Tag Archives: Education

On Pursuing Virtue: Honesty

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko’s chapter about honesty opens with the statement that “the wise man who has knowledge lives according to the truth through a totally honest life.” But what does a “totally honest life” look like? Is honesty just about speaking truth and not telling lies? Or is there more to it? He goes on to explain.

There are several ways that we can live a truly honest life. One way is to always speak the truth and never lie or speak unfairly or demeaningly about others. Another way to live an honest life is to act sincerely, not putting on airs or trying to come across as someone we are not. In other words, we live an honest life if we are not a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy, lying, and deceit are things that Christ hated the most, according to Fr. Thomas. Our Lord accused the devil of these things, for the devil constantly pretends to be what he is not and tries to make others believe that what he says is the truth, although it is definitely not the truth.

We must be mindful of the devil’s trickery and of how cunningly he tries to deceive us, sometimes through other people. Even devoted religious leaders can be part of his deceit: just look at the scribes and Pharisees in the time of Christ! Christ condemned their hypocrisy, as well He should, because of its lack of truth.

In order to live an honest life, we must first and foremost look at ourselves. Do we present ourselves to others honestly, or do we pretend to be someone we are not? An honest person comes across exactly as they are, not speaking or acting in a way that makes others think they are anyone but who they really are.

Fr. Thomas writes that a truly honest person does not just speak the truth and present themselves to others honestly. An honest person is also honest in thought and mind, forever remembering that God sees and knows our heart. In his words, a truly honest person is “utterly honest and pure in all that he things, says and does, knowing that God sees all and judges with righteousness all those who ‘walk in integrity’ (Ps. 26:1, 11).”

May we all grow in the virtue of honesty, and thereby love God as we should!

Find Fr. Thomas Hopko’s writing about honesty here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/honesty
Here are some scriptures and quotes from saints that can help us as we work on attaining the virtue of honesty in our own life:
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“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” (Ps. 33:14 OSB)
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“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Prov 6.16–19)
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“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22 NKJV)
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“Therefore keep yourself from useless murmuring and refrain your tongue from evil speech; for no secret word will go unpunished, and a lying mouth will destroy one’s soul.” (Wisdom of Solomon 1:11 OSB)
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“A lie is an evil disgrace in a man, it will continue on the lips of the ignorant.” (Wisdom of Sirach 20: 24 OSB)

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“ The character of a liar brings dishonor, and his shame is continually with him.” (Wisdom of Sirach 20: 26 OSB)
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“Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Cor 13.7–8 NKJV)
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“Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25 OSB)
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“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.” (Colossians 3:9 NKJV)
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Christ taught us truth; the Devil teaches us falsehood, and strives in every way to contradict every truth; devising various calumnies against it.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“Adorn yourself with truth, try to speak truth in all things; and do not support a lie, no matter who asks you. If you speak the truth and someone gets mad at you, don’t be upset, but take comfort in the words of the Lord: Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of truth, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5:10).” ~ St. Gennadius of Constantinople
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If you wish that God should speedily give you hearty faith in prayer, strive with all your heart to speak and to do everything in regard to other people sincerely, and never be deceitful in your dealings with them. If you are straightforward and truthful with others, then God will give you straightforwardness and sincere faith also in reference to Himself.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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“When your brother sins against you in any way, for instance, if he speaks ill of you, or transmits with an evil intention your words in a perverted form to another, or calumniates you, do not be angered against him, but seek to find in him those good qualities which undoubtedly exist in every man, and dwell lovingly on them, despising his evil calumnies concerning you as dross, not worth attention, as an illusion of the Devil. The gold-diggers do not pay attention to the quality of sand and dirt in the gold-dust, but only look for the grains of gold; and though they are but few, they value this small quantity, and wash it out of heaps of useless sand. God acts in a like manner with us, cleansing us with great and long forbearance. How difficult this all is! But let us not become despondent, and let us recall the words of Christ: With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
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Gleanings from a Book: “Orthodox Christian Parenting Cultivating God’s Creation” By Marie Eliades

We recently discovered the book Orthodox Christian Parenting – Cultivating God’s Creation by Marie L. Eliades, published by Zoe Press in 2012. This book is a compilation of quotes and writings about raising and educating Orthodox Christian children. The text is gathered both from Church fathers and contemporary Orthodox Christians, and is presented by theme. (An important note: the introduction to the book tells more about the project and encourages readers to discuss what they read with their spiritual father to see what is best for their own family.)

