by Phoebe Farag Mikhail
One of my favorite aspects of summer days growing up was being able to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. As a teenager, I remember staying up late to read my favorite historical fiction novels and then sleeping in till noon. This love of reading, modeled and instilled by my parents in me since my childhood, has served me well. Now, it’s important to me to do the same for my children.
This was the topic of discussion at my church’s recent moms’ meeting, the Fellowship of St. Monica. Our senior parish priest, Fr. Athanasius K. Farag, who has raised five of his own readers (including me!) shared his advice with us. His nuggets of wisdom can be found at our church website here. In addition, those who attended the last meeting have 10 children ages 1 month to 9 years between us. Some of us send our children to public school and some homeschool, and we all shared some great ideas for getting our children to love reading, with some success (our oldest children have been bitten by the reading bug, thank God!). They have agreed to let me share our ideas and experiences with ourselves and our children, which I have gathered in this free resource, “A Guide to Helping Children Love Reading,” which you can access by clicking here to subscribe to my email newsletter.
To help all my readers stock their summer libraries, I have some exciting children’s book recommendations and giveaways. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book you like to be entered into the giveaway. Entries are accepted until Friday, June 16th at 11:59 pm EST, after which the drawing will occur and winners will be notified! I can only ship to US addresses.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Pentecost, and reading The Day When God Made Church: A Child’s First Book About Pentecost by Rebekah McLeod Hutto was a perfect way to commemorate it. This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book, and there are very few books dedicated to just the Pentecost. I read this book with my older children and their cousin, all within ages five through seven, and all three of them loved it. They even found it humorous at times. When I asked them what their favorite part of it was, they told me they loved the pictures. This is also a great book to read to a Sunday School class. You can browse the whole book here to preview it. Paraclete Press provided me a review copy for my honest review, and is offering one giveaway copy to one of my email subscribers. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book to be entered.
Similarly, Jane G. Meyer’s The Suitcase: A Story About Giving is not just a great story for sharing in Sunday School, but a great conversation starter with your own children. The story is about a young boy named Thomas who is a little bit different. The story doesn’t tell us, but many readers have identified in him some common autistic characteristics. I’m glad the story doesn’t tell us this directly; it allows almost any child to identify with any aspect of his uniqueness, like how much he loves his dog, how he likes to talk a lot, how creative he is, and how he is able, like many children, to grasp big theological concepts that even adults have trouble with. Nonetheless, families with children on the autism spectrum will enjoy reading a book in which the autistic child is the subject and the hero. In the story, Thomas packs a suitcase to the Kingdom of Heaven, and each item he packs is linked to one of our Lord Jesus Christ’s parables about the Kingdom in the Bible. I had a wonderful conversation with my seven year old son about what each item might mean, and it was a great story to read during Holy Week because in the Coptic Orthodox Church, the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven are read during Holy Week. Adults reading this book to children might want to brush up on the parables themselves ahead of time, which are found in the Gospels, specifically in Matthew 13. My favorite part of the book is the end, when the whole family takes Thomas’ cue to build up treasures in heaven. The illustrations in the book are also beautiful and calming, making this a great choice for bed time reading. You can browse the entire book here. Paraclete Press provided me a review copy for my honest review, and is offering one giveaway copy to one of my email subscribers. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book to be entered.
A new release from Fr. Tadros Malaty is Children’s Old Testament Bible Stories, a day by day children’s Bible with colorful Coptic iconography inspired illustrations. A prolific author and theologian, somehow Fr. Tadros Malaty is able to write beautifully and effectively for a young audience. This book of Bible stories tells significant stories from the Old Testament in the first person, and each story does not exceed two pages. At the end of each story is a prayer, reflection question, or a set of “did you know” questions, allowing children (and adults) to internalize and interact with the stories. The story of Ruth, for example, is told from Naomi’s perspective, and focuses on Ruth’s kindness and love towards her mother in law. The story concludes with the call to “Name one act of love that you have done for one of your relatives.” The book comes in hardcover or softcover and makes a great gift for the child in your life as well. The book is published by St. Moses Abbey Press, and I have one copy to give away to one of my readers. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book to be entered.
Another great gift idea for young children is the My Paraclete Bible Story Box, which contains six Bible stories written perfectly for bedtime. The reading level is suitable for a first or second grader to read independently, the illustrations are very colorful, and the books are also quite durable for use with the younger set. The box has a Velcro closure and a handle, again making this a very well made gift for first time parents or a young child’s birthday. I have given this set as a gift and love having it around to pull out a Bible story for bedtime. It includes the following six stories: Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Princess, David and Goliath, The First Christmas, Jesus and the Fisherman, and The Lost Sheep. Paraclete Press provided me a review copy for my honest review, and is offering one giveaway copy of the entire boxed set to one of my email subscribers. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book to be entered.
Finally, for the littlest readers, the board book Jesus’ Story by Virginia Noe makes a perfect baptism gift. When I handed this book to my 22 month old baby, he smiled gleefully, the small size perfect for his little hands and the illustrations simple and childlike. My baby’s favorite illustration comes at the end, in a two page Pentecost spread where he counts the apostles and marvels at the tongues of fire on their heads. My only criticism of this book is that it collapses all of Holy Week onto one page with a Last Supper illustration, but no Crucifixion illustration. I have seen the Crucifixion illustrated very tastefully in other children’s Bibles, sometimes with just three crosses on Golgotha from afar. Having the crucifixion makes the Resurrection page with the empty tomb all the more powerful. Similarly, there is no picture of the Lord Jesus after the Last Supper. Nonetheless, we’ve repeated read this book in our home, so it is a keeper. You can preview the entire book here. Paraclete Press provided me a review copy for my honest review, and is offering one giveaway copy to one of my email subscribers. Comment below with your questions or advice for helping children love reading, and include the title of the book to be entered.
Enjoy your summer reading, and stay tuned for more book reviews and book giveaways for children and adults in the upcoming weeks!
To receive your copy of the Guide to Helping Children Love Reading and to enter the giveaway and win one of the above publications, please subscribe to Being in Community via email and then make a comment below on which of the above books would like to be entered to win. Please also share any advice and/or questions you have about helping children love reading. The giveaway ends on Friday, July 16th, at 11:59 pm EST, US addresses only. If you can’t wait for the giveaway (or you don’t win), most of the links above are affiliate links for purchasing the products. If you choose to make a purchase via those links, I will receive a small commission for referring you at no extra cost to you. You are under no obligation to purchase the items through my links, but if you do, you will be helping support the cost of running this blog and providing you with the writing and reviews you enjoy. Your support is much appreciated!