Category Archives: Bedtime

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Conclusion and Facing Fears at Bedtime

We have examined so many different aspects of an Orthodox Christian family’s bedtime routine. We discussed winding down together; reasons to read books (as well as suggestions of what books to read); scriptures to share together; learning about the saints together; singing together; and praying together before bed. If you have missed any in the series, you can find it in its entirety on our blog at https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/category/bedtime/.

We have come to the end of the series, but before we conclude, we wish to once more thank those of you who participated in our survey over the summer! Your myriad of ideas and suggestions were indispensable to us in this project. We are sure that your responses have been helpful to the rest of the community as well. Thank you for taking the time to share them!

To conclude our series, we will begin by offering the following meditation called “the Liturgy of Bedtime.” It reaffirms some of the things that we have discussed in prior posts. We also know from experience that nighttime can be a fearful time for children, so occasionally “the liturgy of bedtime” is still followed by children feeling afraid. Thus, we will also offer links to ideas of ways to help children face their nighttime fears. Speaking to our children about God and leading them to Him on their way to bed during the “bedtime liturgy” is the best way to begin to address nighttime fears.  

May God grant you wisdom to know exactly what your children need at bedtime to help them relax and rest in the safety of God’s protection and the Theotokos’ watchful prayers. May He bless you as you then create and carry out that bedtime routine. May He grant peace to your children and great joy to you in the process. And may He have mercy on us all and save us. Amen.

“The Liturgy of Bedtime,” an excerpt from “Talking to Children About God”

By Dr. Albert Rossi, Ph.D.

Published originally in Orthodox Family Life,  Vol 2 Iss 3,

reprinted with permission (entire article can be found here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inchurch/talkgod.htm)


One of the more regular times of “Letting the children come” to God is bedtime. Often stories and prayers at bedtime can be relaxed, non-competitive time with children. When everything is right, bedtime can be a time when the unconditional love of parent for child is almost tangible. Children are usually tired and sometimes less frenetic. It also goes without saying that some nights seem more like thinly veiled chaos. But, hopefully, most nights are more peaceful.


Going to sleep for children happens gracefully only within an elaborate ritual. This is the liturgy of going to sleep and is not totally unlike other liturgies. Father Alexander Schmemann spoke of the Eucharist beginning with the long ritual of getting dressed for Church and continuing through the trip to Church and all the beautiful liturgy preceding Communion. In a similar way, children go to sleep after intricate ceremony. This usually includes taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, kissing everyone in the household goodnight, hearing a story, saying prayers, getting tucked in, and for little ones, a Linus blanket and Teddy for special security. This is the liturgy of bedtime. It’s a tender time, a loving time. It’s a rare and precious time. It’s a time to be close to each other and to God.


There are many ways to talk to children about God at bedtime. As was said, we do this primarily by the way we put them to bed. We do this by mustering patience as our own busy day comes to an end. We do it with a tender kiss and an “I love you” as we leave the room. But, we can also do it with stories.


Children love stories, stories, stories. In our family there is one type of story which is the regular, nightly request. It takes the form of “Daddy (or Mommy), tell me a story about when you were a little boy.” This has been going on so long that I am running dry of stories, or so it seems. Rather than forego a story, Beth will beg for a re-run of some oft-told story. I have overheard her telling these stories to her little friends as they played in her room. As I get older I am beginning to appreciate this form of story more. It tells of heritage, of lineage, of roots. Inevitably, these stories involve grandparents, moments of virtue, of relatives, humor, tales of Church events. All this is a remembrance of God’s activity in one’s personal history, and can occasionally be explained as such. Grandparents can have a incalculable value in strengthening the faith of a child with stories about “When Baba [grandmother] was a little girl.”

Here are some ideas of ways to help children face fears at bedtime. (Note: Not all are Orthodox, but there is enough that is helpful in each that we are sharing them anyway.)

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This blog post is written in the context of Halloween, but the Orthodox Christian suggestions of what to do when your child is scared suggest very practical steps that every Orthodox parent should “have in their back pocket” and be able to offer to their child anytime he/she is afraid. http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/what-to-do-when-your-child-is-scared/

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Here is a concrete way to show our children how prayer helps us to face fear. This piece is not Orthodox, but is a very helpful visual for our kids. (We should also be sure to remind our children that we have the added peace-giving knowledge of the prayers of the saints as an additional, much stronger protection for our little “flame” than just our own prayers can offer!) http://www.playeatgrow.com/2013/02/grow-helping-your-child-deal-with-fear.html/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+PlayEatGrow+(Play+Eat+Grow)  

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Here are two blog posts related to bedtime prayer by Fr. Stephen Freeman. We are including them here because of his son’s personal bedtime prayer (in the first blog) which he wrote when he was 4 years old. His sweet prayer includes a sound answer to what to do with bedtime fears: ask the saints to extinguish them! https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2009/10/14/what-do-you-say-when-you-turn-out-the-light/  And this post is an interesting look at a non-Orthodox children’s bedtime prayer: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/11/05/now-i-lay-me-down-to-sleep/
The comments after each blog are both interesting and helpful, should you have time, read them as well! (Comments include some practical suggestions such as sprinkling the bed with holy water before going to sleep.)
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This blog post recommends praying the Jesus Prayer if you (or your child) are having trouble sleeping: http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/post/32070899950