Themes include:

“The Bigger Picture” (addresses why the book’s content is important)

“Marriage and New Beginnings” (sets the foundation for a new Orthodox family, and offers Orthodox perspectives on infertility/pregnancy/childbirth/adoption/loss of a child)

“Raising our Children” (speaks to childrearing from early childhood through youth)

“In the House of the Lord” (offers the basics of Orthodox family life at Church and at home)

“Adolescence and Growing Up” (talks about the issues and challenges that older children and their related adults face)

“So, They’re Leaving Home” (suggestions for launching a young adult)

We found many encouraging and challenging quotes throughout the book, and will share a few of them with you. This book will be of great benefit to any Orthodox Christians who marry, raise children, and/or teach children about the Faith. We recommend that people in those categories consider reading the book because of its insights into what the Church has taught about raising and teaching children of all ages.

Find the book here: http://www.shop.zoepress.us/Orthodox-Christian-Parenting-Cultivating-Gods-Creation-978-0-9851915-0-4.htm

Here are a few quotes from the book:

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“Marriage… is a journey through sorrows and joys. When the sorrows seem overwhelming, then you should remember that God is with you. He will take up your cross. It was He who placed the crown of marriage on your head. But when we ask God about something, He doesn’t always supply the solution right away. He leads us forward very slowly. Sometimes He takes years. We have to experience pain; otherwise life would have no meaning. But be of good cheer, for Christ is suffering with you, and the Holy Spirit through your groanings, is pleading on your behalf. (cf. Romans 8:26)” (p. 58)

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“When a woman is pregnant she must be calm, read the Gospel, pray, say the Jesus Prayer. Thus the child is also sanctified. The child’s upbringing begins in the womb. One should be very careful not to upset a pregnant woman for any reason. When my wife was expecting a child the Elder [St. Paisios] told me: ‘Be careful not to upset her now in any way! Be very carefull!! Tell her to say the Jesus Prayer and to chant. That will help the child a lot! She should do this later on as well.’” (p. 70)

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“I once understood Orthodoxy as a beautiful expression of faith on Sundays and holidays, but I have learned that we must bring every moment of our days and every inch of our homes into the Church. I learned first how to surrender myself to Him, and now I am learning how to surrender my children and everything else as well. The only path to healing is to offer up our entire world to Christ. We must lift up these broken pieces of our fallen world and have faith that He will restore them. He will.” (p. 83)

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From a section from St. Porphyrios:

“The sanctity of the parents is the best way of bringing up children in the Lord. When the parents are saintly and transmit this to the child and give the child an upbringing ‘in the Lord,’ then the child, whatever the bad influences around it, will not be affected because by the door of its heart will be Wisdom—Christ Himself.” (p. 86)

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From a section from St. Tikhon of Zadonsk:

“A gardener binds a newly planted sapling to a stake driven and fixed into the ground lest it be uprooted by winds and storms; later, he prunes unneeded branches from the tree lest they harm the tree and dry it up. You should act likewise with your small and young children. Bind their hearts to the feet of God lest they be shaken by the machinations of Satan and depart from piety. Prune away the passions that grow in them lest they mature and overpower them and so put the new, inward man that was born in holy Baptism to death. For we see that as children grow up, sinful passions also appear and grow with them as unneeded branches of a tree.” (p. 112)

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From St. John Chrysostom:
“If artists who make statues and paint portraits of kings are held in high esteem, will not God bless ten thousand times more those who reveal and beautify His royal image? For man is in the image of God. When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, and to be forgiving—all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them.” (p. 137)

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“Tired of laundry? Parenting and homemaking are indeed a holy calling. Daily chores are a blessing to us and to our family. Even laundry is blessed—no children, no laundry. What would our life be like without them? So as we wash, fold or iron each item we can say, ‘Lord have mercy on (name of clothing wearer).’ This works for your husband’s clothing, your children’s and your own clothing. ‘Lord have mercy on me.’ This sanctifies our time and work. It also helps us acquire peace and unceasing prayer.” (p. 171)

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“Pray, pray, pray for your children and trust our most holy Lady with their guidance. Please do not think that just because you attend church with your children, receive Communion regularly, or because they belong to a youth group that this is some sort of fail-proof guarantee. No, that is not enough You mothers and fathers must pray as much as you can for your dearest possession, the children God has entrusted to you.” (p. 269)

