Guest Post by Alaina Peterson
Who cares, right? Books are books!
Well, sure. Books ARE books. If you’re going to choose between reading as a family and not reading as a family, choose reading. But when we take that extra step with kids, when we are intentional about what we put in front of them and what it means to them as they develop their sense of who they are in the world, we show them windows into other people's worlds and mirrors of who they are.
Again, when it comes to reading with kids, the most important thing is also the simplest: just do it. Reading as a family creates a time for children to be physically close with parents and siblings but also address important topics that might not come up inside the home apart from reading books together.
Questions about each other, about how God wants us to approach situations, about our own values – these questions flow naturally when we choose the right books. Kids’ love for language and reading and their love for family time can be fostered through quality books.
Okay, done. We read together. Eric Carle, the Magic School Bus, Junie B. Jones, all the classics. Done. But guess what? There is SO much more to be had from literature when we stop to think about a few things.
Who is represented in this book?
If it was similar to my childhood experience, the characters probably look a lot like this:
Are these characters our kids should look up to? Who are the “heroes”? Do all the people in the story look like me and come from my culture, or does the book show diversity in its characters?
What are the roles each of the characters hold?
Who are the characters who are always in trouble and what do they look like? Are all of the heroes boys/girls? Who needs “saving”? If there is a family in the story, how does the family function?
Is there anything in this book that provokes us to talk about Jesus?
Now, I am definitely not saying that all of your books should be Devotions for Kids, Jr. Bible, and the kids’ version of a Francis Chan book. What I am advocating is that you really look at books before you buy them. Walmart has some cute books, but very few 2.99 paperbacks will provoke you and your children to talk about Christ-like character in the way that quality books will.
I challenge you to check out library books where the characters look and act VERY different from you! Your child can experience the world and its people through reading books written in Black English, Chicano English, books with children from China and India. Talk about God’s love for all people as you read! It is amazing the conversations that you can have with children when you explore something new together. Here we go, personal recommendations. Each of these shows a diverse group of people, gives deep and often spiritual topics to discuss, and are also just fun to read!
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
- Jack & Jim by Kitty Crowther
- I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Alda
- Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
- Do Like Kyla by Angela Johnson
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Alaina Peterson served as a Site Director at COCUSA in 2016. Alaina and her husband Luke are currently studying at the University of Illinois where Alaina is majoring in elementary education with a minor in Spanish. You can get in touch with Alaina on Facebook.