Friday, March 16, 2018

PBT Question #5 to Ask about Any Secular Book

Does this book have the potential to positively affect the behavior or future of those who experience it? 

Good teachers teach to improve the quality of audience members' lives. With this last question, PBT encourages you to consider the future of your listeners' understanding of God, their places in a family of faith, or their relationships with The Holy.

PBT is all about connecting the content in picture books to scripture and/or spiritual truths so that spiritual growth can be more personally meaningful. Longer lasting learning occurs when theological ideas are connected to realistic situations or meaningful concepts. What affects you connects with you!

Asking yourself how a picture book will positively affect your listeners is a worthy consideration that gives focus to your planning and teaching.   

As a nationally certified school psychologist, I’m passionate about improving social and emotional skills; those include spiritual skills. Modern psychological research is finding that social and emotional learning (SEL) and its affects on behavior is crucial for success in all relationships as well as in academic learning. For more on this critical link, check out CASEL has identified 5 Interrelated Sets of COGNITIVE, AFFECTIVE, AND BEHAVIORAL COMPETENCIES: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.
With this last PBT question, I’m offering an example book, Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg (see my PBT re-post where I offer it as a Grab & Go book [here]). It's a story of a careless boy and his discovery of an array of environmental concerns. Connecting this story to God’s desire that we have respectful and intelligent guardianship of Earth’s inhabitants and resources might inspire listeners to evaluate their relationship with the Earth. They could find connections between their behavior and the Earth’s health and see this as a God-ordained relationship. Additionally, this book addresses all 5 of CASELs competencies listed above. 

Here are a couple of amazing illustrations from Van Allsburg. First, I show a scene from Walter’s bad dream. 
Here is a “post-dream” scene in which Walter plants a tree for his birthday:
This book is one of many possibilities. Think of an important SEL skill, find it or a related word in the large list of search words at the bottom of this screen (on the web version), and see the vast potential PBT has for your ministry and/or your family. May your own SEL learning be enhanced as you teach, Hanna

Monday, March 12, 2018

Beauty, Gratitude, and Worship

Picture Book: For the Beauty of the Earth
Author: Folliot S. Pierpoint
Illustrator: Lucy Fleming
Summary & Hanna’s Comments: Hopefully you know this hymn which was written in 1864 and is still sung across worship communities and settings. 
I was thrilled to see it become a picture book! We requested that it be sung when each of our children was baptized so it has extraordinary meaning in our family. 
The most famous hymn from this English hymnist, its lyrics are a bountiful celebration of a spectrum of God’s great gifts. The illustrator offers rich imagery of the lyrics. 
Initially, I love this hymn (and admire this book) for its affirmation of God's glory in nature. 

It also emphasizes the gift of love that surrounds us upon our birth and raises us in family.

This hymn acknowledges community in all that is Holy 
and the opportunity for worship in the glory of nature.   

Here you have diversity, in nature and people, honored as one of God's greatest patterns. 
A variety of human activities are shown. Each of them honoring our Creator God. But as you might expect from the title, the focus of this book is on the spectacle of God's glory outdoors. 
This is a picture book about worship, not just praise but contemplation, gratitude, and connection to everything that is Holy.  
In one of the later verses, you're given traditional images of  The Church universal who is "offering a pure sacrifice of love."  
If only this was always so and if only the illustrator had chosen to show Church in non-traditional ways, apart from a building. 
This gorgeous book ends with a fervent hope for peace.
The score is in the back so that you can sing it together as you enjoy the illustrations. The text is rich enough to feature in a series of ministry experiences and family readings. This would allow your audience to become comfortable with the text and their singing. 
Original Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse Family, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about gratitude, Earth’s beauty, and God’s glory would all connect to this picture book.
Idea(s) for Application: One of many applications of this book in ministry is to use it in a lesson that introduces an exploration of why and how we worship God.

Friday, March 9, 2018

PBT Redux #21 Waiting for Spring & Easter

Today I post again about a picture book that is perfect for children just before spring and during the season of Lent, the liturgical season before Easter. 
Picture Book: Waiting for Wings
Author & Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Summary: In clever verse, bold shapes, and interesting paper cuts, Lois Ehlert depicts the entire life cycle of 4 different kinds of butterflies. Beginning as tiny eggs hidden among the leaves of plants, these 4 creatures change form into caterpillars, build their cocoons, and become butterflies ready to lay eggs. This book may look simple (and sideways) from the cover, but the amount of information you'll find here is amazing! 
Hanna’s Comments: This picture book offers scientific concepts in an appealing context. Find in the back identifying tips for the 4 butterflies and the many flowers that star in this book, general butterfly information, and instructions on planting a butterfly garden. The butterfly has often been used as a metaphor for spiritual transformation. Even young children can begin to see the connections between changes over time in humans and how butterflies evolve. Because they are growing so rapidly and learning new skills, the idea of transformation is not foreign to young children. Also, the symbol of the cocoon and transformation to new life as a butterfly are natural metaphors for Lent (the 40 days before Easter). This book can help you explain to even the youngest children the symbolic darkness and ritual sacrifices of the Lenten season.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 2001
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audio, In the video collection: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and More Amusing Animal Tales.
Scripture Connections: In general, this book connects to any Bible character for which there is great transformation such as Joseph (in Genesis), disciples such as Matthew (in the Gospels), the woman at the well (in John), Saul/Paul (in Acts), and Jesus (in the Easter story). The way in which a caterpillar cocoons and then becomes a butterfly also connects metaphorically to the seasons of Lent and Easter.
Idea(s) for Application: Use the book above and the author’s partner book about a rainbow of plants [here] to celebrate God’s creative diversity by connecting the butterflies and plants to various people in your faith community. With permission, talk about transformations that person has experienced. Then have the children color or draw that butterfly/plant and present their depiction to the person.

Monday, March 5, 2018

PBT Question #4 to Ask about Any Secular Book

Does the book contain or encourage a spiritual practice? (Compassion, Generosity, Gratitude, Prayer, Praise, Hospitality, Peacemaking, Reconciliation…)

This PBT question is a little easier to grasp. Do keep an open mind about what defines a spiritual practice. These are not just spiritual disciplines, like praying or fasting, nor are they always specific behaviors such as peacemaking. A spiritual practice might be an orientation towards others as in the case of compassion. You may know someone who is very generous of spirit, but they have little money to give.

When approaching a picture book with this question, consider what in the picture book would please God. That question might help you focus on a spiritual practice. Then read the picture book to a group of children or adults and help them learn more about that practice in a context that is very real. Here’s an example:

Contemplation is a fuzzy word. Contemplative prayer is hard to define and impossible to perfect. Contemplating God’s amazing world is a spiritual practice that we often engage in spontaneously and momentarily without identifying it as a spiritual practice. Think of when you arrive at the beach or when you see a full moon. Just because you don’t express your joy with words doesn’t mean you aren’t moved and thankful.

Contemplation is beautifully abundant in the title character of The Incredible Peepers of Penelope BuddCheck out that PBT post [here.] 
In these two illustrations, Penelope is being especially observant. First she delights in a butterfly.
Then she contemplates her own image in a puddle of water.
Tie her orientation to delighting in God's creation and you have a model of a spiritual practice that even the youngest child can relate to. Add gratitude to God to such experiences and you have an integrated practice that can be theologically sustaining and grounding throughout a lifetime. 

Helping children and adults identify what spiritual practices look like will affirm their good inclinations and behaviors while offering rich information for potential spiritual growth. This spring I'll be offering a new series of posts connecting picture books to each of The Fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians. Each of those 9 Fruits are examples of spiritual practices. 

In a week or so I’ll be wrapping up my explanation of the 5th question you can ask about a secular picture book. May your spiritual practices delight God!

Friday, March 2, 2018

PBT Series: God Book #9

Most of the books I feature at PBT are secular, but there are many books here that I call “God Books.” These are sacred picture books that aren’t so easy to find in libraries or bookstores. These may be the most valuable treasures I offer for ministry. This PBT series is a collection of re-posts of those God books. Want to see them all? Simply find the Search Word list at the bottom of the web version and click on "God Book." This treasure is both beautiful and full of potential for conversation about intercessory prayer. Consider it a God Book as well as a Grab & Go book (another PBT series) for there are lots of easy possibilities here!

Picture Book: Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer
Author: Tonya Bolden
Illustrator: Eric Valasquez
Summary: One evening in a noisy city, a young boy hurries out of bed because he’s forgotten to say his prayers. As he kneels and prays, he notices a beautiful moon shining in his window. Others in the city are experiencing the rays of the moon, but they are in distress. Then the author weaves and connects an aspect of the boy’s prayer to each of the other parties. A woman tries to sleep on a park bench; the boy prays for those who are homeless. A businessman reads a news headline about war and is worried about his daughter, a soldier. The boy prays for war to end. Two adults stare at an empty cupboard. The boy prays for people to have food. This continues as the beautiful moon shines on them all.
Hanna’s Comments: I don’t usually offer what I call “nighttime” books since my primary purpose at PBT is to provide ideas for ministry which usually occurs in daylight hours. But I had to make an exception for this book! Help even your youngest listeners understand that the moon is a symbol for God in this story. Then expand on that idea. Be sure to talk about the feelings each scenario offers as well as the feelings that are evoked in each scene via the “God as moon” metaphor. How might God feel about these situations? What might God be doing in this city to alleviate some of this suffering? Also, talk about this boy’s prayer practices and how they are a comfort to him and hopefully a lifelong practice. You might want to mention that he is not "in trouble" for forgetting to pray. Invite your children (or adults) to share their experiences with prayer practices. If you get silence, there's your opportunity to instruct. Offer a simple prayer ritual and then build on this instruction in future experiences. Through it all, it's crucial to share the importance of intercessory prayer in your spiritual journey.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Abrams, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Love the Lord, your God with all your heart… (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30); when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears (Psalm 34:17); in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be known to God (Philippians 4:6)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book as a nighttime devotional at a family retreat or a camp program for children. OR Use this book as a tool to instruct children in the importance and comforting spiritual practice of intercessory prayer.