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“When I first read a quote by Elder Porphyrios that parents should talk to their children less and pray more I did not understand it since my children were young and at home and they needed me to speak to them to teach them. But since they have all grown and left home I understand. This may be difficult for some parents to understand yet we all should know that even as our children are a gift from God, they are a temporary gift. From birth until they leave home they are our gift and it is our job to love and teach them; but once they leave we are to release them on their path with their Guardian Angel and God’s Grace. Then our job is to pray for them, not to control them…” (p. 275)

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 3: Books to Read With Older Children

Author’s note: a few of my personal favorite chapter books and/or authors are represented in the photo. Many of them showed up again in the survey we conducted. What are YOUR family’s favorite chapter books and authors to read aloud together? Please comment below, and help our community meet some new book friends!

Orthodox Christian parents want to instill the values of our faith into our children’s lives. We desire to protect them from the deception that is so prevalent in our culture while also teaching them to live as Orthodox Christians in that culture. How can we do this? One way to work at this is by reading books together and guiding natural discussions that can come about as a result of that reading.

There are many wonderful Orthodox books out there for kids, and more are constantly being produced. We are blessed to be raising children in this time period, for there are more Orthodox Christian resources available to English-speaking children now than ever before. We need to take advantage of these helpful resources and provide them for our children!

It is also important that we not limit our reading to Orthodox books. We are not living in an exclusively Orthodox world, and we must teach our children how to live in the world without compromising their faith. One way we can teach them to do so is by reading together books that are not Orthodox, viewing what we read through the lens of our Faith, and then talking about it as a family. While we read we will have opportunities to show our children how we should always live our life: constantly bearing in mind what Christ taught us about how to live; what the Ten Commandments teach; what the Church Fathers have taught; and so on. We can then talk together about how the characters in the book are following or ignoring those teachings. These discussions can help our whole family learn how to apply the Faith through someone else’s (in this case, a fictional character’s) experiences. Nurturing our children’s Orthodox faith through books and ensuing discussions can help them to learn to look at all of life through the lens of our Faith, to evaluate their own life in its light, and to make choices that lead them towards Christ and His Church.

These discussions can happen with younger children and picture books. However, their value and importance increase as our children grow older. “Older children’s” books tend to deal with issues and characters’ choices that are even more conducive to these discussions. Bigger kids have bigger issues and tougher choices. Discussing those choices and issues in the context of a book character allows us to help our children shape their understanding of the Faith. Then, when similar situations arise in their own personal life, they already know what is the right thing to do.

The opportunity to teach our children how to apply the Faith intensifies the importance of finding time to read to them, even if they have “outgrown” picture books. We already know that reading to them increases their vocabulary and intelligence and that it is fun! But this may well be the best benefit of all: reading to our older children offers us a natural way to shape their understanding of the Faith by providing examples of how to apply it to their daily life.

 

Not sure what to read? Don’t worry! The respondents to our summer survey have given us a list of fabulous chapter books that can be read aloud to children. Some of these books are Orthodox, but many are not. We will share them below in alphabetical order by title. (Note: please bear in mind that you know what is best for your family, so some of these books may not be what they need to hear or what you wish to discuss with them. As always, please use your own best judgement for your family.)

“Basil’s Search for Miracles” by Heather Zydek is the story of a middle-school boy’s reawakening to the Faith through unusual circumstances related to an article he’s writing for his school newspaper. (Available many places, including here: http://bookstore.jordanville.org/9781888212860)

“Children’s Bible Reader” published by the American Bible Society. This Bible story book illustrated with icon-style pictures tells stories from the scriptures using words that children can understand. https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

classic fairy tales – You can find fairy tales appropriate for children in the 398.2 section of the children’s department of your local library.

“The Five Little Peppers” (and the ensuing sequels) by Margaret Sidney tells the story of a family consisting of a mother and her five children who have fallen on hard times. They work diligently, love each other fiercely, give generously, and learn much as they rebuild their life together. https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00CJDDPOO/ref=dp_st_1450558518

“Heidi” by Johanna Spyri is the story of an orphaned girl who goes to live with a crochety mountain man and turns his world around with her love for life. (Note: Spyri wrote many other wonderful children’s books as well.) https://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Childrens-Classics-Johanna-Spyri/dp/0517189674

