I can recommend two books that I find very useful for the beginner who wants to learn the basics of astronomy;
|The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy
by De Pree and Axelrod
Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide
by Dinah Moche
The first book is a textbook explaining the basics of astronomy. The second book is a self-instructional book which you can use alone as an introduction to astronomy or in combination with a textbook.
Take an online beginner's course. For instance, go to WorldWideLearn.com; there you can choose from different online astronomy courses for beginners. At the moment I am following an online course at the Amateur Astronomy Foundation. Membership in the foundation is free and open to anyone over the age of 12. The Amateur Astronomy Foundation has been established to provide free access to astronomy education. It hopes to provide astronomy education at two formal levels. Firstly, a certificate of amateur astronomy, an introduction to the science and hobby of astronomy, and secondly, the diploma course, a more intensive study of various aspects of astronomy and some advanced amateur techniques. On their website they provide a list with recommended reading. All you have to do is to register by e-mail.
There is also an astronomy course available from The Teaching company: "Understanding the Universe, an Introduction to Astronomy". You can buy this course both on DVD and Video (probably US and Canada only). The course consists of 40 lectures of 45 minutes each. Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, is the teacher.
Browse the web for interesting links for beginning amateur astronomers. For children have a look at Nasa's StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers; for ages 14 and up there is Nasa's Imagine The Universe. People interested in the Moon should visit Exploring the Moon, Here you will find a lot of information about the Moon and its history of exploration.
If you are interested in the solar system, have a look at The Nine Planets, a Multimedia Tour of the solar system. This site gives an overview of the history, mythology, and current scientific knowledge of each of the planets and moons in our solar system. For people who want to know everything about the stars, there is the excellent site of James B. Kaler, Portraits of Stars and their Constellations. If you want to have an idea of what the universe looks like, go to "An Atlas of The Universe". There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe.