Sunday, August 25, 2019

Katie Reads {18}


Here are the books that I read over the summer and the new books I added to my classroom as we've gone back to school this fall!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
^^^Tan Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
### Author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)



***A Little Camel for Baby Jesus, written and illustrated by Maria Gianola
It's never too early to be looking for the perfect read aloud for Advent and Christmas, and A Little Camel for Baby Jesus would be a sweet addition to any home or classroom. The creative illustrations are full of texture and depth, layering drawings with backgrounds made from fabric, fiber, and paper. It tells a sweet story about generosity and reminds us that nothing we give to God is ever to small, which is an important message to our littlest kiddos (and big kiddos too!).


Heroes of Virtue by Robert Sheridan
In an effort to add more Catholic graphic novels into my classroom since they are a perpetual favorite for my students, I stumbled across this self published book on Etsy and decided to order a copy.  It showcases the stories of 55 Saints and includes a ton of information. Each Saint features a two page spread with an illustration, biography, a couple prayers, quotes or Bible verses relating to the Saint, and a list of patronages, titles, feast day, and attributes. Since this was intended for my classroom, I previewed it closely.  There were a few places I didn't like about the wording, such as in the explanation about why we have a devotion to Saints (using the phrase "We pray to the saints because..." which isn't Church teaching). I'm not above writing in my books, and just added a few notes in the margins before putting this in my classroom library. There were also a few typos throughout and some inconsistencies in font size and formatting. The illustrations are on the intense end of the comic book/graphic novel spectrum (St. Joseph as the Terror of Demons, for example). They weren't my favorite but I do think they will appeal to older students, especially boys who really like traditional comic books.

^^^The Island of the Two Trees, by Brian Kennelly
If you look this one up on Amazon, several of the reviews mention the Chronicles of Narnia as a genre comparison, and I agree in the best way. When a set of siblings find themselves transported to an island that was created in their father's imagination, they must go on a suspenseful journey to save both themselves and their dad.  Full of moral lessons and CS Lewis style symbolism, I think this book would make a great family read aloud!

***Liturgical Year Board Game, by Paola Della Peruta and Anna Maria Pizzutelli
While it looks like a little booklet, this new publication from Pauline is actually a creative and fun board game perfect for use in a classroom. It would definitely need to be laminated before much use, but it is nice that it is inexpensive and easily stored in a folder or ziploc bag. They would also make great class gifts or take home activities for family formation. The booklet is printed two sided, so the instructions and steps are on the back of the page with the game pieces. The instructions state that you first are suppose to make a color copy of the game pieces and then cut out, but I think it would be valuable to the publisher to add an extra page so that the game pieces could have a blank back and could be cut out and played immediately. There are sixty four spaces and sixty four questions or challenges for the teams to encounter. The questions are varied and contain rich content about the Catholic Faith. There are also four different questions for each space, so the leader/teacher/catechist has options to read if teams land on the same spot. While a lot of the questions are connected to the Liturgical Year, really they are about the life of Christ, the Bible, the Saints, etc. so this game could be used anytime as a review or challenge. Based on the content, I think the game would be good for 4th-6th graders.

^^^God's Wildest Wonderment of All, by Paul Thigpen, illustrated by John Folley
Bright and imaginative illustrations portray this young boy's visit to the zoo and all the wonders he beholds there. The rhyming lines and warm pictures bring the reader in after one amazing animal after another is encountered, leading to them to question why God created such a variety in the world- and the wonder that his greatest creation is us! I love that this book can be used to talk about human dignity and being made in the image and likeness of God with even small children in a way that is so approachable and attainable.

^^^The Monks' Stormy Night, by Sylvia Dorham, illustrated by Christopher Tupa
This sweet, sweet rhyming story with cute illustrations is all about the lessons that can be learned when things seem to be going all wrong. A companion to The Monks' Daily Bread, it tells the story of a group of monks facing a stormy night with lots of trouble, and how their abbot encourages them to not give in to despair.  The patterned rhyme is a fun way to engage pre and early readers to finish the lines together or eventually recite the story on their own. Kiddos will like reading this story and finding parallels to their own troubles and how God is actually in the midst of them.

