Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Using Books: Prayer

I love using and recommending books to help families start faith discussions at home.  Books are a great place to start if you're a little uncertain about how to broach tops of religion.  When I find a good one, I want to pass the recommendation along.  But there are some great blogs full of Christian children's book reviews already (I've found quite a few of my favorites from Aslan's Library and Union Presbyterian Seminary's Children's Literature Blog), and I don't need to repeat their work.  Instead I'm just going to pull out a handful of titles at a time that fit a theme or a way of using books in the home.

This first little post include three books that can be used as prayers.  This is a practice my son has recently introduced me to.  He can't manage to still his little body during even the shortest of bedtime prayers, but he will cuddle up with a quiet awe when we read a book that is addressed to God.  These books also challenge me to speak prayers outloud that go deeper than a typical table grace or reciting of family to bless at bedtime.  Just as adults might pray from the Psalms or other scripture, praying with books can be a way to let go of the worries about saying the right thing, and just collapsing into the act of giving thanks.

A note on my choices and sources.  You've probably picked up that I'm Christian, but I appreciate a good story, song, prayer or book from other traditions as well.  Sometimes these books work as a part of my practice, and sometimes they are interesting or useful in teaching my son about the diversity of religious traditions.  The Native American book below, for example, is one I feel comfortable using as a prayer--but you might rather share it with your children as an example of Iroquois spirituality, not necessarily as a prayer you would say yourself.  I find most of these books at the library, so some of them are older or out of print.  The images and links are through Amazon affiliates, because it seemed like the easiest way to make up some links, add pictures, and give you more information if you do want to track any of these down.

Giving Thanks: Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr.

This prayer comes from an Iroquois expression of thanksgiving, adapted here by a Mohawk chief.  The book addresses Mother Earth, and then the components of creation--berries, animals, wind--directly, giving thanks to each for the gifts they offer us.  The introduction suggests using the words as a way of welcoming the morning--many of us read bedtime stories with our children, but I'm curious about how this could be incorporated into morning routines.

On Morning Wings by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Holly Meade

The cover of this book was cutesy enough that I nearly passed it by--but I'm glad I didn't.  The author has adapted Psalm 139 into a simple rhyme (and my son is always, always more interested in the books that rhyme) about God's constant presence in every part of our lives.  It's the sort of message that you want to send with your kid as they go off into their day.

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise by Tomie DePaola

With simple statements and artwork that is much looser than DePaola's usual style, the elements of creation, from the sun and moon to the plants to the people, praise God.  My son loves pointing out familiar bits of the natural world, often asking to go back to favorite pages.  The soft pictures and repetitive refrain make this great bedtime reading for little ones.


  1. My favorite is My Book of Thanks by B.G. Hennessey. I came across it in a Thanksgiving book store display some years ago, and it happens to be illustrated by my all-time favorite illustrator. We read this one aloud often:

  2. The illustrations look nice. I'll have to check that one out. Thanks for the recommendation, Hope!