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  • Writer's pictureKaisa

15 Picture Books That Nurture Your (Child’s) Spirituality

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

I am currently taking a course on Spiritual Direction with Children: Meaning and Method led by Lacy Finn Borgo. Not many (if any?) training programs for Spiritual Directors consider the practice of listening to the soul of a child. Perhaps the simple reason for this is that there aren’t many people who practice Spiritual Direction with children (yet!).

I was thrilled to learn about Lacy and her pioneering work in the field. Her program has been wonderful so far. It is changing me to tell you the truth.

Lacy's course has inspired me to further explore picture books that nurture children’s spirituality. In fact, I believe that they can nurture anyone’s spirituality if we open ourselves to this possibility.

By the term “spirituality” I don’t mean rational religious knowledge, but rather a more mystical, intimate, and relational knowing of God, and a “felt-sense” of his holy love. Spirituality is a complicated concept to give words to, and I appreciate Rebecca Nye’s simple definition of children’s spirituality,

God’s ways of being with children, and children’s ways of being with God.

The books listed below include themes and images that will awaken and invite children to be with God through experiencing wonder, mystery, beauty, strong emotions, empathy, relational connection, and truth. These books make space for children's significant spiritual questions about belonging, identity, safety, loss, desire, and what God is like. Not all the books talk about God or prayer explicitly, yet they all have God’s fingerprints all over them.

Finally, it is the intimate, warm, welcoming presence of the person children are reading the book with that will have the most impact on their spiritual lives. Children's, as well as adults’ spirituality is largely formed by the close relationships we have, as we all are wired for connection in the core of our being.

1. The Memory Box, A Book about Grief by Joanna Rowland, Illustrated by Thea Baker

This gentle book explores two questions that grieving children ask, “Will I forget my loved one?” and, “What do I do with my feelings?”. I love the spaciousness and hope it communicates to anyone who is dealing with any kind of loss.

2. Today I Feel… An Alphabet of Feelings by Madalena Moniz

I am completely captivated by the illustrations of this book, and the clever messages they communicate. I feel like this is one of those books that you just want to have in your bookshelf, and that can be picked up again and again when wanting to explore experiences and emotions. I will be definitely using this in my work with children in spiritual direction and beyond.

3. The World Is Awake, A Celebration of Everyday Blessings by Linsey David and Joseph Bottum. Illustrated by Lucy Fleming

What a sweet, joyfully illustrated story that helps children to notice the good and beautiful in the details of their lives. This book makes you smile and grows your capacity for gratitude.

4. Forever Or a Day by Sarah Jacoby

I love the way this books invites the reader to wonder what time is like and how forever feels. It is a very contemplative, reflective book with awe-inspiring images and poetic text. I am certain that the riddle presented in this book about what time really is and what it does to different people is as intriguing to adults as it is to children.

5. Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

This is a story of a boy and his grandad talking about prayer on a forest walk. Their intimate relationship, and the grandad’s wise, creation-embracing and slightly mystical reflections on prayer are wonderful ways to open up a conversation what prayer is like with children. Both adults' and children's God-image, and their ideas about prayer will be expanded.

6. My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

A tender story of a little girl’s sense of identity, belonging and homesickness in a new country. Anyone, an adult or a child, who has ever lived in another culture can relate to the soul-life of this girl. These universal desires for being known, wanted, and to belong touch the core of every human experience.

7. The Journey by Francesca Sanna

An honest telling of the story of a refugee family and their journey to the unknown, an escape from the life of terror and fear. A story that too many children have experienced and can relate to, or whose friends and neighbors carry a witness to. The reader cannot finish the book without being moved by compassion and desire for justice. If you are considering to read this with a very young child, I would recommend to read it by yourself first and then evaluate whether it is fitting to your child.