“The Hobbit” and its sequels, including “Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien are all fantasy stories of an honest, “homebody” hobbit whose reluctant choice to join in on a quest begins a chain of events that lands him a very difficult, but very important, job. His adventures, (and the adventures of others after him that come about as a result of his adventures) enable him (and them) to help restore good and peace to their world. https://www.amazon.com/Hobbit-J-R-Tolkien/dp/054792822X

“Let the Little Children Come to Me” by Cornelia Horn and John W. Martens takes a look at childhood in the early church. http://cuapress.cua.edu/books/viewbook.cfm?Book=HOLL

“Miracles of the Orthodox Church” by Mary Efrosini Gregory is the story of Christ’s miracles and how they are continuing today. https://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Orthodox-Church-Original-Continue/dp/1933654244/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1476281097&sr=8-2&keywords=miracles+of+the+orthodox+church

“Mission in Christ’s Way” by Archbishop Anastasios of Albania is a collection of his essays on missions. https://holycrossbookstore.com/products/mission-in-christs-way?variant=697122139

“The Orthodox Study Bible” is the Bible, complete with footnotes written by Orthodox theologians. http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover

“The Prologue from Ochrid” offers daily readings for Orthodox Christians, including the lives of the saints, homilies, and more. It can be found online at http://www.rocor.org.au/?page_id=925)

“Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls is the heartrending story of a boy and his coon dogs and their adventures in the Ozarks. https://www.amazon.com/Where-Fern-Grows-Wilson-Rawls/dp/0440412676 

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle is the story of a family who works together across space and time to try to save their father. Sprinkled with science, this book allows its readers to learn while suspending disbelief. It is a true work of science fiction, and is the first in a series. https://www.amazon.com/Wrinkle-Time-Quintet/dp/0312367546


The following authors, publishers, and chapter book series were also recommended by those surveyed:

Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated a delightful series of books about animals, from the animals’ perspective. https://www.amazon.com/Beatrix-Potter-Complete-Tales-Rabbit/dp/072325804X

The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis are beautifully told tales of high adventure and quests with strongly Christian overtones. https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Narnia-Box-Set-Lewis/dp/0061992887

George MacDonald was a prolific writer who “wrote for the child-like.” He wrote for all ages, but his children’s books can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_fb_1_25?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=george+macdonald+children%27s+classics&sprefix=george+macDonald+children%2Cstripbooks%2C285

The Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling follows an orphaned boy through his wizard-schooling years as he learns how to surrender his own safety/security and use the gifts he’s been given for the good of others. http://harrypotterbooks.scholastic.com/books/original-series

Patricia St. John wrote many children’s books that bring the adventures and learnings of children in other parts of the world to life, in the context of Christian (though not Orthodox) life. Find one of her books, “Rainbow Garden,” (and links to others) here:  https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Garden-Patricia-St-John-ebook/dp/0802400280/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476285820&sr=1-7

Spiritual Fragrance Inc.’s books: This Orthodox publishing company features children’s books about Our Lord, His mother, and the saints. Find them here: http://spiritualfragranceinc.com/home/

Lois Lenski wrote (and illustrated) period-appropriate regional books that give the readers a taste of life in different regions of the USA in different time periods. Favorites include “Strawberry Girl” and “Indian Captive.” https://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=lois+lenski+books

“The Little House” books, semi-autographical books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, offer the readers a taste of life in the American frontier. “Little House in the Big Woods” introduces the reader to the Ingalls family and their adventures as they decide to leave Wisconsin and head west. The other books follow as the Ingalls girls grow up. http://www.littlehousebooks.com/

Thornton Burgess’ books about animals: especially “Jimmy Skunk”, “Bob White”, and “Peter Cottontail.” These simple chapter books were written with the intent of helping children appreciate nature and wildlife through stories in which the animals can talk and share their adventures. (Find a thorough list of his books here: http://www.thorntonburgess.org/PDF’s/Thornton%20Burgess%20Books.pdf)  

 

Author’s additional recommendations:

This just in: this sweet chapter book tells the story of a boy named Sam who doesn’t want much to do with church or monasteries, and a corgi named Saucer who lives to herd, and how their stories entwine. The story is so believable (as long as the reader is willing to imagine that animals try to communicate their thoughts) that the reader feels as though she’s watching it unfold. The book has just the right touches of humor. The illustrations are few, but fit the book perfectly. This book is a great addition to any Orthodox Christian family’s bookshelf! http://store.ancientfaith.com/shepherding-sam/

