“How many of you have read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder?” I asked. It was a class of thirty, and only a couple of students raised their hands. Most of the students looked puzzled. Inwardly, I sighed. This scenario had happened in each of my middle school language arts classes.
I don’t know if this is the case in just my school, but if it isn’t, it’s a shame kids are missing these classic stories. This incident inspired me to reread the books, and here are three reasons kids still need to read this series.
- They’re full of wisdom. One of my favorite examples can be found in Little Town on the Prairie when Ma tells Laura, “This earthly life is a battle. If it isn’t one thing to contend with, it’s another. It’s always been so, and it will always be. The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures.”
- They give students a sense of history as it relates to the westward expansion of the United States. I’ve observed that many students don’t have a grasp on when and how things happened in U.S. history. The historical backdrop of these stories can offer students perspective on how the western states were settled and what life was like for homesteaders who made the journey.
- They demonstrate the importance of selflessness and sacrifice. One of the best examples is found in These Happy Golden Years. Laura became a teacher—though she didn’t want to—so her blind sister Mary could come home from college for the summer. When Laura gave all of the money she earned to Pa, her sister Carrie protested. But Laura said, “We’ll all see Mary this summer. I was only teaching school for Mary.”
We live in a world that lacks wisdom, ignores the lessons of history, and prefers selfishness and comfort to selflessness and sacrifice, which is why the these stories are important for new generations to read.