Our Favorite Children’s Books About Saints

children's books about saintsPhoto credit: Wikimedia.org

All Saints’ Day is a great opportunity for us parents to introduce our children to different saints as part of sharing our Catholic faith with them. Using children’s books about saints, we can take a peek into the lives of these holy people and talk about how we can emulate them in our own day-to-day activities.

Instead of joining commercial Halloween celebrations, we  can choose to focus on the Church’s holy saints. Last year, we joined our homeschool group’s really cool All Saints Day party where the kids came as their favorite saints and all the games were saints-related too. It was such a wonderful experience for the kids and families who attended that we are doing it again this November!

So, since All Saints’ Day is coming up, we would like to share with you the list of our favorite books about saints. 

 

1. Children’s Book of Saints by Amy Welborn

This collection of the lives of the saints is the best that we have seen so far. Each story begins with an introduction to help the children connect with the saint and ends with questions for reflection, making the reader feel that he too can be a saint in his own, simple ways. Published by the Jesuits, this book groups the saints according to their different characteristics, such as “Saints are people who love children” and “Saints are people who come from all over the world”. Each category answers the question “Who is a saint?”  (Available at our bookshop! Click here.)

book of saints

 

2. The Flying Friar by Joseph V. Landy, SJ

Flying Friar is an interesting anthology of the lives of patron saints. It begins with a foreword about who saints are and how they get dubbed as patron saints. The foreword is a nice reference for us parents for when our kids start asking these questions. It also invites the children to be just like these ordinary people who did extraordinary things for God. Grade schoolers will enjoy reading these amazing life stories. The 2-3 page biography for each saint can also be good as read-alouds to younger children. Our main reason for having this book in our library? It’s that it includes the life of St. Pedro Calungsod, Patron of Filipino youth. (Available at our book shop! Click here.)

the flying friar

 

3. The Children’s Book of Saints by Louis M. Savary With just one page dedicated to a saint’s story, this book is simple and perfect for introducing saints to very young children. The illustrations also help make  children realize that saints were real people like us. Since the book indicates each saint’s feast day, we have fun marking our calendar with all the celebrations for a particular month. We then read a saint’s story on his or her feast day and say a short prayer too.

The-Children-s-Book-of-Saints-9780882711300

 

4. A Gift from Saint Francis by Joanna Cole

Which child will not love the story of St. Francis? Best known for his love for nature and animals, the story also highlights how St. Francis chose to be poor and to help the needy. This book can also be used during Christmas as we see one of St. Francis’ legacies during this happy season. Find out what that gift is here.

a gift from saint francis

 

5. Patrick, Patron of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

St. Patrick is one of the more popular saints in North America, but I did not know his  story until we read this book as a go-along in one of our homeschool lessons. I will forever be grateful to St. Patrick and how he explained the Holy Trinity using a three-leaf clover. This books gives a deeper meaning to the much-celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in North America.

saint patrick

 

6. Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges

One of the books in the Catholic literature-based curriculum called Catholic Mosaic, this Caldecott Medal book retells the legend of a young knight, believed to be St. George, who defeated a dreadful dragon and brought peace to his princess’ land. Nothing like an action-packed adventure book like this to inspire heroism and integrity.

saint george and the dragon

 

7. Bernadette: The Child Who Saw by Gemma Sales

My little girl has been fascinated by Marian apparitions ever since we read this book during the feast of St. Bernadette. This book tells the story of the little girl who saw the Virgin in Lourdes, France. We love how stories like these show our children that saints were once kids like them too.

bernadette the child who saw

 

8. Good Saint Joseph by Lawrence G. Lovasik

Picture books about Jesus’ adoptive father are few, so finding one is truly a gem. This story, written by Father Lovasik, shows us Joseph’s strength, patience and resilience from the time the angel appeared to him in his dream.

goo saint joseph

 

9. Pascual and the Kitchen Angels by Tomie dePaola

St. Pascual was devoted to the Eucharist even from the young age and is considered a patron saint of Eucharistic Congresses. He is well-known as a patron of cooks because he worked as one in the Franciscan monastery. Tomie de Paoala’s Pascual and the Kitchen Angles is  a charming retelling of a legend about the angels who helped him cook… because he could not cook at all in the beginning! As always, Tomie dePaola’s words and illustrations will delight every child.

pascual and the kitchen angels

 

10. Jacinta’s Story

The story of Fatima has always been fascinating and this beautiful picture book makes it more so.  Our Lady appeared to three children, Jacinta and Francisco,  who were later beatified, and Lucia who was canonized as a saint. This book tells the story of all the apparitions and how the townsfolk did not believe the children’s story.

jacinta's story

 

What are your kids’ favorite books about saints? 

 

Have fun with your child!

sanne

5 Tips on How to Read to Active Toddlers

reading to active toddlers

Little T was a sit-on-my-lap kind of baby who would quiet down and listen attentively every time I opened a book.

Little Sir, on the other hand,  was one of those very active toddlers. He would cuddle with me for a few minutes and then run around as I read to him. Sometimes, I would continue reading, but most of the time, I would close our book and just watch him move about.

I was reminded about these experiences during the most recent run of The Learning Basket’s “You Are Your Child’s First and Best Teacher” workshop. I talked about the importance of reading to really young kids, and parents were interested to know about how they could read to wriggly babies and toddlers who can’t sit still.

Here are some of the tips that I shared; these helped Little Sir become the book-loving little guy that he is now.

