I’ve enjoyed recent conversations here on the many ways that we pass our faith on to our children, concerns over unchurched grandchildren, and teenagers who no longer read the Bible. So much of this is a mystery, and we often don’t know when and how the seeds of faith are being planted or when and how they will grow.
I treasure memories of bedtime stories with my children, and I trust that this was a time of such seed-planting. When they were very young, we read a lot of Bible stories with them. I couldn’t predict which stories would grab them. My children weren’t very interested in Noah’s Ark, but I remember reading the story of Daniel over and over again. My son liked the story of old man Abraham and his wife Sarah having a baby, and he made us laugh by calling Isaac “Izgic.”
It wasn’t too long before we started reading other books too – many of them classic children’s books. Most of them are not overtly religious, but so many of them are deeply profound.
Some of our family favorites (and the seeds I hope they planted) might be familiar to you too:
The Runaway Bunny (Our children cannot escape our love, or God’s love either. This book reminds me of Psalm 139 – “You have searched me out and known me…”)
Love you Forever (Another reminder of love that matures, but never ends, like a parent’s love, and like God’s love for us.)
Good Night Moon (Such a simple yet contemplative book, a reminder to keep our eyes open to the present moment and the simple, everyday things of life.)
Old Turtle (A reminder of the wisdom in God’s Creation, and our connection with all created beings.)
These are only a few examples of how classic children’s stories – and imaginative illustrations too – can teach important lessons of faith: love, compassion, hope, wonder, and gratitude, to name a few.
I asked my husband at the breakfast table the other day which books he recalled. They were pretty much the same ones as I remembered. But he also reminded me of a book that was sent to us by some friends in England, and that our children loved. It’s out of print now, and I don’t think it was ever distributed in the US. It’s called When Mum Turned into a Monster.
As I remember it, a mother panics in anticipation of the cousins coming to tea, the messy house, and uncooperative kids. As the tension rises, she slowly starts turning into a monster: her nose grows, her face and hands turn green, and smoke comes out of her ears. Somehow the house gets cleaned, the tea is made, and the cousins arrive for a successful visit. The final page has “Mum” plopped on a chair relieved to have it all over with, the children lovingly surrounding her.
Lesson learned? Seeds planted? Forgiveness, I suppose. Even Mom can have her bad days!
All those books on cars, trucks, and bulldozers? I’m not sure what seeds they planted, except perhaps the fact that Mom and Dad had patience and perseverance, reading and saying vroom over and over. And then there were two of my daughter’s all-time favorites Do Monkeys Tweet? and The Seven Silly Eaters. Both pure silliness, yet reminders that we need to take time out of every day to laugh, to leave behind the practical concerns of our lives, even to be fools.
Of course, like any time we spend with our children, it was often just being together, being fully present to one another, that was most precious. I hope that the memories of our reading times together as well as the stories themselves continue to bring them consolation, and that whatever seeds were planted continue to grow.
What are/were your children’s favorite story books?
What seeds of faith are being planted and continue to grow?
Beth Lyon-Suhring says
Union Presbyterian Seminary has a wonderful blog, Storypath ( http://storypath.upsem.edu/ ), with reviews of mostly secular children’s books and the theological conversation partners with which each might be paired. The reviews even offer faith talk questions as jumping-off points for discussions.
Nurya Love Parish says
Thanks for the idea!
Although I do not have children of my own, “The Velveteen Rabbit” has always been one of my favorite stories, with its gentle and poignant lesson of how love transforms us. This is a story whose eternal message never grows old.
Thank you for this! I loved the connection of presence to story time, and know that I have childhood memories of these books. Especially “Love You Forever”. To this day, I sign pretty much every Mother’s Day card with “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always” or some variation on the theme.
I love this! I am reading the Anne of Green Gables series with my 11-year-old right now and there is a lot of talk about “Providence.” It has led to some good, if brief, discussions on the ideas of God providing and how spiritual attitudes and practices have changed over the years. I relish the opportunities for these discussions to come up naturally, and I find that books are a great catalyst.
Thank you for making the theological connections with some traditionally secular books. I struggle with subtext (in life!) so this was really helpful. And Mum the Monster sounds all too familiar to our house!