About The Family Bookshelf


Few influences are as powerful as the stories we pass down to our young. A child’s first impressions of right and wrong, of good and evil are usually made through a story. The books that we read with our children are of the greatest importance. Storytelling is how a culture teaches what it believes and values; how it forms the next generation.

Of course, not everyone agrees what those values should be, and that can make the selection of wholesome children’s books a challenge for parents and caregivers. We may be tempted to avoid new titles, or to stick with books that are strictly didactic in nature. But this need not be; there are many thoughtful and well-written stories that will enrich our children’s minds and souls, if only we can find them.

I have read many hundreds of books with my children, and every week I return to the library for more. Many of those books we love, while some we need to discuss; others are not permitted. Ours is a Christian home – a Catholic home – and we choose materials that are consistent with the traditional teachings of our faith.

Now, that is not to say that we don’t love learning about the wide world around us; I love Jewish folk tales and classical myths, tribal legends and the excitement of fantasy. I want tales that encourage children to play and imagine and dream. But I also want these stories to be rooted in virtue and beauty, so that even the youngest readers learn to look beyond themselves toward what good they might do in the world. It is books with such themes that I will recommend to my readers.

I post reviews of picture books and chapter books for families with children under the age of sixteen. Sometimes they are classics and sometimes they are new. Most of the books I choose are not strictly Catholic, but are always viewed through the lens of our faith. I seek out books that gently inspire young readers to grow in character and wisdom, to respect others and to appreciate the world around them. I want our children to feel ennobled: to become as courageous, compassionate, resourceful, honest, patient, kind, simple and generous as their favorite storybook heroes. What they read today should lead them to create a better tomorrow.

If you are blessed with the care of little minds and souls, nourish them with great books. I hope you will find many helpful suggestions on The Family Bookshelf.

About Ashley Canter

12 - _MG_7670.jpg

I am a Catholic convert, a farmer’s wife, a stay-at-home mother, and a regular library patron. My own childhood was rich with literature, and I was very much shaped by the books I read. With a heart full of ideals I earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in 2006, and married a few weeks later. When my husband and I were blessed with our first child in 2008, I was delighted at the prospect of revisiting those books from my youth, and discovering all the new ones that had been written since.

In more than a decade of parenting I have lived on both coasts and in between, signing up for a library card in every new place. We were received into the Catholic Church in 2012. I now make a home for my family on our certified organic dairy farm in rural southwestern Wisconsin, where my primary work is the formation of my five children. It is my hope that they will go on to make the world a more beautiful place.

Family photo credit: http://www.nicoleelizabethphoto.com