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When our family was in the process of converting into the Orthodox Faith, my young children found that having the “new-to-us” opportunity to make the sign of the cross to be helpful to them when they had bad dreams or felt afraid at nighttime. This book can help children learn how and why to make the sign of the cross: http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/our-books/on-our-shelf-every-time-i-do-my-cross/

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Find ideas for helping your child with bedtime fears/sleeplessness in the “When a Child Sleeps Poorly” section of this Orthodox Christian psychotherapist’s booklet: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/orthodox_psychotherapy_d_avdeev_e.htm

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This non-Orthodox post offers practical Christian solutions for parents to extend comfort to their children after bad dreams: http://www.faithgateway.com/praying-through-bedtime-fears/#.WBDN31QrLIU

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In previous blog posts, we talked about sharing the scriptures at bedtime. Here are some suggestions of specific scripture verses that we can share with our children for them to think about instead of focusing on their fears at bedtime:

http://www.graceparenting.com/BibleVersesAboutPeacefulSleep.html

http://learnscripture.net/verse-set/5-sleep-not-sheep-bedtime-verses/

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Singing Together at Bedtime

As we continue our series on bedtime traditions, it is time to take a look at the practice of singing which some families include as part of their nightly bedtime ritual. Some families find bedtime to be a good time to sing together as a family, while others do not for various reasons. Our survey asked participants if they sing together at bedtime. Here is what we learned:
28% of our survey participants said that they sing together, and that they do so every night.
34% said that they do not sing together at bedtime.
38% sing together some nights, but not every night.

We then asked the participants who sing together as a family what they sing. They responded:
25% We sing our children’s favorite songs.
3% We sing the troparion of the day.
21% We sing the festal hymn of the most recent feast.
2% We sing the hymns to the saint of the day.
34% We do not sing together at bedtime.
(Apparently the other 15% sing other songs which were not listed as survey options.)

Some survey respondents sent us specifics of what they sing. Here is what they said:

  • hymns from the liturgy to help them learn (and pray of course)
  • St Raphael’s troparion
  • We sing different songs from the Great Liturgy. As my daughter learns a new song in the liturgy, we talk about it and practice singing it.
  • “O Heavenly King”,“Our Father”, and finish prayers with the “Hymn to the Theotokos”
  • Trisagion, various hymns
  • Usually we sing some of the prayers during evening prayers such as “O Gladsome Light” or “More Honorable than the Cherubim”.
  • Whatever hymns we are learning at the time & the Jesus Prayer
  • Whatever comes to mind from church or Camp Nazareth campfires
  • We often sing the Vespers or compline prayers of Western Rite Orthodoxy
  • Chant hymns from vespers
  • “Oh Gladsome Light”
  • Hymns from Divine Liturgy
  • nursery rhymes
  • Christian classic hymns
  • Usually soothing, slow hymns. “Jesus Remember Me”, “the Great Doxology”, “the Beatitudes”
  • “Hymn to the Theotokos”, “Our Father”
  • other favorite hymns
  • We always sing “All Praise to Thee, My God This Night” — to the tune of the Tallis Canon.
  • Occasionally our child asks for another “church song” and we always sing a Theotokion.
  • “Oh Heavenly King”
  • The apolytikia of our patron saints
  • Gigi Shadid music
  • “Christ is Risen”, “Lord I Call”, antiphons
  • We sometimes sing a song from Compline or I sing a bedtime song if requested.

As we prepared for this blog post, we discovered that research shows that there are many reasons why we should sing with children. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (perhaps some of us feel less-than-confident with our singing ability) many of us do not sing often or at all with our children. We may wonder if bedtime is really a good time for singing to/with children. If it is, what should we sing? Here are some links to information that we discovered about the importance of singing with children; suggested ways to improve our own singing confidence; reasons why bedtime is a good time to sing; and where to find great kids’ music (both secular and Orthodox) to sing to (and with!) our children at bedtime. So, read up, and let’s get singing!

Why is important to sing with kids?

There are at least ten things babies learn when we sing to them: https://families.naeyc.org/article/10-ways-babies-learn-when-we-sing

Music stimulates endorphins and creates security for children while helping them learn language: http://oureverydaylife.com/benefits-singing-children-16177.html

Singing helps children learn to play with (and love) language so that reading and understanding is easier for them later: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=927

Live interactive music helps children’s speech develop: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/singing-children-development-language-skills

What if I think I sing poorly and am ashamed to sing?

Find basic tips for strengthening your singing skills here: http://www.wikihow.com/Sing-With-Confidence

This article lists detailed ways to improve your singing skills: https://spinditty.com/learning/6-Tips-to-Better-Singing

Find a few free singing lessons here: http://feliciaricci.com/i-hate-my-singing-voice-help/

Is it important to sing with children at bedtime?

This article lists some of the benefits of lullabies, as well as encouragement for parents who are hesitant singers: http://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-lullabies/

Read about the importance of singing lullabies at bedtime in this article: http://www.parentguide.ca/2015/09/the-importance-of-lullabies-2/

Find an official paper from the International Journal of Business and Social Science on this topic here: http://ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_7_April_2012/35.pdf

Here are a few secular bedtime song suggestions:

This post offers specific bedtime song suggestions, complete with lyrics and links to performances of the songs, in case you are not familiar with them: http://www.everydayfamily.com/slideshow/15-perfect-songs-sing-little-one-sleep/

This article offers a list of lullabies to sing to your children, and recommends a musician that can help you learn even more: http://modernmomlife.com/bedtime-songs-for-kids/

Where can I find Orthodox Christian music to sing with my kids?

