Summer reading for kids

Kids are smart. That’s why Tamara Conley, research librarian at St. John Vianney Theological seminary, Cardinal StaffŸord Library is such an advocate for kids reading as much as possible.

“Kids should be reading something. Anything. If you want to develop literacy, then you have to read,” Conley said. “No one ever had a bad summer because they read too many books.”

Conley writes reviews of children’s books for Catholic Library World magazine, available at the seminary library. She and other Catholic librarians across the country evaluate literature written for children and young adults, and rate it according to both literacy levels and the values it teaches.

She said it’s important for modern parents to be aware of that their children are reading, and especially the values
their books teach.

“So many kids in Catholic schools get such a good education that they’re able to read things they may not be ready for,” she said. “Books are very influential, for good or for bad. Just like you know what they’re eating, you should know what they’re putting in their brains.”

So, when the summer-time boredom sets in, it may be tempting to grab whatever books are most enticing in the
library display. Conley said that while the desire to read is good, parents can use books to help form their children by
doing just a little bit of research first.

“We all have to develop our faith, and reading is a good way to do it,” she said. “I think reading about the saints in particular is good, because they recognize that there are people just like them, and they form an attachment.”

She also recommended parents discuss reading material with their children.

“Books can be a good way to start a conversation, and a good way to catechize,” she said.

One way for parents to do this is to read what their children are reading.

“It’s important for parents with advanced readers to read what their kids are ready to read, to make sure the maturity level is appropriate,” she said.

However, she said she realizes that it would be very difficult for parents to read every book their child does. That’s why she recommends parents use all the resources
available to them, including Religious Education teachers, parents of older children and parents who are willing to share the reading burden.

“Public librarians can help you too,” she said. “That’s their job, and they’re trained to do it. They can find book
reviews.”

Conley said that book series can be especially appealing to kids during vacation months, as they have more time to read through them. Below are some of her top choices for young readers, from publishers that she said parents should look into.

SaintsAndMe2
SAINTS AND ME

Conley said these long picture books use bright colors and fun stories to teach young readers about the saints. They
also help develop reading skills.

“They’re good for early readers because it teaches them literacy, as well as important content about the saints. It’s appropriate for their developmental stage,” she said.

The stories are followed by word games and« activities to help reinforce the lessons.

ChimeTravelers2_DC
CHIME TRAVELERS
The Chime Traveler books are based on a group of friends who clean a chapel together. When a bell rings in the chapel, they are transported to the time of different
saints. Conley said this story outline allows the books to teach life lessons without becoming dull.

“These books are so much fun. They’re great,” she said. “The child in the story learns about the saint, but it doesn’t
become too preachy.”

She said the books are great for young readers ready to make the switch to chapter books.

“It’s a big deal for a little kid to move from a picture book to a chapter book. It’s a good starting chapter book for a 7 or 8 year old, if they’re a good reader,” she said.

RedBlazerGirls_DC
RED BLAZER GIRLS
Conley said that this series is different from others on the list because it doesn’t try to explicitly teach the Catholic faith. Instead, it shows a group of friends in a Catholic
school solving mysteries.

“I love this series because it’s about Catholic school girls, who are taught by nuns, and even the title refers to part of
their uniform. I don’t remember having any books growing up about Catholic girls in a Catholic school,” Conley said. “The faith is part of their lives.”

The girls in the series are in seventh grade, which Conley says makes the series ideal for readers a few years younger.

“Kids like to read about kids a little older than them,” she said.

EncounterTheSaints2
ENCOUNTER THE SAINTS
This series is written by a variety of authors, so the style changes from book to book. They are simple biographies of the lives of Ÿdifferent saints, meant to be enticing to
young readers.

“They show us how the saints lived in a very accessible way,” Conley said.

The books feature saints who were priests and nuns, married and single. Because of the diversity of people covered, they can be appealing to both boys and girls.

JPI2High_DC
JPII HIGH
This series follows a group of friends who attend a Catholic High School together. The content of these books
is more advanced, but Conley said that can foster good conversations about issues the readers are actually facing.

“These are the problems normal kids handle in high school, but its explained from a Catholic perspective. It’s not preachy,” she said. “It’s also a good conversation starter for parents.”

She said the books are intriguing to middle schoolers because the kids in the series match up with where the readers are developmentally.

“These are questions that these readers will have,” she said.

She said the series also demonstrates how friends in this age group help each other, which is important to pre-teens
and teens.

“They work with their peers to learn their morality,” she said.

 

 

Be sure to checkout book programs this summer! Barnes & Noble and your local library should all have programs:

Arapahoe County Library
Littleton Public Library
Boulder Library
Douglas County Library
Poudre River Library 

Barnes and Noble also has a reading incentive program.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.