AmblesideOnline Year 0 Booklist

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"Away with books, and 'reading to'--for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets." (Charlotte Mason, Volume 5, Parents and Children p.216)

Year 0 is not a formal AmblesideOnline year like the other years for which we have booklists and schedules. Year 0 covers all the time from birth until formal school begins somewhere around age 6 or later. Year 0 does not have a booklist as such, and books do not have the prominent place in Year 0 that they have in other years.

The book suggestions on this page are meant to provide examples of the type of books that would be consistent with the standards Charlotte Mason set. There is no need to find all of these books and read them according to a schedule. Simply use this list as a guide to selecting the best books from what you already own or have access to.

Picture Book Suggestions

There are many Picture Book lists to be found, but Charlotte Mason felt that children would be better with only a few wonderful picture books than a lot of merely entertaining ones. Coming up with a list of only a few books is very difficult because we all tend to love whatever we grew up with; it's human nature to find comfort in familiar, warm memories. We also tend to adore whatever brings our own children delight. It's so hard to separate such sentiment and emotion from objectivity and take a hard look at books from the perspective of what's really wonderful and beneficial for all children, and what we desire to share with others because of the special memories treasured by us rather than because the book itself is unusually great.

What books stand above the rest? Charlotte said about education, "the answer cannot be given in the form of 'Do' this and that, but rather as an invitation to 'Consider' this and that; action follows when we have thought duly." In the same way, before we share our list, we would like to give some principles about how books should be chosen by parents wishing to embark on a Charlotte Mason journey with their children.

Read more about choosing books from a Charlotte Mason perspective.
Also, this article in the 1897 Parents' Review: The Choice of Literature for the Young


Text should be literary to prepare children for the challenging books they'll be using for school, and cultivate a delight in beautiful names. Children should be discouraged from developing a taste for easy books that will undermine their capacity to read classics later. Books should be selected with the goal of decreasing dependence on pictures, and relying more on the imagination to envision pictures in the mind from the text.

Illustrations should "have a refining, elevating effect upon our coarser nature" and bring us into the "world of beauty" while helping our children develop an affinity for, an attraction to, the beautiful, the lovely, the pure, the refining--because "education is concerned to teach him what pictures to delight in."

Stories should have the noble, beautiful, inspiring kind of living ideas that CM espoused, including "the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to 'cause' and country and kind, to the past and the present."

Classic stories and poems illustrated by good children's artists (such as Gennady Spirin, Barbara Cooney, Edward Ardizonne, Ted Rand) are almost always a safe bet. Parents should also look at books used in Ambleside's years 1 and 2 when their children are ready for "chapter books."

Year 0 Books

If space is an issue, or you live out of the US and can't afford to have a lot of books shipped, you might take a look at The World Treasury of Children's Literature selected by Clifton Fadiman. It includes many classic picture books, poems and lesser-known ones. It doesn't include all of the illustrations, but the ones it does include (a few from each book) are from the original books. There are three volumes, but only the first two volumes would be useful; vol 3 has selections from longer chapter books, and whole books are preferable. Vol 1 and 2 ($amzn)

If space/cost is an issue, there are also story collections online:

Advisory Favorites

Board Books for Toddlers

Beginning First Readers

Most children will be beginning to read in Year 1, but these are included here for children who start earlier:

Are you curious to have a look at which children's books are on the shelves of some of the Advisory and Auxiliary members that didn't make it to the "official" AO booklist? See a list of Advisory and Auxiliary favorites.

Mister Rogers Neighborhood isn't on in most cities anymore, but you can watch 26 videos online at PBS's Mister Rogers webpage. There are a few more on PBS's video page, which has other PBS kids shows; you have to look for Mister Rogers in the box on the right.


1. Brer Rabbit: These chapters are suggested:

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AO Year 0 -

What about A Child's Garden of Verses illustrated by Thomas Kinkade?

There are some wonderfully illustrated versions of children's poems out there to choose from. Children enjoy seeing pictures of children like themselves. While Thomas Kinkade's paintings enjoy popularity with many people, they aren't really geared for children; they're charming, idyllic scenes that appeal more to adults who may be drawn to peaceful scenes of country tranquility. Since there are so many alternatives that would be better suited to children, the concern was that Kinkade's current fame might cause a parent to choose the version with his pictures based on the fame of a name alone rather than with a child's eye.

My favorite versions of A Child's Garden of Verses are illustrated by Eulalie and Jessie Wilcox Smith. Children dressed as real children were in Robert Louis Stevenson's day helps to set the poems in their correct time context and may help a child form a perspective that children who lived a long ago were a lot like they are today, which I believe gives a better idea of our place in the world; ie, people who lived before were just as real as people who live today. It would be a shame for children to miss seeing pictures of children alongside these poems about children.

One that I especially recommend:
"A Child's Garden of Verses - a classic illustrated edition conceived and collected by Cooper Edens" ISBN 0877016089 Chronicle Books San Francisco and search for Stevenson