I have vivid memories of being eight years old and staying up late, reading under the blankets in bed with a flashlight, because I just had to finish that book. Which book? Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her series of girlhood pioneer days captivated me from the first lines of Little House in the Big Woods all the way through These Happy Golden Years.
Those nine books were some of the first chapter books I read on my own, checked out on my very own library card. I remember the crinkly sound of the library dust jackets that protected the worn hard covers and the musty smell of the pages as I opened the book to read. Breathing deeply of that book smell, I was transported to another time in history, unfamiliar to me, yet made familiar by the stories of a girl growing up. Laura’s experiences became mine through the shared emotions of little girls. I cried when her dog died. I cheered when she won a race. I cringed when she got in trouble. These books are classics today because of that — the universal truths shared about family, responsibility, love, and growing up.
“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good. ”
— Laura Ingalls Wilder
Just as Laura said, these lessons are worthwhile — essential — today as we teach our daughters. As I teach my girls that people, not things, matter most and that we must be thankful to God no matter how little we may have materially, the Little House on the Prairie series sets a good example. The books are fun to read, but so much more than that.
I’m so happy that my girls want to share in the tradition of the Little House books with me. My oldest daughter (13) is currently reading through the series with me for the second time. Her younger sisters (ages 7 and 5) listen as we read aloud together. My oldest enjoyed the books so much that we decided to study The Prairie Primer, a homeschool unit study written by Margie Gray that covers all nine books. We have learned about history, language arts, science, math, art, and every other subject by using the Little House books as our “textbooks.”
In addition to The Prairie Primer, we have been able to combine our love of unit studies with our love of lapbooking. Homeschool Share offers free lapbooks to go along with the books. Lapbooks are also available for purchase from Currclick. A Prairie Primer companion lapbook binder can be purchased from A Journey Through Learning. There are free online lesson plans available from Lesson Pathways and Lesson Planet as well. There are even Facebook pages and groups dedicated to the Little House series.
There is no shortage of online resources available for Little House fans. I have created a Pinterest board with a few of them and will be adding more often. I’ve pinned everything from the official Harper Collins publisher website (it features a timeline and Ingalls family tree) to Laurapalooza (a yearly event held in Minnesota to honor Laura and her books).
If you live in the Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, or South Dakota areas, you can visit Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites. There is also a historic site in northern New York where Almanzo Wilder (Laura’s husband) grew up. It was the setting for her book Farmer Boy. These make awesome field trips! We were able to see the Wilder farm in New York and I wrote about that experience, along with photos, in this post.
The Little House books have inspired a successful television series, a series of picture books for younger readers, cookbooks, craft books, homeschool curricula, travel guides, biographies, and several series of books featuring Laura’s daughter, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Laura’s beloved stories have encouraged reluctant readers to enjoy reading and shown for generations that the qualities that really matter are enduring.
Whether you’re reading the books aloud as a family just for fun or your daughter is happily reading them on her own and asking more questions, you can dive into this series of books together. Kindergarten through sixth grade is the average age range for Little House and its lessons, but they can certainly be adapted for older girls as well. Even as an adult, I can appreciate and enjoy these books all over again with my daughters. That’s what classic books are all about!