It happens that some of my daughters favorite books are on the subjects of food, farming and nature and I’ve found that the ideas resonate with most kids. Children love to be outside (maybe not so much with the temperatures are over 100, but still sometimes even then) and to watch the natural world unfold before them. If this is a new area of interest for you, or if you are just looking to expand your kids’ reading list here are a few of our favorites.
The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi:
A simple story about a New York City Bee Keeper and the way he cares for his hive and his community. It also has a lot of information about how honey is made.
Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson:
The story of an urban family and their tradition of getting apples from the farmer’s market and making apple sauce together. It shows how something as simple as cooking a pot of apples together can become a cherished memory. It also has a recipe for applesauce that I use all the time.
The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson:
A story of how apples become apple pie. This is a sweet father-daughter book and is always my daughter’s pick to give out as a birthday gift for friends.
All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant
One of the biggest challenges in modern culture is accepting the limitations of a day and it seems that I always try to cram in too much. This is a book about cherishing the small things of one day.
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock:
This is actually a textbook developed to help teachers take kids outside and learn about nature. It has a beautiful perspective about letting nature speak for itself and has sections on birds, animals, insects, plants and weather. You can look up for example, “mocking bird” and read some of the natural history of the bird and then learn to listen for its call or discover it’s nest, it is a great book to take out to the back yard to deepen your experience of the natural world.
This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now are reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We would love for you to join us.
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During our two month absence the library relocated the Spanish children’s books which my daughter loves to check out though rarely reads. We never found where they put them because instead we discovered a collection of coffee table picture books, you know the kind that cost way too much at museum gift shops? As it turns out they actually let you take these beauties home for two weeks (6 if you keep on renewing them). My daughter picked out one on parrots and I found this gem, The Life of Christ in Masterpieces of Art.
I doubt this book was created with children in mind but my daughter asked for it incessantly once we brought it home. It features paintings, mosaics and sculptures paired with Scripture readings that tell the story of Christ from Annunciation to Ascension. She was captivated by the images and I was able to introduce her to great works of art, ancient Christian symbols and the story of the gospel all at the same time.
Sitting in front of this book with her I realized I have a tendency to underestimate my daughter’s capacity for complexity. I give her simplified stories and coloring books with Bible characters that she can understand but where the rich meaning of the original story is lost.
Now I’m not advocating for always giving kids information that is above their level, that would be frustrating and probably a big turn off for most. But I am suggesting that we find new ways, or in this case old ways, to tell the stories of our faith. We need to stop sharing our faith as if it were a piece of data, a spelling word to memorize. Instead we need to bring our children into the richness of their Christian heritage in a way that inspires wonder and curiosity. And the cool thing about great art, whether paintings or sculptures, architecture, hymns or whatever, is that like our faith it is mysterious. The more we understand it the deeper it seems to go.
You don’t need to get this book (though it is for sale on Amazon for around $3 second hand) but if you are like me, you may need to re-examine the way we communicate our faith to our kids. If we teach them that the Bible is a text book, a place to go for facts that can be proven or dis-proven, or that that it is a collection of characters or stories to be memorized, we are missing the point and so are they. We need to engage our kids into a living faith, a beautiful heritage and to encounter the living person of Christ. It may start with something as simple as a trip to a local church or museum or in our case a regular visit to our local library.
Well friends we have set out on a 2 and a half week, five destination, 3,000 mile road trip, apparently also into a monster of a snowstorm.
Living in Texas with family in Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, Montana and Colorado we do a lot of traveling. Thankfully our daughter loves to hit the road with us. Here are some tips that have made the travel work for us.
1. Pack an activity basket:
Stickers. You can buy little labels in the office supply section and get 400 stickers for $1.75. You can also substitute band-aids or scotch-tape or anything sticky.
Pipe Cleaners. Great for making letters, people, animals, headbands, hats or anything. When you get tired of them stretch them out and start over. Take along large pasta pieces or cardboard with holes punched out or even an old colander and older kids will love weaving pipe cleaners in and out.
Marker board and chalk board. We keep a zip lock bag of markers and chalk (markers have been a recent addition, until recently they were too messy).
Lots of paper. We give her a few crayons but usually she either puts stickers on paper or tears it up. I use coloring books but have also included old catalogs, magazines or just old drawings and scrap papers.
Books. I try to pick ones that I don’t have to read, either with no words or that she knows well. Here are a couple of our favorite traveling books:
2. Make the most of your stops: Our stops are usually quick, but if we can we try to squeeze out a few minutes of fun. Even if there isn’t anything especially exciting, looking for pine cones at a rest stop or jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk at the gas station can easily become a game for a 3 year old.
3. Gadgets: Mini Magna-Doodles, toy camera, magnifying glass or a small flashlight. Occasionally we will let her take along a singing teapot or some other music maker but we try to limit anything that makes noise.
4. Music: We insist on doing some of the trip without music which has been a good practice for us. Then when the music comes on it is a treat and we all listen together. We alternate between doing our own”grown up” playlist, with her “kid music”. I’ve also picked up cd’s, mostly old musicals at the Goodwill which are a big hit. This girl knows the Sound of Music soundtrack backward and forward.
5. Snacks: I let everyone pick out one or two favorites and then bring a bunch of healthy treats, apples, oranges, dried fruit, crackers, rice cakes. It saves us money and we all feel better packing as much of our own food as possible.
6. Books on tape: Downloads are free with Overdrive through your local library. The Winnie the Pooh series has been a hit with the grown ups in our car, sometimes my daughter looses focus but she is starting to get the hang of it and at least listens enough that she stays quiet whenever it is on.
7. Surprises: I bring these out in those last 30 minutes of a long drive when everyone is having a hard time keeping a good attitude. Mainly I use glow bracelets, but any sort of special treat works, keep something hidden in the glove box for those moments when everyone needs a little boost.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.
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I’m always looking for great books to read with my daughter. And while I’m glad for her to be reading whatever the next free book is from Chick-fil-a (gotta love Library Mouse), I try to choose books that will help her to understand how to live well in her community and in the world around her.
It happens that right now I am reading Wendell Berry’s The Art of the Commonplace as part of our Liturgy of Life reading group. In it he discusses the way that American life interacts violently with the natural world (strip mining, landfills, pesticides . . . ). He points to the traditional Native American lifestyle as a contrast,
The American Indian, who was ignorant by the same standards (that is the standards of formal education), nevertheless knew how to live in the country without making violence the invariable mode of his relation to it; in fact, from the ecologist’s or the conservationist’s point of view, he did it no violence. This is because he had, in place of what we would call education a fully integrated culture, the content of which was a highly complex sense of his dependence on the earth.
We have a lot to learn from the traditions of this culture. Not only were the Native Americans the first Americans, making them an essential part of our own history, but the way that the Native Americans understand the world has a lot to teach us in modern day America. And while I know very little, there are some great kids books that introduce this culture to young readers (and where their parents can learn a few things too) in a beautiful way. Here are some of our favorites.
DePaola has several books which retell Native American tales. We love this one, another great one is the Legend of the Bluebonnet (though it is a bit heavier and the spirituality is a bit more difficult to explain) it is a fun to look at the world around us (Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets are both common Texas Wildflowers) and imagine the ways that it has been understood by past peoples.