Bible Out Loud

Storytime

Ever since our firstborn’s first day home from the hospital, we’ve been reading out loud to our sons every night. The book we chose to inaugurate this ritual? Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

Not your typical bedtime read-aloud book, but for a one-day-old, we figured it was okay. Our main goal was to establish the daily routine early.

Besides, we ourselves wanted to read Ivanhoe. Also, the newborn began to learn and recognize the sound of his parents telling him a story.

After Ivanhoe, we switched to board books and picture books—Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La!

Rich & Sabina - storytime

We read them slowly, savoring the words and illustrations. We read them so many times that, even now, I can recite them by memory and tell you when to turn the page: “In the great green room / There was a telephone / And a red balloon / And a picture of— [turn page] the cow jumping over the moon.”

Before my second son started walking, he used to crawl to me, dragging a book in one hand. I remember sitting on the floor (as I often do) with my back against the bookshelves, watching him bring me another Sandra Boynton. Here he comes.

As he crawled into my cross-legged lap, I resolved to stay put and read the book to him no matter how many times he asked.

So when I turned the last page and he said, “Again?” I read it again.

And again.

Through every iteration, I made sure to still read it slowly and enjoy the story. No rushing.

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We read that book seven times in a row before he crawled out of my lap. I stayed, waiting to see if he would ask for the eighth.

Of course, we adjusted as our sons grew older. Five or ten minutes of bedtime reading turned into half an hour or more. On weekly library trips, we took home Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel), Poppleton (Cynthia Rylant), and colorful, well-mannered dinosaurs (Jane Yolen).

Deep and thoughtful discussions became part of bedtime reading as we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Count of Monte Cristo (all unabridged). Currently, my husband is reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper to our nine-year-old, and I’m reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War (Volume I) to the older two boys.

The initial intent stuck: we established a habit of reading every night, fifteen years and counting. The fun ritual that started with a one-day-old who slept through most of Ivanhoe has become part of our routine, part of our relationship.

Hear the Bible Out Loud

When was the last time someone read aloud to you? When did you recently sit down for nothing but the joy of hearing good words artfully woven together?

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How to Listen to Bible Gateway’s Audio Bibles

1. Go to BibleGateway.com, hover over the “Bible” tab in the upper left, and click on “Audio Bibles.”

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2. Choose your preferred audio version. (For a special treat, try one of the versions “by Dramatized”!)

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3. Choose the book of the Bible . . .

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4. . . . and the chapter.

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5. Press play, and hear the story!

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Consider it a treat. Someone is reading aloud to you. Like the child who asked for the same book seven times in a row, savor the story and hear it as many times as you want by pressing “play” again and again.

Related:

Did you know about International Day of the Bible on November 23, 2015? Check it out.

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A portion of the above is excerpted from Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading. For more details, including quotes and the book trailer, visit the book’s web page.

A portion of the above first appeared in one of my articles for Charity Singleton Craig’s How to Bring Words to Life Column, 5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children).

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Photo credits:

Elliot Margolies, via Flickr Creative Commons

Alexander N, via Flickr Creative Commons

For quote image: denise carrasco, via Flickr Creative Commons

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5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children)

Preschool Storytime at Tully

The librarians did it. You could say they’re the reason I became a writer. Every Friday morning at 10:30, I took my infant son to the Rockrimmon library for storytime. The sweet red-headed Laura was my favorite children’s librarian, but I considered them all genius-fairies who knew everything about books and children and could protect my child the rest of his life from all possible disasters and minor scrapes.

But really, they simply knew how to choose good picture books and read them out loud to half a dozen or a few dozen children and their mothers sitting cross-legged on the carpet. . . .

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I’m delighted and honored to be a guest contributor for Charity Singleton Craig’s column “How to Bring Words to Life.” Please continue reading How to Bring Words to Life: 5 Reasons to Go Storytime (even if you don’t have children). Hope to see you there!

Photo credit via the article at Charity Singleton Craig: How to Bring Words to Life (scroll to bottom)

You’re Invited to a “Baby” Shower (and Giveaway)!

Diaper Cake

Last week, a blog was born. Welcome to the world, Jean Fleming: Live the Mystery!

To celebrate, I’m hosting a triple book giveaway. Three “baby shower” guests will receive one copy of a Jean Fleming book:

Pursue the Intentional Life
A Mother’s Heart
Feeding Your Soul

Thank you for coming! Enter the giveaway, and invite your friends. I can’t wait to get these books into the hands of three winners.

Click here to enter the giveaway!

For TWO EXTRA entries, subscribe to Jean Fleming: Live the Mystery (when you get there, click on the “Follow” tab on the lower right). After you’ve confirmed your e-mail subscription to Jean Fleming: Live the Mystery, let me know here in my comments and I’ll add two giveaway entries for you.

