faith in children’s books

Three times today, S toddled over to me, grasping his My Baptism Book and calling out “A-mah! A-mah!” (Translation: Amen. My absolute favorite new word of the past month.) The first time I realized what he was doing, my eyes nearly bugged out of my head.

“Did you just say ‘Amen,’ S?” I asked, stunned.

He usually reserves his rounds of the favorite word for when I’ve strapped him in his highchair and forgotten to say grace before feeding him – so we pause and thank the Creator for food and family. But he had never before associated “Amen” with one of his books of prayers.

“A-MAH,” he persisted, banging the book into my knee.

Nothing geeks out a mothering spirit more than a little one’s blossoming love for prayer. So I immediately sat down, pulled S into my lap, and read to him from the psalms and prayers within his beloved book. (Until he grew bored after five minutes, pushed out of my lap and took off to chase down the dog’s tail. I have no illusions that we’ll be tackling Aquinas’ Summa any time soon.)

Fostering a love of reading for our little S is a high priority in our home. His room is stacked with books, most of which end up strewn across the floor by the end of the day. My inner control freak long ago gave up the dream that beautiful jacket covers and smooth pages would be lovingly respected. I now judge a book’s value by how dog-eared and wrinkled it becomes through S’s pointing and pulling of pages.

After enough years of graduate theological education to weed out any cutesy religious sentimentality, I am now on a continuing quest to seek out children’s books on church and faith that have solid theology behind them. So when I came across this website on using children’s books as a resource for ministry, I was delighted. Students, faculty, and alumni of Union Presbyterian Seminary review both general and Christian literature for children and teenagers, noting the religious themes and possibles uses to explore conversations with children about God. I can’t wait to dig through this resource as time (and S) allow.

What are your favorite books for children about faith? A few of my favorites are listed below. Books invite us into worlds of imagination and dreaming, where I believe the seeds of faith are sown. And much to my surprise and delight, young S is already taking his first toddling steps down this path. A-MAH.

Children’s books on faith:

Our Father and Hail Mary board books by Xavier Deneux and Sabrina Bus. Both books were translated from the French, which partly explains why I was drawn to them (since Bayard – the original publisher – produced much of the quality Catholic material I found while living in France). But the simple explanations of each line of these classic prayers makes these books immediately accessible to children – and adults – as well.

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff. A beautiful retelling of the Nativity from the animals’ point of view. I love Ashley Wolff’s wood-cut illustrations and the fact that Mary looks obviously (read: HUGELY) pregnant when she and Joseph arrive at the stable.

In God’s Name by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. I discovered this book at a kids’ consignment sale while I was pregnant, but it wasn’t just my hormones that made me tear up as I turned the pages. This is a moving explanation of why people understand God in different ways – that we each name God out of our own life experiences.

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt and Tim Jonke. S’s godmother gave him this for his baptism, and we read the folk tale often – the story of three ordinary trees that each wished to be great, and did so, thanks to the important roles they each played in Christ’s life story.

A Night, Night Prayer by Amy Parker and Marikan Ramljak. F reads this with S each night before bed, and its gentle rhymes set a mellow tone for our evening. I think of it as a Christian rendition of Goodnight Moon – naming and thanking God for the people, animals, and nature that fill our days.

Child’s Guide to the Seven Sacraments by Elizabeth Ficocelli. I often gift this book (or similar titles from the same author) on the occasion of children’s First Communion or Reconciliation. I think her explanations of the sacraments are simple yet thoughtful and meaningful for children.

My Baptism Book and My First Holy Communion by Sophie Piper and Dubvraka Kolanovic. More favorites for “first sacraments.” Both books offer inviting illustrations and simple prayers drawn from Scripture and saints, but in language that speaks to children and respects their innate spirituality.

What other children’s books on God and faith do you enjoy – or love as a child yourself?

(A plea for independent booksellers: after I posted all these links, I found myself wondering if there was an alternative to Ama.zon that I could link to. Please visit indiebound.org if you plan to purchase any of these titles: most can be found there, and it makes a huge difference to local communities if you support small booksellers! From now on, I’ll be linking to IndieBound wherever possible.)

One thought on “faith in children’s books

  1. Great post! I love children’s books! Maybe a little too much for the budget! Thank goodness for library sales! I have come across these resources that have excellent book lists:

    http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Own-Classical-Curriculum/dp/0898706602

    http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Mosaic-Liturgical-Literature-Illustrated/dp/B000NNO0Y6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1288983458&sr=8-2

    http://www.amazon.com/Picture-Perfect-Childhood-Cay-Gibson/dp/0615179819/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288983600&sr=8-1

    They include more than just religious books because they are homeschooling resources, but are still great for non-homeschooling families too!

    For our wedding, Bryan and I also received a booklist compiled by a few of my students. It was my favorite gift! I have added to it, but can send it to you if you would like!

    “A-mah” 🙂

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