Find information about how to help your children learn about Orthodox Christian music here: http://www.antiochian.org/music/liturgical-music-children

This blog post is old, but offers some Orthodox recording artists and/or titles that may be helpful: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/07/orthodox-music-for-kids.html

Khouria Gigi Shadid has been making Orthodox Children’s music for many years. Find her music for sale here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/GigiBabaShadid

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Sharing Stories of the Saints

In past blog posts, we have offered ideas of picture books to share, chapter books to read together, and Bible stories to ponder as our children prepare to go to sleep. Bedtime is also a time when we can share stories from the lives of the saints. By sharing the stories of people who have fought the good fight to the end, we introduce our children to real-life “superheroes” whose life they can ponder as they fall asleep, then emulate when they awake. The saints’ life on earth was amazing, sometimes even miraculous, because of their love for God. We must share their stories with our children! Our children will not hear these stories or know what God can do in/through someone unless we teach them about the saints.

Of course, many saints endured terrible trials and tortures. We do not want to frighten our children at bedtime, so we must be mindful of each child and what they can handle, and thereby carefully choose the saints whose life stories we share. Stories of the saints’ martyrdom may not be appropriate for us to share with our very young children at bedtime. But our children need to know that sometimes people choose to follow God even if it threatens their life. So, stories of martyred saints should be shared (with careful wording), with older children, keeping in mind what our children can handle. It is our job as parents to introduce our children to the saints in a way that conveys their devotion to God and His work in their lives. Let us do diligently, but with sensitivity to each child in our family.

We know that we should be sharing the lives of the saints with our children and that we need to carefully choose/word the stories that we share. So, how do we find saints’ stories to read or tell to our children? Our survey about bedtime rituals asked the participants if and how they select saint stories to share with their children at bedtime. Here are their answers:

  • We follow a daily calendar of the saints that includes a short reading about one. (29%)
  • We listen to a podcast about the saint of the day. (4%)
  • We do not read about the lives of the saints. (42%)

The survey respondents who do share stories from the lives of the saints with their children offered the following resources/ways that they select which stories to share:

  • “My kids pull a book out of the shelf where we keep the children’s books about the faith.”
  • “We read about saints from time to time but not consistently.”
  • “books of saints for children”
  • “I have a lot of children’s books on the Saints and I read from those.”
  • “We choose any from our collection of lives of the saints.”
  • “child chosen or daily recommendation”
  • “Our kids have their favourites and we introduce new saints once in awhile with a new book about them.”
  • “We read that day’s entry from Prologue of Ohrid, including all the saints of the day, homily, reflection, contemplation, and hymn of praise.”
  • “I have a few books for children about saints, which I read to them from a few times a week.”
  • “Sometimes I research and read about a particular saint relevant to our family life. I find the troparian and repeat it three times.”
  • “We read from a book called “Prologue of Ohrid,”
  • “We talk about lives of the saints, but we have a baby.”
  • “We read the prologue.”
  • “saints we have picture books or icons of”
  • “some daily, some random”
  • “whatever book is closest to hand”
  • “We read the prologue or child books about the saints.”
  • “When we do, it is the Saint of the day, looked up online.”
  • “Randomly [selected saint stories] from our children’s library”

What other resources have you found helpful when you share the stories of the saints with your children? Please comment below and share them with the community!

Holy saints, please intercede for our salvation and for the salvation of our children!

Here are some resources that we have found helpful:

Ancient Faith Ministries’ podcast “Saint of the Day” (http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday ) offers a short reading each day featuring the life of one of the saints commemorated on that day, as well as an extensive archive of stories of others saints commemorated each day.

Our AODCE Pinterest page offers the following ever-growing board that includes links to saint stories and/or ideas of ways to help children: https://www.pinterest.com/aodce/saints/

These (free!) printable activity books will help your family learn about saints (and the animals that served them; those commemorated in the Litiya prayers; those that can help in times of trouble; and those from North America) through stories and related activities: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books

Paterikon For Kids offers beautifully illustrated, child-sized tiny books by various authors, including saint stories and stories from the Bible.  Available individually or the entire set (at a significant discount). Also available in 12 other languages. http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-Set-1-20/English-Paterikon-for-Kids-1-20-Set/flypage-ask.tpl.html  

Little Falcons is an Orthodox Christian children’s magazine published quarterly. Each issue has a theme and includes articles, activities, and stories based on that theme. It also includes at least one story from the life of a saint, often written as a play so that several readers can share the story together. http://www.littlefalcons.net

New Martyr Magazine is a new quarterly Orthodox Christian children’s magazine. Each issue includes illustrations by children, stories, puzzles, photographs that help children learn more about the faith, and a story about a saint.  http://newmartyrpublishing.com  

2017 Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints Calendar: This spiral-bound calendar offers the references for daily scripture readings, a brief story of one of the saints of the day, a list of all the day’s saints, and a quote from a church father. http://www.livesofthesaintscalendar.com  

This blog post offers many links to online resources for stories from the lives of the saints: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/02/lives-of-saints.html

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading from the Scriptures Part 3: New Testament Stories

As we have discussed in previous blogs, bedtime is an excellent time to share Bible stories with our children. The stories, challenges, and encouragement found in the New Testament offer many examples from the Lord Himself and from His Disciples of how to live a life devoted to God. These stories are therefore an excellent source of bedtime stories and can easily be incorporated into the family bedtime routine.

