by Catherine Montgomery, Director of Children’s Formation and Family Ministries
Is there anything better than a beautiful children’s book? I still remember my favorites as a child of the 70’s — Where the Wild Things Are, The Snowy Day, Goodnight Moon, everything by Shel Silverstein, and so many more. When my children were younger, we would often come home from the library with a stack of books up to my chin. We couldn’t get enough of Eric Carle or Dr. Seuss. Every colorful cover called to us from the shelves.
As any parent knows, reading with a child is about much more than developing reading skills — it’s about being still together, quiet, free of distractions for a moment to enter a world of beautifully simple words and captivating illustrations. It’s one of those rare moments of absolute presence that we know children and adults alike crave.
Perhaps something even deeper is happening for children when they experience a story. In his book Read the Bible for a Change, author Ray Luebeck says, “Narrative structure is essential, not only for effective communication but for thinking itself. When children ask to hear a story, it’s not simply a biological craving for amusement or a demand for attention, it arises out of a genuine human need to make sense of the disparate experiences of our lives. And that need is addressed in storytelling. Through stories, we learn how to see patterns, we learn about cause and effect, we learn how to discover the consequences of our choices, our sense of right and wrong, and of what is most important and least valuable in life. All of these are shaped for us by the stories we hear and then live.” Those of you who have served as storytellers in Godly Play (our Sunday School program for children age 3 through 2nd grade) have no doubt experienced this first hand. Children are endlessly able to enter a story and find themselves inside of it. Perhaps this is a taste of what Jesus meant when he said we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whether your children are wiggly toddlers or lanky tweens, I invite you to discover these beautiful books together. Cell phones silenced (or even better, in another room) and TV’s off, find a cozy spot and open a book together. Each of the books featured below is available to borrow from the Christ Church library — it’s upstairs in the Christian Family Center, the first room on the left (201).
Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel – Preschool and Up
With spare words, and illustrations that are both whimsical and powerful, this book is a salve to the soul when the news around us feels grim. Rylant encourages readers to see the beauty of life all around us when all seems lost — and notice the creatures who “know something about life: that everything is changing. And it is worth waking up in the morning to see what might happen.”
Found by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago – Age 3 to 8
From the creator of The Jesus Storybook Bible, this lovely board book retells Psalm 23 in language accessible to all. With beautiful illustrations by Jago, Found reminds all of us (big and small) that our shepherd is with us even when we “walk through the dark, scary, lonely places.”
Maybe God is Like That Too by Jennifer Grant – Age 3 to 8
In this heartwarming story, a grandmother explains to her grandson where God can be seen in the city around them. With her guidance, he finds the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in his midst – on the swingset, in the classroom, even doing homework while grandma washes the dishes. Maybe God is Like That Too reminds us all to seek the sacred in the ordinary.
Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu – Age 4 to 9
In a sea of storybook bibles, this one stands out. In an effort to make bible stories readable and enticing, some storybook bibles are watered down and questionably translated, with illustrations that provide a deceptively narrow worldview. In this work, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu presents more than 50 bibles stories from Genesis to Revelation, highlighting God’s desire for all people to love one another. Most notably, the book is illustrated by twenty artists from around the world, who were encouraged to reflect their own culture in each work. The diversity in the images expands the reading experience for all. As each story includes a short prayer, this storybook bible makes a perfect bedtime book.
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago – Age 6 and Up
Written like a daily devotional, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is a collection of 101 profound thoughts on faith, such as “Already… But Not Yet” and “Forgiven”. With an encouraging and conversation tone, Lloyd-Jones provides just enough direction to encourage the reader’s own wondering, without oversimplifying or being sanctimonious. Because this book will spark interesting reflections from both older children and adults, it would be a perfect addition to the dinnertime routine. Beautifully illustrated, it also makes a wonderful gift for families.
I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God by Diane Stortz – Age 4 and Up
This unique book is organized around 40 of the Bible’s many names for the triune God, such as the rock, comforter, rabbi, and the Great I Am, many including the pronunciation of the Hebrew word. Each name includes a story from the bible, a “What Does it Mean?” section, and suggested readings for further exploration. I Am encourages readers to grow in faith and know better the character of God as revealed in scripture. This is a great choice for an older elementary school child who may feel too grown up for a storybook bible, but is still most engaged by illustrated books.
Stop by the church library anytime during regular hours and check out one of these books. Our library is governed by an honor system — feel free to grab a copy and return it when you are ready.
Note: An adult formation class meets in the library on Sundays from 10:15 – 11:00, but it’s open before and after the Formation hour.