There is no better way to encourage kids creativity and help them excel in school than by encouraging reading. You can do this by reading to them as small children, then having them read to you, letting them catch you reading by yourself, and by providing them with plenty of exciting and stimulating books to read. Remember too that reading together isn’t just an activity enjoyed by little children. Older kids appreciate family reading time too. (Even if they are pretending to ignore you off in the corner with their computer or sketch pad!)
Five Children and It, by Edith Nesbit is one of those forgotten classics, an excellent story about five siblings who, one boring summer, come upon a creature that can grant wishes, not that he’s very excited about doing so. They have various adventures and learn important lessons along the way. Another very good book by Edith Nesbit is The Enchanted Castle in which three children discover a castle and go about pretending its an enchanted castle with a sleeping princess hidden inside. Soon strange things begin happening and they suspect that the castle may actually be enchanted! (I know, her plots sound run-of-the-mill, but they are very cool.) These books are good for the upper elementary and middle school set.
Of course no reading list for Pagan youth would be complete with mention of Harry Potter. And that’s all the mention I will make!
Many kids are also caught up in the Artemis Fowl Series. It’s about a kid who is basically an evil genius. More genius than evil, but still very naughty- a criminal mastermind. It takes place in our world with lots of magical/fantasy elements. This series is definitely a good choice for the 12-13 year old reader in your life.
Another great series for Pagan youth is the His Dark Materials series, including the Golden Compass, which was made into a movie that, of course, glossed over all the best bits. These books are awesome and they contain many magical concepts which are difficult to explain to children. In fact, many of the concepts these books explore are those usually reserved for personal gnosis. Buyer beware though, these books are quite violent and have some very mature themes. The main characters are children, which is probably the only reason they end up in children’s literature categories, these are very grownup type books. That being said, my 10 year old and 13 year old loved them. They’re older now, and still love them (and so do I, and so do all my friends)!
Hellenic Pagan? Have a sense of humor? Percy Jackson and the Olympians was a huge hit with my 11 year old son and my friend’s 10 year old daughter (The former grew up Hellenic so knows the stories, the latter comes to me with questions all the time now). It’s like this- Percy Jackson finds out he is the son of a Greek God (you don’t get to know which one right away) and as such, he’s expected to be a hero. Of course, all the monsters in the world want to try their hand at destroying heroes, so as he approaches puberty he’s in greater and greater danger, so where does he get sent off to? Hero Camp, of course. But that doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy. There’s all kinds of stuff going on. No, this isn’t historically or mythologically accurate, but it does contain some truth and some metaphorical concepts that hold to the myths well. And it’s funny.
Her Godmother by Cate Cavanagh is a touching story of a young girl who goes to live with her Godmother “Brigid” while her parents are going through a divorce. Brigid teaches her about magic and her connection to the world around her and helps her to learn to heal herself. This is most definitely what my husband would call mini chick lit. A good choice for a young girl 10-12 years old.
If your kid is into post apocalypse and disaster stories, The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It is geared toward a Middle School to early High School aged audience. The hero is a teenage boy who is left in charge of his two younger sisters when an meteor hits the moon and wreaks havoc on New York City as well as the rest of the world. The book illustrates the importance of the moon and its gravitational affect on the Earth and asks the question, “just what would happen if the moon moved, just a little bit?” The characters in the book are very religious Catholics and their faith affects them in both positive and negative ways. This is a good book but not for the squeamish. I highly recommend it for the 10 to 12-year-old boy or tomboy in your life. Ms Pfeffer has written another book called Life as We Knew It about a young girl facing the same catastrophe in a different place (upstate NY) and living situation. Both of these books take a serious look at the moon and how important it is to life here on Earth. When NASA recently crashed a rocket into the moon, my son and I both flashed back to these books and shivered!
If your young man or woman is looking to start his or her magical training, The Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart is a good place to start. It is required reading for students at the Grey School of Wizardry and not a bad overview. It’s not perfect, however. There were annoying inaccuracies in the information about Greek mythology and there’s not alot of detail in any section. It would seem that its authors were simply trying to jam too much into one volume. It’s too broad, so nothing gets a great deal of attention. Its companion volume, appropriately titled Companion for the Apprentice Wizard provides more practical applications, but still, each subject is merely glanced upon. One would assume that students at the Grey School receive further elaboration.
Terry Pratchett is a favorite author in this house and for the younger set, I highly recommend his Tiffany Aching books, beginning with Wee Free Men. It’s about a 9 year old witch (she gets older as the series goes on of course) with fae companions (and enemies).