As with the Old Testament stories we suggested before, New Testament stories can be either read or told to younger children. Older children may prefer to help with the reading. This reading can come straight out of the Scriptures, if desired, or from a story book. Whatever the means, it is vital that we help our children to learn the stories in the Holy Scriptures. Sharing Bible stories (as well as non-story Scriptures) at bedtime is one way that we can make that happen!

Here are a few suggestions of New Testament stories that may be helpful to children at bedtime:

Stories full of the joy that comes from God:

Elizabeth is Expecting a Baby (Luke 1:5-25)

Mary Says “Yes” to God (Luke 1:26-38)

Elizabeth and Mary Happily Thank God Together (Luke 1:39-56)

His Name Is John (Luke 1:57-80)

Jesus is Born (Luke 2:1-21)

Simeon and Anna Meet Jesus (Luke 2:22-38)

Jesus Welcomes the Children (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-18)

Jesus Brings His Friend Lazarus Back to Life (John 11:1-44)

People Welcome Jesus to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

Jesus is Alive! (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10)

Jesus Surprises His Disciples (Matt. 28:9-10; Mark 16:9-13; Luke 24:13-43; John 20:11-21:25)

Stories that show that God is strong:

Jesus and the Man Who Could Not Walk (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus Heals Jairus’ Daughter (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56)

Jesus Helps a Centurion (Matt 8:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Only Son to Life (Luke 7:11-17)

Jesus Stops a Storm (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)

Jesus Walks on the Water (Matt 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21)

Some Disciples See that Jesus is God (Matt 17:1-9; Mk 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27)

Ten Sick Men are Healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-18)

Jesus Heals a Beggar Who is Blind (Mark 10:46-52)

Saul Meets Jesus (Acts 9:1-18)

Dorcas is Raised to Life (Acts 9:36-42)

Stories that demonstrate how God protects His people:

Joseph Obeys God and Saves Baby Jesus (Matt. 2:13-22)

Jesus Tells Stories About How God Wants to Save Everyone:

     One Missing Sheep (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7)

     The Woman and the Coin (Luke 15:8-10)

     The Son Who Did What He Wanted (Luke 15:11-32)

     What Happened to the Farmer’s Seeds (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15)

     A Good Shepherd (John 10:1-6)

Saul’s Basket Escape (Acts 9:19-25)

Peter Walks out of Jail (Acts 12:1-19)

Paul and Silas Hang Out with Their Jailor (Acts 16:20-40)

Stories that show how God provides:

Jesus Helps a Bride and Groom (John 2:1-11)

So Many Fish! (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11)

Jesus Tells About a Kind Stranger (Luke 10:25-37)

Five Loaves and Two Fish (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)

The Holy Spirit Comes to Help the Church (Acts 2:1-41)

Scriptures (not stories) that teach us how to better follow God:

Jesus Preaches on a Mountain:

     Love Everyone, Even Your Enemies (Matt 5:38-48)

     How to Pray (Matt 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-4)

     How to Live (Matt 6:16-34)

     More on How to Live (Matt 7:1-23)

     Two Ways to Build (Matt 7:24-28)

Encouraging Letters from the Apostles:

     The Best Gift (1 Corinth 12:1-31)

     Do Good to Everyone (Gal. 6:1-10)

     Live in God’s Love (1 John 4:7-21)

These are only a few of the New Testament stories and Scripture passages that can be shared with our children. They are not all-inclusive, but they are a place to start! The most important thing is that we find ways to help our children connect with the Holy Scriptures.


Here are additional resources that can help us learn from the Scriptures together at bedtime:
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If you missed these links from our Old Testament Bible Stories post, these Orthodox resources can assist us as we teach our children stories from the New Testament:

The Orthodox Study Bible. This translation of the Scriptures offers footnotes filled with insights from Orthodox scholars. If you do not yet have a copy in your home, you can find it here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-study-bible/

The Children’s Bible Reader. This Bible storybook was published by the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. It has been translated to English, and offers many stories from the Bible that are illustrated in a style similar to iconography. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

The Children’s Bible Reader is also available online here: http://cbr.goarch.org/

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These Bible storybooks are not Orthodox-published but can help an Orthodox Christian family to learn stories from the Bible (both Old and New Testaments):

The Jesus Calling Bible Storybook tells stories from the Bible in simple language that children can understand. The illustrations are gentle and colorful. Each story includes a related Bible verse for the reader to ponder. It also offers a short meditation that can help the reader to think of how Christ can help them just as God helped the person in the story. (Note: because this book is not Orthodox-written, a few of these meditations may need to be omitted, reworded, or discussed after reading to clarify our Orthodox belief on the matter. If you use this book, we advise that you read ahead so that you can be prepared. But as a whole the book is lovely, which is why we are mentioning it.) http://www.thomasnelson.com/jesus-calling-bible-storybook

Before I Dream Bible Storybook tells 60 Bible stories in simple language. Each story is a verbal feast for the senses, drawing in the listener to fully engage in the story. The author did this on purpose, to fully engage children’s thoughts in the Scriptures before bedtime. Although this book is no longer available from its publisher (Tyndale), https://www.amazon.com/Before-Bedtime-Storybook-Henley-Playsongs/dp/1414300921  offers links to new and used versions of the book.

