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Children’s books make teachable Christmas giftscomment (0)

December 4, 2008

By Cheryl Sloan Wray

With Christmas approaching, it’s the perfect time for children to discover just how inspirational reading can be.

Christian-based children’s books make great gifts, and they provide an opportunity for parents to pause during the busy season and spend time reading together.

According to Kay Smith, sales associate at Dothan’s LifeWay Christian Store, there are a number of books, authors and book series that are popular with children and their parents.

“VeggieTales books always do well, and [author] Max Lucado is popular, too,” she said. “And whenever one of the Narnia movies or DVDs comes out, the C.S. Lewis books become popular again.”

There are many Christmas-themed books available, such as “The Legend of the Candy Cane” and “The First Christmas,” Smith said.

“And we have a book called ‘Christmas with Boz,’ which is one in a really popular series about Boz, a big dog that teaches children important lessons.”

According to Eva Nell Hunter, church media specialist at Central Baptist Church, Decatur, in Morgan Baptist Association, there are many more book options than Christian parents might realize.

She especially enjoys many of the children’s books that are designed around adult classics.

“‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and ‘In His Hands’ are both adaptations of Charles Sheldon’s classic ‘In His Steps,’ retold for children by Mack Thomas,” Hunter said. “And then there is ‘Little Pilgrim’s Progress,’ which is from the classic ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan. It has been simplified by Helen Taylor for young readers and is an adventure story and allegory of the Christian journey through life.”

Those books, she said, are suited for 8- to 10-year-olds, but there are many options for preschoolers and young children as well. She recommends the board books “The Story of Jesus” and “First Steps to God: Beginning Lessons of God’s Love” by Stephen Elkins.

“These use simple words to tell the biblical story of Jesus and to teach children that they are loved by God,” Hunter said.

She added that many well-known authors who usually write for adults have delved successfully into books for children. Works by Max Lucado include “The Crippled Lamb,” “Jacob’s Gift,” “Tell Me the Story” and “A Hat for Ivan.” Sheila Walsh’s two book series are about “Gigi, God’s Little Princess” and “Will, God’s Mighty Warrior.” Beth Moore has authored “A Parable about the King,” which teaches “that no matter where you live or who you are, if you’re one of God’s children, you are a child of a King.”

One of the best ways to find quality Christian books for children is to know which ones have been awarded for their excellence. In Christian publishing circles, the Christian Book Awards (formerly the Gold Medallion Awards) are the most esteemed awards given. They recognize a best “children and youth” award. Two years ago, the Christy Awards (named for the Catherine Marshall novel “Christy”) began recognizing the best young adult book of the year as well.

The Christian Book Awards can be found at www.ecpa.org/christianbookawards, and the Christy Awards can be found at www.christyawards.com.

Additional resources for locating good Christian books are the various bestseller lists available online. The Christian Booksellers Association lists weekly best sellers at www.cbaonline.org.

The Evangelical Church Library Association recommends various books and, along with Christian books, it includes a number of mainstream works on its list for young children. Along with recommended Christian titles, such as “The Tale of Three Trees” by Angela Hunt and books in the “VeggieTales” series, it also lists secular books, such as “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLachlan; “Ramona Forever” by Beverly Cleary; “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister; “The Great Brain,” a series by J.D. Fitzgerald; “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes; “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson; and Scholastic’s “My Name Is America” series.

Finding a good book for a child is just the first step in that child appreciating and enjoying reading.

According to Angela Nelson, media specialist at Hillcrest Middle School in Tuscaloosa, there are many easy things that parents can do to help encourage a love of reading in their child.

She recommends such things as:

• Provide a wide range of reading materials in the home (fiction, nonfiction, periodicals).

• Talk to your child about his or her reading.

• Listen to audio books on long trips.

• Make sure your child has a quiet place to read in the home.

• Give books as gifts.

• If a book is made into a movie, discuss the differences.

• Take your child to the library.

• Start a book club at your church.

Nelson said, though, that the best thing for parents to remember is that children notice what they are doing. If parents read, children usually follow suit.

“Read, read, read,” she said. “Read to your children, even when they get older, and let them see you reading, too.
Show your enthusiasm and share what you are reading with them.”

Hunter agreed that reading is too important to ignore but added that sometimes it takes a little work to foster a love of books in a child. “It’s so important,” she said. “There are so many books that are great to be read by parents to their children or to be read with them.”

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