Children and Spirituality: Book Recommendations
written by: Rev. Heather Baggett, M.Div., BCC contact: email@example.com
As new parents, we have a lot to worry about when it comes to raising these tiny human beings entrusted to our care. Should we breastfeed or formula feed or both? When should we start solids? Should I let her cry it out or should I soothe her to sleep? Do I need to start baby Einstein at 3 months so my child doesn’t end up behind when they start pre-k?
For some of us, spirituality is another one of those worries. For me, spirituality is anything that connects to the greater universe and each other – this can take the form of various religions or it can be more nebulous “spiritual practices” but, if asked, most of us would say we wanted our child to grow up to be spiritually healthy – even if we might not really know what that looks like.
Now, I am an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church and a board certified chaplain so I probably worry more about my daughter’s spirituality than some. Today, I wanted to share some of the best books I have found for young children that help them explore their spiritual selves. I am going to split them into a few categories. The first is going to be straight-up Christian centered books. Then a few “theistic” books, and then a few books about spirituality in general that are not specific to any religious traditions.
Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This children’s Bible includes more than 50 stories from both the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is written in a wonderfully expressive way that invites kids (and even some adults) into the stories. However, I think my favorite part might be the illustrations. Archbishop Desmond Tutu recruited artists from cultures all over the world to illustrate the stories in a way that was authentic to their culture. There are so many vibrant and beautiful illustrations in this Bible.
Throughout the stories the idea of “God’s Dream” for God’s people is repeated, allowing for a common theme to weave as you read story after story. This book is geared towards ages 4-8. However, we have already started the tradition of reading one story to our 7-month-old every night before bed. She will grow into the stories.
Jesus, the Word by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones
This is a beautifully lyrical book that traces the story of the second person of the Trinity – Jesus – throughout the Bible, even in the Old Testament when all we can identify Jesus as is the “Word”.
This book will resonate especially with Christians of liturgical traditions as one of the repeated refrains is a variation on the Nicene creed. That is not to say that it is not a wonderful and inspiring book for Christians of any stripe.
You may soon realize that I LOVE a well-illustrated book because I cannot say enough about the wonderful and evocative illustrations that Shelly Hehenberger created to go along with Bozzuti-Jones inspiring words. This is one of my all-time favorite books as an adult and I have read it as a sermon (for adults) before. Again, this is geared towards children aged 4 and up. However, I read it to my daughter knowing she will grow into.
What is God’s Name? by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
This beautiful book asks the question, “What is God’s name?” The person who takes care of sheep calls God Shepherd. The woman nursing her child calls Godmother. The lonely child calls God friend. In the end, they realize that God is all of these things and more.
The simple statements, beautiful imagery, and cultural diversity of both the words and the illustration make this a great book to introduce God to children. It gives the parent a chance to ask their child how they see God and talk about how and why different people see God in different ways.
Another great thing is that this book is a board book. It is geared towards ages 2-4. They read it, they can chew it, they can throw it. Three-in-one!
Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
This book is similar to “What is God’s name?” but is geared towards a slightly older child. In it, all the beings of the universe can communicate with one another. Eventually, an argument breaks out. The island says God is vast and alone. The mountain says God is strong and still. The breeze says God is swift and silent. Eventually, Old Turtle settles the argument saying God is all of those things. Finally, people come and must learn the same lesson from the world all around them.
This is an especially appropriate book if you teach your child care for the environment and care for the creatures of God’s earth – human included.
This book is geared towards ages 4-8.
Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood
You might look at this one and say, “Wait, didn’t we just see Old Turtle?” Yes, you did but this second book is so good I couldn’t only mention the first. In this book humanity finds a truth – “You are special”. They fight wars over this truth, and it is won and lost and won and lost over and over again. Until one day a little girl realizes the truth is broken and travels to see Old Turtle. Old Turtle gives her the other half of the broken truth.
It is a hard journey back and she is much changed when she returns but eventually, she gets people to see the other half of the broken truth (I am not going to tell you what that is here – read the book and find out).
This book is geared towards ages 4-8.
I Wonder by Annaka Harris
This is a great story to help children ask questions about the world around them and to wonder at where things came from and their place in the universe. It teaches that “I don’t know” is a wonderful answer because it gives us a chance to wonder about something, whether by ourselves or with others.
While no specific religious undertones are present in this book, I think that it is an extremely spiritual book in that it teaches us how to approach the world around in a way that allows us to see meaning and amazement and connection. What better way to build our spirituality?
This book is geared towards age 1 and up.
These books are pose-by-pose stories to help children wake up and fall asleep. Each also includes a meditation. The Good Morning book meditation is about choosing how you are going to approach the day and making a conscious choice about what emotions you are going to bring to the day. The Good Night book has a meditation to help your child fall asleep.
For many of us, spirituality begins with mindfulness and meditation as ways to feed our souls and help us to connect the people and the world around us. These books are a great way to start the habits of meditation and mindfulness early with the added benefit of encouraging daily activity.
These books are geared towards ages 4-8.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of books that can help introduce your child to spirituality, they are a great place to start! I’d love to hear of any books that you all have found and loved in the comments!