God’s Word For Me Bible Storybook offers 104 stories from the Scriptures in child-friendly language accompanied by pleasant illustrations. Each story ends with an opportunity for application: a verse to ponder or a suggested activity related to the story. http://www.thomasnelson.com/god-s-word-for-me#

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Here are links to suggested Scriptures for bedtime meditation:

Here are some verses (from both Old and New Testaments) that can be helpful to think about at bedtime: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-great-bible-verses-to-read-before-bed/

And these inspirational verses can be helpful to both children and adults at bedtime: http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/inspirational-bible-verses/

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading from the Scriptures Part 2: Old Testament Stories

As we prepare our children for bed, what a blessing it can be to share with them stories from the Holy Scriptures. Including reading from the Scriptures in our family’s bedtime routine offers each member of the family the gift of learning more about God and His work among us while also opening our minds to Truth. Scripture reading at any time of the day, but especially in the evening when we have time to reflect and think about what we’ve just heard or read as we fall asleep, offers great things for Christians of any age to ponder. So, if we read Scripture passages together at bedtime, our children can lie in bed and truly think about “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

There are so many stories, teachings, and truths in the Scriptures that it may be difficult to know where to begin. Families with very young children will benefit from investing in some Bible storybooks that offer illustrated stories from the scriptures, written in a way that is appropriate for children to understand, and read those together. Families with older children can read the stories straight from the Bible. This offers multiple opportunities: beyond the stories themselves, reading straight from the scriptures helps the children to see where these stories come from, and can also be used as an occasion to help the children to learn how to look things up in the Bible for themselves. Some families commit to reading the whole Bible together by reading a small section at a time. This takes a long time, but it gives them the chance to experience the Scriptures together and discuss each section after the reading.

In the event that you need an idea of a place to start, here are suggestions of Old Testament stories, listed in categories that may be helpful to children at bedtime:

Stories full of the joy that comes from God:
God Calls His Creation Good (Gen. 1:1- 2:3)
Adam and Eve Live in Paradise With God (Gen. 2:7- 2:24)
God Makes a Promise to Noah (Gen. 8:1- 9:17)
God’s Promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1- 12:8; 15:1- 6; 17:1- 9; 17:15- 22; 18:1- 15; 21:1- 6)
Hannah’s Prayers are Answered (1 King. 1:1- 2:10)
A Servant Girl Saves Her Master (4 King. 5:1- 15)
A Young King Brings His People Back to God (2 Chron. 34:1- 35:21)

Stories that show that God is strong:
God Saves His People from Slavery (Ex. 6:28- 12:42; 13:17- 14:31)
The Walls of Jericho Fall (Josh. 1:6- 3:17; 6:1- 19)
David vs. Goliath (I King. 17:1- 29)
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (3 King. 18:1- 30)

Stories that demonstrate how God protects His people:
Young Prince Joash is Saved and Becomes King of Israel (4 King. 11:1- 14; 17; 19- 12: 9) Esther Saves Her People (Esther 2:5- 8:12)
Ruth Finds a New Family (Ruth 1:1- 4:17)
The Three Hebrew Youths are Saved from the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3:1-97)
Daniel Obeys God and an Angel Protects Him from Lions (Daniel 6: 1-29)

Stories that show how God provides:
Joseph Rescues His Family (Gen. 37:1-36; 39:1- 45:8)
Baby Moses is Safe (Ex. 1:7- 2:10)
The Hungry Hebrew People Have Food and Water in the Desert (Ex. 15:22- 17:7)
Elijah and the Ravens (3 King. 17:1- 6)
Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (3 King. 17:8- 24)
God Works Miracles Through Elisha (4 King. 4:1- 7; 8-37; 38-44)

There are so many scriptures that can be shared with our children at bedtime. These are only a few of them. We recommend that you select the stories you want your children to know, and start there!

Here are a few resources that may be helpful as you read from the Scriptures together at bedtime:
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The Orthodox Study Bible. This translation of the Scriptures offers footnotes filled with insights from Orthodox scholars. If you do not have a copy in your home yet, find it here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-study-bible/

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The Children’s Bible Reader. This Bible storybook was published by the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. It has been translated to English, and offers many stories from the Bible that are illustrated in a style similar to iconography. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

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Bible Stories for the Very Young. This Bible storybook offers vibrantly colored pictures that perfectly illustrate the simply-told stories. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bible-Stories-Young-Sally-Grindley/dp/0747535523/

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Words to Dream On. This beautifully-illustrated Bible storybook offers many simply-told Bible stories. Each story has a short related thought and one-line prayer that reflects on the story. (Author’s note: This is the bedtime Bible story book for kids that I like best of all the ones I found while working on this project. It is lovely.) Find it here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/words-to-dream-on