“A Bear Called Paddington” and the ensuing sequels by Michael Bond. Paddington bear is found by the Brown family in London’s Paddington station after his Aunt Lucy cannot care for him any longer, so she ships him away from “deepest, darkest Peru” in hopes that he will have a better life. He gets into all sorts of mischief, usually completely by accident, throughout his life but is forgiven again and again, and remains much-loved by the Browns. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062312181/a-bear-called-paddington

“Betsy Tacy” and the rest of the series by Maud Hart Lovelace offer readers the opportunity to grow along with Betsy and Tacy in small-town America at the turn of the 20th century. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062095879/the-betsy-tacy-treasury

“The Bronze Bow” by Elizabeth George Speare offers its readers the opportunity to join a young man, Daniel bar Jamin, who is involved in the rebellion against the Romans in the time of Christ. What happens when he and his needy sister Leah come into contact with Christ Himself has the potential to be life-changing for them if they allow it to be. http://www.christianbook.com/the-bronze-bow-paperback/elizabeth-speare/9780395137192/pd/137195 (All of Speare’s historical ficion books are a wonderful way to learn about history in the context of a story.)

“Facing East” by Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green gives readers a glimpse into the life of an Orthodox mission across the time span of one year. https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060654988/?tag=holycrossanti-20

The Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander take readers on an adventure with Taran, a boy who knows little of his personal history except that he is an assistant pig keeper who dreams of grand adventure. Thrown into the journey of a lifetime in the very first book, “The Book of Three,” Taran learns the value of friendship and how to do the right thing even when it is impossibly hard. https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00CKCWI2O/ref=dp_st_0805080481

“Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks offers Orthodox girls a chapter book they can read and relate to! Abigail learns how to handle life as an Orthodox Christian, helped by her friends and her priest through all the adventures an Orthodox girl of today encounters in life. https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Abigail-Wise-Grace-Brooks/dp/1518600115/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Want even more ideas? Find a purely secular list (you will notice that some of them overlap with our lists) of the top 25 chapter books to read aloud here:

http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/178053/25_top_chapter_books_to

 

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:

“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/

Teaching Children About the Feast of Pentecost

50 days after Great and Holy Pascha, we celebrate another wonderful feast: the feast of Pentecost. This important feast commemorates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to his disciples: the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. The apostles were then able to go out into Jerusalem and speak to all the people there about Christ: even though they did not speak the people’s languages! Because of that, this day is often called “the birthday of the Church.” This feast is special for several reasons, including the reaffirmation of the Holy Trinity as an entity and the opportunity that Christians have to be unify the world, “undoing” of the separation of languages that happened at Babel, and beginning the Church.

Here are some resources to help us learn more about Pentecost, so that we can teach our Sunday Church School children about it, as well:

  1. In order to better teach about Pentecost, we must first understand the feast. These articles are very helpful, and full of information about Pentecost. Check them out at http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/pentecost/index_html ; http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/pentecost-the-descent-of-the-holy-spirit; and http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Fr. Alexander Schmemann has written about the feast, as well: read his article at http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Praxis magazine devoted an entire issue to Pentecost, which can serve as a resource, as well: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis/Praxis-1999-1-1/issuu
  2. “The Feast of Pentecost” from the 12 Feasts series by Mother Melania, is a children’s book about the feast that can be found at http://www.orthodoxmarketplace.com/childrens-products/9782888212433-mother-melania-pentecost-the-feast-of-twelve-great-feasts-for-children.html. Dr. Chrissi Hart reads the book in her podcast “Under the Grapevine,” at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_program_7. Either way would be one way to introduce our Sunday Church School students to the feast. Or, we can simply describe it in our own words, at their level.
  3. The icon of the feast is a wonderful teaching tool. We can study the icon of the feast http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/pentecost-icon-as-an-icon-of-the-church/ and read about it at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/livingfaith/the_feast_of_pentecost. Fr. Noah Buschelli has recorded a child-friendly explanation of the icon at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letthechildren/pentecost.
  4. We can help our students learn about the feast and to celebrate it in a variety of ways. Here are a few sources for lesson ideas. For example, there is a preK-2 lesson with suggested activities at http://www.antiochian.org/1120536370. There are lesson ideas and a printable companion sheet for older students at http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/05/preparing-for-pentecost.html.

Since Pentecost is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church, let us do what we can to help our students learn about it, and then celebrate the feast together!