dictionary, the word “classic” is defined as “serving as a standard of excellence” and “authentic.” “Authentic” is defined as “genuine, real.” Those last two words, I think, are the “something” that all children's classic literature possess.

Whether a story takes place in ancient times or today, it always seems relevant. That’s because the common theme for a classic is always centered on qualities common to the human condition: love, hope, loneliness, fear, wonder . . . human emotions that never change. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of classic literature, separated by category. (There may be some cross-over between categories.)

Classic American Literature

The history of American literature is full of classics that most of us have probably read or at least heard of. The titles listed below are only a small fraction of the books in this category:

Those who enjoy reading books online might enjoy Wannalearn.com. Another good site is AmericanLiterature.com.

The books that kids are required to read in secondary school – also known as middle school literature and high school literature – are all classics.

Whether they were published last year or in the 19th century, these examples of children's classic literature each have something in common: they make a difference in people’s lives when they’re read.

Below are just a few examples of some of the most popular books for both middle school and high school students:

Middle School Literature


High School Literature


Looking for Humor?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of classics out there for people who enjoy comedy. One good source for comedy literature is The Literature Page. Shakespeare buffs probably won’t be surprised that several of his plays are listed. This site is another one that allows you to read books online.


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