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365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories offers one Bible story each day for an entire year. The stories are very short, written simply, and printed in large type that is easy for young readers to read for themselves. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bedtime-Bible-Story-Book-Read-aloud/dp/1557482640

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For upper-elementary-aged children:
Find 84 Bible stories from the Old Testament that can be read online or printed here: http://kids.christiansunite.com/biblestories_old_testament.shtml

Find 125 readings* (for upper elementary aged students) from the Old Testament in the online Bible “storybook” found here: http://biblehub.com/childrens/ *note: the wording in some of these stories can be a bit difficult to navigate, so you may want to read or retell them using language your children can best understand

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In addition to reading Bible stories/the Scriptures together, you may want to help your children work on memorizing verses or simply bless your children with Scripture verses as they fall asleep. Here are a few suggestions of ways to do so:
This family offers Psalms as prayers to ponder as their children go to sleep: http://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/2013/07/18/psalms-to-use-for-bedtime-prayers/

And here are some comforting Old Testament verses that you can offer to your children for them to think about as they fall asleep: http://christianity.about.com/od/prayersverses/a/Comforting-Bible-Verses.htm

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Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading From the Scriptures Part 1: Introduction and a Few Resources

In prior posts, we have discussed the importance of establishing a bedtime routine. Gathering together as a family, calming down together, and reading together are all things we can do as part of a nightly routine that benefits our children. For the next few posts, we will take a look at reading stories from Scripture. This post will share the survey results along with a few possible resources. In forthcoming posts we will suggest stories to share with your children from both the Old and New Testaments.

Once again, we thank the participants who filled out our summer survey. Of those who took time to complete our survey, 70% answered the “how do you select which Scriptures to read?” question, implying that they include reading scriptures in their routine.

Here is how they answered:


22 %  – We follow the daily Bible readings prescribed by the Church.
45% – We read from a Bible storybook.
10% – We are reading our way through the whole Bible, one section at a time.

The rest offered these answers:

  • “Our kids go to a Christian School and we may start with what they’ve read that day to discuss our perspective as Orthodox Christians on the topic.”
  • “We may read the children’s Bible if she shows interest.”
  • “Either a Bible storybook or from the daily readings. Sometimes both.”
  •  “Kids may request certain stories, or I choose, or we try and find something close to the church calendar.”
  •  “Our kids choose daily stories, we read them stories that go with the Feast Day.”
  •  “We follow the readings, though not perfectly, and we read additionally from various story books or according to relevant feasts or lessons.”
  •  “Sometimes we follow daily readings, sometimes we are inspired by the upcoming feast, sometimes we just work our way through Bible storybook.”
  •  “The daily Bible verses and a Psalm or a chapter from Proverbs.”
  • “Home school lessons.”

And these respondents’ families include Scripture reading in their routine, just not at bedtime:

  • “We don’t read scripture at bedtime. We do that after lunch.”
  • “We read through a Bible storybook in the mornings.”
  • “We read from a Bible story book on Sunday afternoons.”

As you can see, there are many ways to select which Scriptures/Bible stories to share with your children. Here are a few related resources that may be helpful to your family. Note: not all of them are Orthodox, but they are helpful enough that we decided to  included them. What Scriptures and/or Bible storybooks does your family read together? Please share them in the comments below!

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“Bible stories can be paraphrased in simple language and told enthusiastically to your youngsters. If possible, try to follow the church calendar of daily readings for your selection of a Bible story on a given night. With younger children, the focus can simply be on the Sunday Gospel and Epistle reading. As a means of introduction, as well as reinforcement, the reading can be discussed daily on the week prior to that Sunday reading.” https://oca.org/the-hub/the-church-on-current-issues/nourishing-children-in-christ1

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This Orthodox Bible storybook, The Children’s Bible Reader, is written at a 3rd grade level, but children of other ages can definitely enjoy reading it or hearing it read to them. http://www.svspress.com/childrens-bible-reader-illustrated-old-new-testaments/

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The Children’s Bible Reader an Orthodox Children’s Bible storybook, is also online! Read (or listen to) the stories here: http://cbr.goarch.org/

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In case you are not aware of it, we offer a weekly podcast featuring Sunday’s Gospel, told in simpler words for younger children, and read for older children. Listen to the podcast, called “Let Us Attend,” here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend. There are also printable handouts at five different levels available to share with your children: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/letusattend

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The Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional offers 200 simply-written stories from the Bible, as well as 50 devotional readings that can help families focus on God before going to sleep. Geared to young children, it can also be enjoyed by slightly older ones. https://www.amazon.com/Read-Share-Bedtime-Bible-Devotional/dp/1400320836/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476889361&sr=1-1&keywords=9781400320837

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Words to Dream On: This Bible storybook has selected Bible stories that focus on “God’s love, care, protection, trustworthiness, and power.” It offers 50 different Bible stories, each with a short Bible verse for the family to ponder, as well as a prayer related to the story. http://www.thomasnelson.com/words-to-dream-on#

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365 Bible Stories for Young Hearts offers one story for each day of the year. This book is an easy way for families to read their way through the Bible (well, through many of its stories) in one year. https://www.amazon.com/365-Bible-Stories-Young-Hearts/dp/158134807X

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Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading Books Together, Part 2: Books to Read With Younger Children

Author’s note: many of my personal favorite picture books or picture book authors are represented in the photo. Some of them showed up again in the survey we conducted. What are YOUR family’s favorite picture books and picture book authors? Please comment below, and help our community meet some new book friends!

