Thursday, January 30, 2014

Character building 80s style

A Facebook friend of a friend suggested Handling Your Ups and Downs by Joy Wilt Berry for helping teach kids the appropriate responses to various situations and the emotions they evoke. I liked the sound of the title, and the Rainbow Brite illustrations kind of brought back some fond 80s memories of my childhood.

The book, which is out of print but easily available through Amazon third party sellers, is deceptively long at 127 pages. The book is broken into three chapters: Feeling Up, Feeling Down and Handling Your Downs. The final chapter is the longest and is comprised of various conflicts and how a child might handle them in both inappropriate and productive ways.

This is not an overtly Christian book, though I'd wager the author is a Christian for tackling so many children's books on character building. Wilt's approach to feelings is that it's perfectly natural and normal to have both good and bad feelings. Even a bad feeling, Wilt says often in the book, "sometimes makes a person do what needs to be done." This laid-back approach frames bad feelings, such as guilt, rejection or loneliness, as clues or signals that something can be done to help remedy the uncomfortable situation.

My five-year-old, Stephen, enjoyed this book, often requesting that we read more than one scenario each night. He was often able to relate to the situations in the book and share some of his own emotional struggles. In particular, I found the section on guilt (pp 44-49) to be a great springboard for discussion, as Joe and I have been working with Stephen on how to deal with guilt. Wilt's suggestion for handling guilt is concise and covers all the bases: "Admitting that you did something wrong, saying you're sorry, and (whenever possible) trying to make up for what you ave done are all good things to do when you feel guilty."

While this book might still be a little beyond Stephen's maturity level, I'm really glad to have found it. I plan to make it part of a regular cycle of devotional bedtime reading and will probably explore more of Joy Wilt's other books.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

ZonderKidz Early Reader's New Testament

Stephen and I just finished reading through the 29 New Testament Bible stories presented in "easy reader" vocabulary in The Early Reader's Bible New Testament by V. Gilbert Beers. I suspect this version is out of print, as I got mine second hand on Amazon. However, the full bible version is available new.

Before I launch into how this Bible went over with Steve, I should clarify that this kids' Bible is written with a very limited vocabulary-- drawn from school standard lists for beginning readers. The stories, which are about three short pages long, introduce no more than five new words each. Comprehension and discussion questions follow each story.

I liked this Bible for several reasons: 

  • The paperback is lightweight and small enough to bring on trips without adding a ton of weight to Stephen's backpack. 
  • The stories are simply written, so I didn't really have to paraphrase (though at times, I had to enrich with extra details to make them more interesting). 
  • The comprehension questions showed me how much Stephen was (or wasn't) absorbing.
  • Some of the stories included were less commonly included in children's bibles: The parable of the rich fool, Satan tempting Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness, Philip and the Eithiopian Eunich, Paul's writing to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Also, it included Mary's conversation with the resurrected but not yet ascended Christ.
  • Stephen seemed to like reading this at first too. We could often read a few stories per night. When he was very sleepy, one story was quick enough to squeeze in.

A few things I didn't like:

  • Because of the goal to adhere to public school standard reading lists, some of the stories seemed a little flat to me. Now, if Stephen was actually able to read, I think the stories would be great. As I mentioned earlier
  • The discussion questions seemed to lead the same answers every time: Show God you love Him by telling others about Him, singing songs to praise Him, being good etc. This is an excellent message to drive home, but I think Stephen's eyes glazed over pretty quickly when it came to life application. He always wanted to discuss the story itself in more depth.
  • Terri Steiger's artwork, while plentiful, was not really my style. The figures all look kind of lumpy and overtly angelic or lumpy and overtly naughty. On the plus side, the rather nondescript illustrations did not distract Stephen from the story...something that tends to happen with a lot of other books we read. There is also a significant lack of multicultural faces in the life application pictures.

My final take:

This is a good story bible to get for cheap (I got mine for a penny plus 3.99 shipping off Goodwill) if you've got a beginning reader or a listener with a short attention span. It contains a good selection of New Testament stories, which is great if you're like me and often start reading children's bibles at Adam and Eve and then rarely make it to the New Testament.