 

1. Just keep reading

Some kids learn while they are listening AND moving. Even though it is disconcerting for us to read to someone who doesn’t seem to be paying attention, we should know and accept that people learn differently from each other.

In the Kindermusik classroom, for example, kids are not expected to sit still all the time. Some of my students prefer to move about during sit-down activities, such as instrument exploration and story time, and then eventually join the group again once they got their “wiggles” out. Parents are surprised to hear their kids singing the songs or recounting the story read in class when they did not seem to be listening most of the time.

However, we should also try to gauge whether our child is more interested in something else during story time. You can always close the book and try again another time.

 

2. Read during your baby’s down time

I breastfed my two kiddies and realized early on that sleepy time was the best time to read to them. They drifted to sleep listening to me read to them.

After a bath is also a great time for reading at least one book; the baby is calm, cozy, and receptive. Identifying your baby’s down time will help you easily squeeze in a book or two into your baby’s day.

 

3. Welcome interruptions

Three-year-old Little Sir constantly “interrupts” our reading time with questions, comments, and funny sounds. He prefers to count, identify objects, copy a character’s facial expressions, and basically make up his own version of a story.

I used to be bothered about this. I wanted to read every.single.word in our book to feel that I did my job well. However, according to research, any kind of interaction with a book is already helpful. A relationship with a book is established when a child is allowed to explore it in his own terms.

With that realization, I became more open to my son’s questions, comments, and funny facial expressions. I now welcome the interruptions and engage him in the way the makes sense to him. We frequently stop to talk about colors, shapes, places, faces, and feelings.

 

4. Pick books about their favorite topics

My boy, like many other boys, is just crazy about vehicles. Reading about things that he is interested in was like a magnet that eventually established his love for books. Once I identified a book that he really liked, I took it upon myself to read it to him over and over. After all, kids thrive on repetition, even though grown-ups might balk at it!

 

5. Don’t let your child eat a book

One of the questions that we frequently get is about kids who like to grab and munch on books when being read to. Though there are cloth books and board books that are quite safe for such activities and that will actually help them explore with their different senses, it is best to teach little ones that books are not for eating.

When we see kids attempting to chew a book or use it as a hammer, we should gently take the book away while explaining, “books are for reading” or “we don’t eat books.” We should then offer a replacement activity that is aligned with what they seem to want to do: a toy hammer or a block for hammering and a teether for chewing.

 

Reading to little kids who would rather run around than sit with you can be a challenge. However, reading to them consistently and finding ways to get their attention will eventually pay off.

You may also read these two tips on reading to toddlers:

 

Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

Why we shouldn’t settle for abridged versions of classic children’s books

Do you remember the one book that got you hooked to reading?

I do! It was The Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that my mom gave me the summer I turned 10.

The book was beautiful! Six hundred eighty-five pages long, it had a gold spine, shiny pages, and beautiful illustrations.  Until now, I consider that book sacred and reread it every once in a while.  I fall in love again with it every time – with the words, the story, the experience.

littlewomen

I am reminded of this because the Energizer Bunny and I were talking about our favorite books earlier tonight. Telling her about the March family  got me so excited that I was almost tempted to give her a simplified, abridged version of the book.

However, reading a picture book adaptation of Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle  brought me back to my senses. It was concise as expected, but more than that, it falls short on evoking the emotions that the original book brings.

The Little Women will have to wait until the Energizer Bunny is ready for the original, unedited version – until she is ready to fall in love with the same things that I fell in love with the first time I read the book.

Don’t call me a literary snob, though! While I love the written word, I do not claim to have read and enjoyed all those great classics. On the contrary, let me be the first to admit that I struggled and eventually gave up on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (What?! I know!) Cliff Notes was also my friend during high school.

That said, I confess that I am a purist.  I believe that to truly enjoy a great literary classic, one must peruse the original version for these three reasons:

 

1. Language

While it is great that adaptations and abridged versions exist to inspire reluctant readers to pick up a book, the language used in these versions usually do not do justice to the prose and voice of the original author.

There is a certain cadence and tone to the classics that inevitably get lost in simplified versions of the story. Verbose as they seem, the original texts also touch on all the senses of the reader as they imagine the characters and situations. Something that I find lacking in shortened versions of classic stories.

 

2. Topic

Literature is written for a specific audience. Chances are, if your 4-year-old does not understand the language of a book that it has to be retold for her to understand, then the story was probably not written for someone her age.

More than the plot of a story, some topics and issues in classic children’s books may not be appropriate to the young readers, and might perhaps even turn them off and stop them from eventually reading the original.

 

3. Interpretations

Finally, abridgments and retellings, much like movie adaptations, may already contain interpretations from the new writers. These interpretations vary for every reader because every reader brings his experiences into the text. Having someone else’s interpretation instead of the author’s original message may greatly affect what you take away from the book.

 

So what should you do?

If you want your child to fall in love with great literary classics, the first and foremost thing to do is wait. Wait until your child is ready and until the book is appropriate for his reading level, situation and interests. 

Forcing him to read books that are absolutely pointless to him will make him detest reading even more.  In the meantime, choose from among the thousands of living picture books that your child will truly enjoy.

Reading aloud the original version of the classics is also a wonderful way to introduce the classics. Again, just make sure that the story and topics are age-appropriate. Reading aloud is an excellent way to improve comprehension, widen vocabulary, and fine-tune listening skills.  

Watch out for our next post on classic children’s novels that are great for reading aloud!

 

Have fun with your child!

sanne