Say hello to Vanessa from Silly Eagle Books! She is a former editor turned cool stay-at-home mom. This is the first of many posts by Vanessa as she will be a regular contributor to Impress Your Kids! I am so excited for you to get to know her and her blog. She is one of my in-real-life friends and I love her! ~Amanda
Because I love books, I find it easy to share them with my two-year old daughter, Juliet. I’m drawn to beautiful stories and well-written tales. And while my love for books has nothing to do with what I can get out of them, I have to admit that I do use them in my journey to impress my kid.
As a parent, I have so many goals in regards to my daughter. I want her to know right from wrong, to love and respect others, to appreciate and be grateful for what she has been blessed with, to think for herself, and to glorify God with her life, just to name a few. Sometimes it is overwhelming to me–how will I ever get all those important lessons in?
Because books are such a central part of our family routine, they have become my main tool in teaching my daughter. I look for books that support the values and truths that I am trying to impress upon her heart, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I look for “Christian” books. In fact, aside from Bibles, I have relatively few Christian books in our home library. And although the books we read do not necessarily have Bible verses on every other page, they do speak the truths I am trying to teach her in a powerful and beautiful way.
When Amanda asked me to write a post about how I use books to teach my daughter, I thought, “Sure, no problem.” But then when I got home and tried to capture my method on paper, I felt a little stumped. How exactly do I use these incredible books? The answer came to me as I was reading Gossie by Olivier Dunrea with Juliet one afternoon.
The story begins, “This is Gossie. Gossie is a gosling. A small yellow gosling who likes to wear bright red boots. Every day.” The story continues with Gossie wearing her boots when she eats, when she sleeps, when she rides, when she hides, etc. She wears them all the time, every day, until one morning when the boots are missing. She looks everywhere and is heartbroken until she suddenly spies her red boots walking towards her on the feet of her friend Gertie.
Gertie smiles at Gossie and says, “Great boots!” as she hands them over. The next page shows Gossie and Gertie swimming in the pond together and the text reads, “Gossie is a gosling. A small yellow gosling who likes to wear bright red boots.” We turned the page to see Gossie and Gertie walking through the grass each wearing ONE boot and read the words, “Almost every day.” I smiled as I read the ending of this story we had read countless times over the past year and began to close the book and put it down without another thought, when Juliet said to me, “That’s nice, Mama! She shared!”
And that’s when it hit me. The stories I choose for my daughter are reinforcing the lessons and truths I am pouring into her life every day, and they are doing it without lecturing or even using specific words like “share.” Through simple stories and characters, they are modeling what it means to share, to love, to forgive, etc., and giving my abstract words concrete feet to stand on.
With this new insight, I began looking through our bookshelves to see what other patterns might emerge. Aside from numerous stories with positive, moral, or uplifting themes like sharing, helping, loving, etc, I also discovered a few other kinds of books that help me instill God’s heart into my child’s. I found books that feature characters who model good behavior by making good choices, speaking respectfully to others (especially parents), and treating others the way they would want to be treated.
I noticed that I collect books that celebrate things God values (other than morals) like family, friendship, creativity, and hospitality, and I also discovered a large number of nature-themed books that instill a sense of wonder and appreciation for creation. If I stopped and thought about it for a second, I found that every book on our shelves was a valuable tool in helping me teach my daughter.
I think that choosing good books is something all of us do instinctively as parents. We might not be consciously thinking, “I need to get a good book on sharing.” but we end up doing it anyways. Now that I am aware of what I have been doing all along, I hope to take advantage of more teachable moments that lead to discussions like the one we had after reading Gossie. Or maybe I’ll just let the books continue to speak for themselves.
What about you? What books do you read with your children that model truth or celebrate the things God values? What books have opened discussion opportunities with your children? Leave a comment and let us know!