We parents know that we should be reading to our young children, especially at bedtime. For many of us, however, the question is: WHAT should we read to them? The answer could be “anything we can get our hands on!” We jest, but that statement is at least partially true. In the early years of our children’s life, we greatly benefit them with every book that we read to them. So we should take advantage of every opportunity to read to them! But rather than just reading anything we can get our hands on, we need to be sure to include books that help us steer our children towards the Faith.

The goal for this blog post is to provide our community with a list of books to read with younger children. Our hope is that some of these book suggestions will be new and wonderful discoveries for those among us with little ones. (Or older children as well: picture books are fun to read with any age, so we should not eliminate them from our family’s reading times when our children are old enough to enjoy chapter books!)
We will begin by highlighting two brand new Orthodox books that recently came to our attention. You may want to add these to your family’s bedtime reading.

For the very young:
Goodnight Jesus by Angela Isaacs, with illustrations by Nicholas Malara (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/goodnight-jesus/)

This brand new board book is the perfect book to finish off a baby or toddler’s day! The sweet illustrations delightfully match the gentle rhymes. The fact that the book teaches children to reverence the icon of Christ in everyone will make parents happy to read the book over and over. And there will always be kisses all around at the end of the reading!

For slightly older children:

Let There Be Light! By Alisa Rakich Brooks, illustrated by R. E. Bursik (available here: http://westserbdio.org/en/sebastian-press/christian-inspiration-for-youth/item/388-let-there-be-light)

This is the first book in what will be (God willing) a series of books that combine scientific study with our Orthodox faith in the context of a story. Mila and her mother are reading the scriptures together at bedtime (what a great time to read the scriptures!) when Mila asks a question about light, and so the story begins. The beautiful icons and other pictures in this book help the reader to follow Mila as she and her mother learn about creation, scientists, and how light works. Mila is just like any other curious child. She wants to know how and why things work, and she’s not afraid to dance a little when she figures it out! She models life as an Orthodox Christian throughout the book as she prays, makes the sign of the cross, and finally gives thanks to God for what she has learned. Young readers will be learning without even realizing it, and even the reader will be encouraged to love God and His creation more than they did before.

The respondents to our summer survey have given us a list of fabulous picture books that can be read to younger children. We will share them below, in alphabetical order by title. (Note: we have shared as much information about the titles as we could, based on what we were given.)

For younger children:

“Catherine’s Pascha” by Charlotte Riggle follows a young girl through Pascha while introducing the reader to the truth that Pascha is celebrated around the world: http://www.catherinespascha.com/

“Every Time I Do My Cross” by Presby. Angela Alatzakis allows readers to follow James throughout his day, as he has opportunities to make the sign of the cross and explains both how and why he does so: http://www.tocpstore.com/product/every-time-i-do-my-cross-pre-order

“Goodnight Ark” by Laura Sassi is a humorous book about what would happen if Noah shared his bed with the animals in the ark because of the storm. http://www.zondervan.com/goodnight-ark-1

“Goodnight Manger” by Laura Sassi is a story about Joseph and Mary trying to get the baby Jesus to sleep in the noisy stable. http://www.zondervan.com/goodnight-manger

“Josiah and Julia Go To Church” by Kelly Ramkin Lardin helps young readers to learn more about how to show respect to God at church: http://store.ancientfaith.com/josiah-and-julia-go-to-church/

“The Littlest Altar Boy” by Jenny Oehlman humorously tells the story of a boy on his first day as an altar server: http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-littlest-altar-boy/

“My Prayer Book” by Dionysios and Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis is illustrated with beautiful icons, and provides prayers that can be read together: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Books-in-English/My-Prayer-Book-English/flypage-ask.tpl.html

“What Do You Hear Angel” by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson follows Annie on a walk through the woods with her guardian angel, listening to all the woodland sounds around her and learning that her angel hears them as praises to God! http://store.ancientfaith.com/what-do-you-hear-angel/ “What Do You See at Liturgy?” by Kristina Kallas-Tartara is a colorful board book that introduces little ones to what they will see during the Divine Liturgy.  https://www.etsy.com/listing/196402444/what-do-you-see-at-liturgy-orthodox

 

For older children:

“The Abbot and I” by Sarah Elizabeth Cowie teaches children about a monastery through the eyes of the monastery cat. https://www.amazon.com/Abbot-As-Told-Josie-Cat/dp/188821225X

“Angels”

“Bible Stories For Babies”

“Corduroy” by Don Freeman tells the story of a stuffed bear who loses the button of his overalls and is in danger of never being adopted out of the store where he lives. http://www.corduroybook.com/books.html

“Daniel and the Lion”

“From I-ville to You-ville” by Mersine Vingopoulo helps the reader to learn more from the teachings of St. Paisios by telling the story of a boy named Stubborn who leaves where he lives in I-ville to become a citizen of you-ville. http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/ccp7/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=3FITU

“A Gift for Matthew” by Nick Muzekari tells the story of the adventures of Matthew when he visits a monastery and learns how icons are written. http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-gift-for-matthew/

