by Dale Reeves
Walt Disney once said:
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
Today, April 23, is “World Book Day,” established at UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) General Conference in Paris in 1995 as a way to pay tribute to books and authors. The main focus is on children and young people, hoping to instill in them a love for books, ultimately contributing to their future development. Why April 23? Because on that date in 1616, Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died—all of them famous authors.
Reading books is crucial for children’s development, and this has never been more critical than it is today with so many children consuming vast amounts of time playing video games and scrolling social media, rather than reading the old-fashioned way. Reading regularly stimulates their minds, increases their vocabulary, teaches new things, improves focus, helps them develop their thinking skills, and aids in helping them relax and reduce the stress they may feel in their lives. It feeds their imagination, teaches them empathy for others, and encourages them to interact with and discover the outside world. According to the World Book Day website, reading for pleasure has a bigger positive impact on a child’s future than any other factors of their upbringing, such as income or their parents’ educational background. Even ten minutes a day spent reading, or being read to, can have a big impact on a child’s life and future.
Helpful Resources from Moms Who Know
Author Emilie Buchwald has famously said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” I asked several moms/educators in our church for some of their favorite resources that I could pass on today, and here is what I heard:
Virginia Forste says her favorite books for toddlers include anything by Sandra Boynton (such as Moo, Baa, La La La!), P. D. Eastman, and Dr. Seuss. She also recommends God Bless My Boo Boo, and God Bless You and Good Night, both written by Hannah Hall. For ages 5+ she recommends The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, and The Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold.
For ages 7+ Virginia says, “Every elementary school reading teacher should read Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble and other titles in the Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel.” Virginia comments, “Read anything your kids are interested in, and books that won’t drive you crazy as you read them for the one-millionth time. I do not get tired of the board books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Little Blue Truck.”
Terra Koch says one of her favorite resources has been a podcast called “Read Aloud Revival,” where specific books are suggested, as well as ways of engaging children of different ages into great books. Terra took an online course on classic children’s literature that emphasized a concept called “moral imagination.” Author Vigen Guroian says in his book, Tending the Heart of Virtue:
“The great fairy tales and fantasy stories capture the meaning of morality through vivid depictions of the struggle between good and evil, where characters must make difficult choices between right and wrong, or heroes and villains contest the very fate of imaginary worlds.”
Series such as The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, and the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, tap into moral imagination in a powerful way, teaching many life and spiritual lessons. The Treasure Tree, by Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent, is also a favorite at the Koch house.
Lizzie Riley, who teaches preschoolers weekly at Christ’s Church, loves Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle; and Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, by Eric Litwin. She observes, “The books that preschoolers enjoy the most have songs, rhyming, and repetition in them. Those methods are also very helpful in learning Scripture verses from the Bible.”
Lizzie continues, “My favorite Bible story to teach my preschoolers is the Genesis creation story. It is such a great foundational story to teach them about our world. We teach them to love and respect all the amazing things that God made and of course worship the amazing God who made it all! We read the book, The 7 Days of Creation, by Mindy MacDonald, to teach about God’s creation.”
Terra Koch shares that she has read a series of four seasonal books by author Liz Curtis Higgs over and over again with her children. These books are The Parable of the Lily, The Sunflower Parable, The Pumpkin Patch Parable, and the Pine Tree Parable.
Terra and Virginia have both enjoyed reading The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones because of how relatable and readily understandable the children’s versions are. Virginia adds, “Bible books that have actually kept my son’s attention are Brick Builder’s Illustrated Bible: Over 35 Bible Stories for Kids; and How Great Is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God and Science, by Louie Giglio. Virginia says, “I have our kids repeat the prayer from the Bible we’re reading, then I ask them what they want to thank God for or ask him for . . . and I try not to roll my eyes when they ask for more toys!”
Another fantastic book I would recommend is written by a former boss of mine and good friend, Diane Stortz, I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God, which features Bible stories, devotions, and prayers focused on the names of God.
Read and Heed
Virginia Forste is an integral member of our blog writing team here at Christ’s Church. She offers these practical tips for reading with kids:
- Use books as teaching tools. When my son and I were fighting more than normal, I bought a children’s book on how to deal with emotions. In this way, the book acts as a third party and your child won’t feel he or she is being directly targeted.
- Don’t be a martyr. You can say no to reading any book you don’t like. It’s good to model that reading should be enjoyable. and that children can stop reading a book they’re not excited about. Some nights I let my kids choose all three or four books we read and sometimes I will choose one and they will choose two. This allows you to expose them to the literature they may have passed up just because the cover looked boring.
- Ask your kids to make predictions about the story as you read aloud. This is an important reading skill.
- Take advantage of your local library. It’s a fun and free after-school activity.
Reading for Adults
Reading books on a consistent basis is also a habit that can have huge impact on anyone, regardless of their age. My friend and former youth pastor at Christ’s Church, Tyler Ash, sets a goal for himself to read 50 books every year. That’s a pace of one book per week! He says that 75 percent of his reading is in the non-fiction category, consisting primarily of books on leadership, spiritual and personal development, and biographies. He says that this plan forces him to read some stuff that he would not have read otherwise. But you don’t have to be a speed reader like Tyler to always be looking for fresh material that will help develop you into a more Christlike disciple. Read at your own pace based on what God seems to be teaching you at the moment.
Celebrate World Book Day by picking up a good book (or THE Good Book) and reading it! Celebrate this day by taking a trip to your local library or bookstore, or shopping on Amazon. I love the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon that allows you to search through and view pages from inside a book before purchasing it.
The Best Book for Adults
The apostle Paul challenges us with these words in 2 Timothy 3:15, 16: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness” (NASB).
I’ve been asked by a number of folks who are new believers, “How should I start reading the Bible? And what version should I read?” I suggest reading the Bible in a version that is accurate to the original languages in which it was written (Hebrew and Greek), and one that is written in the language of today. The top three versions I would suggest are the New Living Translation (NLT), the New International Version (NIV), and the English Standard Version (ESV).
Many people find it challenging to read the Bible in the order of the 66 books from the beginning to the end, and often get bogged down somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers. I would suggest reading about the life of Jesus first as presented in the Gospel of John (which contains his famous “I Am” statements), as it helps us understand his mission and what that means for us today. Then, move on to the practical theology of the book of James, the book of 1 John, the Gospels of Mark or Luke, and practical instruction for our daily lives found in the book of Proverbs. By reading just one chapter a day in Proverbs, you would finish reading the book in a month’s time. The more you read, the more that God will create a hunger in you for the truth found in his Word.
“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).
How will you choose to celebrate World Book Day today?