UPDATE: Congratulations to the three winners: MF, DJ, and CSR! Thanks to everyone for participating!

Baby shower cake photo credit: mnd.ctrl
via Flickr Creative Commons

Choosing the Best Books for Our Children

I’m a home educator. Every July I buy the books and supplies we need for the school year. In case you, too, are deciding what books to get for your child, I am posting a 2008 article I wrote for parents of young children. (This article is also a downloadable PDF file. The full contents of the PDF follow.)

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Choosing the Best Books for Our Children

Monica Sharman

Summer 2008

Introduction

[T]o give the children of the world the words they need is, in a real sense, to give them life and growth and refreshment.

– Katherine Paterson, Gates of Excellence, (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981), page 6.

A child without words starves. But what are the words they need? What will we give our children for their nourishment? How can we tell which books will give them life and growth and refreshment? We have limited opportunity to place good books in their hands—books they will open, words that will come before their eyes and into their hearts. How can we choose wisely?

In evaluating children’s literature, I’m afraid there can be no checklist. Books and people interact with each other in a way that goes beyond a clinical evaluation. A book that deeply moves one individual may bore or repel another individual. Your “Top Ten” book list will not be identical to your mother’s, your best friend’s, your pastor’s, your spouse’s, the Newbery Award list, the Caldecott Award list. Whether you seek to know if a book is a good book, or whether you want to know what makes a good book good, the first and best thing to do is … read. Keep reading. Be a good reader. And as you read, ask yourself, what do I consider valuable and worthwhile in children’s literature? It is your own task and cannot be done for you. The path before you requires time, effort, energy, sacrifice, but it is a path of reward, enrichment, learning, and fun! Read, read again, and read some more!

Is this a “good book”?

Think of your favorite book. What do you love about it? Why did you read it over and over? What makes it attractive and precious to you? This is just one of the ways I would answer.

An Internal Connection

Language helps shape our thoughts and emotions. Lack of words causes tension. Because the complexities of spirit and soul develop well before language, children often experience life with feelings they are yet unable to express. Then, in a good book, they recognize themselves or their experiences (internal or external), and breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude. A good book releases the inner tension and frustration in a child who lacks the words to communicate, even to himself, his own life.

I didn’t read Bevery Cleary’s Ramona books until I was in my thirties. While reading Ramona the Brave, I wept. All those books are the work of a genius. I think those are good books, and, like Katherine Paterson, I tried to figure out why.

Is it because she is easy to read? She is, but so is “Run, Spot, Run.” Is it because her settings are contemporary and her characters familiar? They are, but there are thousands of books fitting both descriptions that never capture a fraction of Cleary’s devoted readership …

Cleary has the rare gift of being able to reveal us to ourselves while still keeping an arm around our shoulder. We laugh (ha ha) to recognize that funny, peculiar little self we were and are and then laugh (ahhh) with relief that we’ve been understood at last.

– Paterson, pages 41–42.

So Katherine Paterson explains. A good book helps a child articulate thoughts and feelings he cannot put into words himself. It makes an internal connection with and for the child. A good book becomes a kind of companion which assures the reader that he is not alone.

Character Growth

A problem or conflict appears in every novel. How did the main character move through the story? By the end of the book, is he a different person than he was on page one? Character growth is in every good book.

Wonder

Does the book feed and renew my sense of wonder? Does it invoke in me amazement and awe at everyday things? In Katherine Paterson’s Invisible Child, in the chapter, “In Search of Wonder,” she lists three aspects of wonder in a story:

  • Wonder of nature and human nature (setting, characters)
  • Wonder in the telling (language, style)
  • Wonder behind and beyond the story (the story’s shape, flow, theme)

I also recommend Katherine Paterson’s Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, and The Spying Heart: More Thoughts on Reading and Writing Books for Children, for insightful and profound thoughts on children’s literature.

Does it have value?

If we say with the psalmist, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless,” (Psalm 101:3) the task before us is to ask ourselves, Is this book worthless? Or, better yet, Does this book have value? Use this verse as your standard, pray for God’s guidance, and read!

Questions

Besides being a good reader yourself, ask yourself questions.

What kinds of characters do you want your children to read about? Role models? Characters they care about and identify with (though the characters would be terrible role models)?

What is the book’s tone? Is it didactic, trying to teach the reader a moral lesson? Is it believable, genuine to its setting and characters?

What do people I respect consider good books? It’s always a good idea to get recommendations from people whose literary opinions you respect.

Have fun!

You are in a good place, having to determine your child’s reading list. Enjoy!