“The Golden Children’s Bible”  is an illustrated children’s Bible geared for ages 3 to 7: http://www.christianbook.com/the-golden-childrens-bible/9780307165206/pd/65205

“Good King Wenceslas”

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Browning helps a child end their day in a peaceful way by saying goodnight to everything. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780694003617/goodnight-moon-board-book-60th-anniversary-edition

“Holy Hierarch Luke of Crimea, the Unmercenary Physician” by Cătălin Grigore tells the story of this recent saint, his challenges, and his great love for and devotion to God. http://www.stnectariospress.com/holy-hierarch-luke-of-crimea-the-unmercenary-physician/

“How do dinosaurs say goodnight?” by Jane Yolen is a rollicking rhyme illustrating how it would (or would not) work for dinosaurs to be in a people-type house, getting ready for bed. http://janeyolen.com/works/how-do-dinosaurs-say-goodnight/

“If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart” by Jill Lord helps children think of how Jesus would act if He were in their shoes, in their life. https://www.amazon.com/If-Jesus-Lived-Inside-Heart/dp/0824919378

“The Legend of the Cross” by Dr. Chrissi Hart tells the legend of the wood that the holy cross of Christ was made of, and how it came to be. https://www.amazon.com/Legend-Cross-Chrissi-Hart/dp/162395570X

“Let the Little Children Come to Me” is a compilation of stories of 50 children martyrs throughout the history of the Church. http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/ccp7/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=3LETTEH01

“The Monk Who Grew Prayer” by Claire Brandenburg helps children learn about cultivating their prayer life, just as the monk did in this story. http://www.svspress.com/monk-who-grew-prayer-the/

“North Star” by Dorrie Papademetriou tells the story of St. Herman of Alaska.  http://www.svspress.com/north-star-st-herman-of-alaska-hardcover/

“The Orthodox Children’s Bible Reader” published by the American Bible Society is an Orthodox illustrated Bible storybook. https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

“Psalms for Young Children” by Marie-Helene Delval offers paraphrased Psalms to help children with their feelings as expressed in the Psalms. https://www.amazon.com/Psalms-Young-Children-Marie-Helene-Delval/dp/0802853226

“The Ravens of Farne” by Donna Farley tells the story of St. Cuthbert. http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-ravens-of-farne-a-tale-of-saint-cuthbert/

“The Saint and his Bees” by Dessi Jackson tells the story of St. Modomnoc and his bees in Ireland. https://www.amazon.com/Saint-his-Bees-Dessi-Jackson/dp/1623954878

“Saint Gerosimos and the Lion” by Georgia Kalogerakis tells the story of the saint who befriended a lion by removing the thorn in its paw, and its faithfulness to him after that happened. http://www.stnectariospress.com/st-gerasimos-and-the-lion/

“Saint Seraphim’s Beatitudes” by Fr. Daniel Marshall tells the story of St. Seraphim of Sarov. http://stinnocentpress.com/products/st-seraphims-beatitudes2.html

“Song of the Talanton” by Claire Brandenburg helps children learn what a talanton is and how it is used to draw people to worship at a monastery. http://store.ancientfaith.com/song-of-the-talanton/

“Sweet Song” by Jane G. Meyer tells the story of St. Romanos the Melodist.  http://store.ancientfaith.com/sweet-song-a-story-of-saint-romanos-the-melodist/

“The Story of Holy Hierarch John Maximovitch the New Wonderworker” by Catalin Grigore tells the story of St. John Maximovitch. http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-story-of-the-holy-hierarch-nectarios-the-wonderworker/

“Thank You God”

“And Then Nicholas Sang” by Elizabeth Johnson tells the story of the trisagion hymn.  http://store.ancientfaith.com/and-then-nicholas-sang/

“Under the Grapevine” by Dr. Chrissi Hart tells the true story of a miracle by St. Kendeas of Cyprus. http://store.ancientfaith.com/and-then-nicholas-sang/

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle offers children the opportunity to follow a little caterpillar as he eats his way through a variety of foods, each increasing in number by one. (find a list of his books here: http://www.eric-carle.com/ECbooks.html#anchor707516)

 


The following authors and/or publishers of picture books were also recommended by those surveyed:

Dr Seuss wrote many silly rhymes loved by children of all ages such as http://www.best-books-for-kids.com/list-of-dr-seuss-books.html 

Marina Paliaki wrote these icon board books (http://store.ancientfaith.com/birth-of-christ-in-icons-board-book/, http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-life-of-christ-in-icons-board-book/, and http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-mother-of-god-in-icons-board-book/)

The Paterikon series published by Potamitis Press are beautifully illustrated books that each tell the story of a saint, or a story from Scriptures: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-Set-1-20/English-Paterikon-for-Kids-1-20-Set/flypage-ask.tpl.html (this links to only the first set: there are currently 5 sets)

Spiritual Fragrance Publishing Co. offers a variety of books about Christ and the saints: http://spiritualfragranceinc.com/home/

Stan and Jan Berenstain’s Berenstain Bears books offer stories of bears who live much like people, the struggles they encounter, and the moral way in which their parents help them to grow up to be good citizens. http://www.berenstainbears.com/

Jane G. Meyer has written more books than those listed above. Find them here: http://www.janegmeyer.com/