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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Children's Books
I recently got an email from an EW reader who wrote -
I am a graduate student in English and the wife of a campus minister ... We have a baby boy who is 5 months old. We've been thinking about how to teach him about Jesus (of course) and I've been looking for children's books. I am having a difficult time finding good books for children, and I'm wondering if you might have any recommendations. Perhaps this could be a good post on the blog. Many of the books I find portray Jesus as a white man or assign stereotypical roles to women and men. I would also love to teach him to pray for children in poverty, and I can't seem to find any books on this!

So I contributed my $.02 -

I'm with you on the children's books thing. So many that I find (or have been given to me) are just awful. I've yet to find any good Jesus books for kids, but there are a number of decent spirituality books out there. Some of my favorites include -

The Lord's Prayer and The Twenty-third Psalm - by Tim Ladwig (uses the familiar words with fantastic artwork that portrays inner-city life)

and books from the Early Childhood Spirituality series like - Where is God?, What is God's Name?, and How Does God Make Things Happen? (most by Laurence Kushner or Sandy Eisenburg Sasso). These books are very multicultural and focus on love and grace. They have full picture books and board book varieties (a necessity with my toddler).

and (although they are not "Christian" - by label, not intent) I like the values taught in the Todd Parr line of books like The Peace Book and The Feelings Book. (Emma especially like the idea of peace being enough pizza in the world for everyone, she's two)

and I think they are out of print, but the allegorical stories in The Tales of the Kingdom series by David and Karen Mains have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.

But I would love to find "bible" stories that aren't warped in some way. That don't change the story drastically to be suitable for kids, that don't reduce scripture to a plithy fable, or that don't teach individualistic "me" centered theology.

So I present the question here to the diverse community that meanders to this blog. What do you recommend?

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posted by Julie at 10:46 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 6/13/2007 01:12:00 AM, Anonymous becky

    Phyllis Tickle is coming out This Is What I Pray Today: Divine Hours Prayers For Children (Dutton, October 2007). I saw an advance copy because I interviewed her and was blown away. Also, I like Tomie dePaola's illustrations of bible stories.

  • At 6/13/2007 05:53:00 AM, Blogger Joel Frederick

    I'm sorry, not a woman but I have a suggestion for a book we have given friends.

    Susan Hunt, "Big Truths for Little Kids".

    It progresses through the Catechisms with a story that applies to the thought for that Chatechism. They have been reading it to their son since he was 1 or 2.

  • At 6/13/2007 09:43:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Joel - welcome, men are invited to comment here any time.

    Honestly though I have to say that the "Big Truths for Little Kids" is one of the books I have been given that I have issues with.

    It attempts to be multicultural (well basically having Asians and Blacks and whites all acting like upper middle class americans) and focuses on spirituality not bible stories. It mostly focuses on boys, with a couple of girl stories thrown in.

    My main issues with it are theological. I know it preaches the catechism, but there are some things that I just can't teach my child. It assumes that God is a punitive God who sends people to hell in anger. It presents Adam and Eve as working to be good to earn God's favor and being punished with death for angering God. I'm not into a reward/punishment based theology (although it remains a popular option).

    It also presents a truncated gospel that is all about saying a prayer at a particular so that you go to heaven when you die. The kingdom is not here on earth, but all after death. Making disciples is about getting them to intellectually assent to a belief system and not about following the way of Christ.

    It also makes fun of people who follow science as oppossed to creationism. And there are are denominational differences as well - like what the sacraments are and what they are for, and that it promotes infant baptism.

    It is mostly not wanting to promote a theology I disagree with to my child. But I don't see any emerging children's books coming out any time soon!

  • At 6/13/2007 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I really appreciate the the ideas on children's books. We've also struggled in this area. After picking up several Christian books for our kids and either having bad theology or just general cheesiness, I'd given up. I'll have to add these to my list. (Julie, can be buy these through the EW list an Amazon)?

    On a somewhat related note, I was wondering if any of you use a particular curriculum or style of teaching for your children's ministries classes. Julie, you mentioned staying away from the reward/punishment style of raising children. What do you use instead and do you have a particular way you church applies this to its children's programs? I've noticed recently that our kids ministry uses a lot of candy/sweet rewards, especially to offerings. It's a competition of boys vs. girls. Not that a little candy is horrible thing, but I wonder if there's a more effective way of teaching our children to give just because it's the right thing to do, or out of true compassion for missions, etc.

  • At 6/14/2007 05:57:00 AM, Blogger wilsford


    Reading a book with which you disagree is a great way to broaden your own thinking. It wasn't until we enrolled two of our kids in Christian school and had to start dealing with full-blown doctrinal living conflicts and questions that our own faith was challenged.

    This isn't for the faint-of-heart. We ended up leaving the world of church altogether (which is not the same thing as leaving God, but then, that's food for another discussion).

  • At 6/14/2007 10:15:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Wilsford - I agree with the need to read books one disagrees with. I would just like a few that I do agree with to help lay the foundation. Choosing the ones I least disagree with to help present images of faith to my daughter is not the best option imo.

    Amy - I'll get those books up on the EW bookstore soon. Since we don't have a children's ministry per se at our church yet, we don't have a curriculum (generally the kids sing songs, read a few books, and play).

    When I was a children's pastor, I generally wrote my own curriculum. But I did like the Jubilation Station Curriculum by David C. Cook. I would modify it for the group I led, but it was a good starting point.

    I think the rewards/punishment stuff could make an interesting post question for the group, so I'll save that for sometime within the next week...

  • At 6/14/2007 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    We have many people concerned about emerging Christian children's stories, and many beautiful writers -- what do you ladies think about putting together our own collection of children's stories?

  • At 6/14/2007 02:38:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    I'd be interested in something like that, Jemila.

  • At 6/14/2007 04:13:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    that could be fun

  • At 6/15/2007 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    The book I read to our DC from the get-go is Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado. I love how it talks about Heaven in the context of a parent's unconditional love for their children.

    As far as Bible stories, I still like the old-fashioned Egermier's Bible Stories. It's a big red tome but it stays close to scripture and I like that. I also have very happy memories from learning from that book as a little girl.

    I absolutely love and am quite often brought to tears when I read Jesus Wants All of Me to DC. It's a kid-sized version of My Utmost for His Highest and lemme tell you it hits home with my thirtysomething heart every time. DC seem to get it too. It's very simple and high-octane spiritually.

  • At 6/18/2007 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Another good Max Lucado book is I Am Special.

  • At 6/28/2007 01:19:00 PM, Blogger jessica, jah.

    Interesting stuff!
    I'm a college student in Fresno, CA, and very much wanting to become more involved in the Emerging conversation, especially in regards to women and our roles in the church, past, present and future.

    I've seen this wonderful site before, but happened upon it again while searching around for good children's Bible literature. I'll be going on a missions trip to Durban, South Africa in a couple weeks, working especially with the children's ministry. I have absolutely NO intention of explaining faith to these kids the way I learned it!

    Reading these pages affirms the difficulty (but necessity!) of finding holistic, generous, and global thinking when it comes to children's resources. Thanks for all the suggestions, and the encouragement to further seek resources that offer an alternative.

    We'll see what happens, I suppose! I'm sure the children will teach me so much more than I could ever hope to teach them... and that's the way it should be.

    Hope to see you all again!


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