^^^I Went to Mass, What Did I See? by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
If you know Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, you'll recognize the style of this lovely little picture book. Journey with a young boy and see the Mass through his eyes as he interacts with each part of the liturgy. The illustrations are soft black and white with pops of color to draw little eyes to what we should "see" on each page. This book is a wonderful way to engage a small child in the richness of the liturgy and to prepare for what to expect during each celebration of the Mass. I also love Fr. Ben Gets Ready for Mass from the same author and illustrator.


^^^The Word of the Lord; A Child's First Scripture Verses, by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
This solid little board book from First Faith Treasury with bright colors and simple but engaging design contains eleven powerful Scripture verses for even the youngest kiddos.  The Bible verses come straight from the RSVCE, and are not watered down, which I love! The reader is given the verses to pray and recognize from all throughout the Bible, starting with the Pentateuch through the Gospels and New Testament Letters. I think this book is an awesome opportunity to help kids memorize some key Scripture verses from a young age, helping them be familiar with the Word of God and attentive when they hear it in Mass and other occasions. The First Faith Treasury books are a gift to both parent and child in any Catholic home!


^^^Kiddie Cat; A Child's First Catechism Lessons, by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen
Another sweet board book from First Faith Treasury that came out this summer covers a child's first Catechism lesson; they're never too young to hear the foundational truths of out faith! It covers key ideas from all Four Pillars of the Catechism (and even has a little symbol on each page showing what pillar you are learning about!) With matching illustrations that are bright and engaging and coordinate so nicely with the other books in the series, I'm excited to see what else Katie and Meg create next!

***Saint John the Baptist; A Voice Crying Out in the Desert, by Ezekiel Saucedo
Pauline Kids' Graphic Novels are some of the favorite books in my classroom, and I love this new addition that came out this summer. The story of John the Baptist as found in Scripture (and a few tales from tradition about his life) are brightly illustrated in a graphic novel style that I think will still appeal to older readers and welcome younger readers. The pages use light and color in a compelling way that adds depth to the story and draws the reader in to the wisdom and emotion of what St. John was learning as he grew. I think that graphic novels like this are one of the best ways to give kids of this generation a chance to encounter the lives of the Saints, and this is my favorite publication from the Pauline collection so far!

###A Teacher Who Prays, by Katie Warner
As we started school this week, my personal goals include developing more habits of prayer so that conversing with the Lord is more a part of the rhythm of my day. This journal from Katie Warner (also the author of the board books above!) is a perfect tool to include praying for my students and school in that daily prayer. Each page features a particular virtue/characteristic to pray for in your students, along with a Bible verse, Saint quote, room to write intentions, a reflection, and challenge to write a spiritual bouquet. With fifty-two themes, it will be a perfect way to ensure I am praying specifically for my students each week. I've got this tucked into my supply bin on the corner of my desk and plan to start pulling it out during my prep each Monday to start the week off right! Katie also has authored A Parent Who Prays, A Grandparent Who Prays, and A Godparent Who Prays, all of similar style, so there is a journal to fit the needs of anyone who wants to develop a habit of prayer for the young people in their life.

That Nothing May Be Lost, by Fr. Paul D. Scalia
I can count on one hand the number of books that have impacted my faith from cover to cover, pushing me to prayer, or tears, or frantic note taking alternately, and this book from Fr. Scalia is one of them.  Titled "That Nothing May Be Lost" from the end of the story of the feeding of the 5000 when Jesus asks the Apostles to gather up the fragments at the end of the meal, the author explains that the writings in the book are just that- fragments left over- articles, bulletin commentary, and blog posts.  But organized together into themes, the book shares about 80 such essays that pack in truth in a profound way.  His style of writing, rooted in Scripture and full of allegory, reminds me of how Fulton Sheen often wrote.  Each essay made me think but also gave me attainable takeaways.  The book is organized into nine sections and contains introductions that are essays themselves from other Catholics such as Scott Hahn, Lizz Lovett, Raymond Arroyo, and Archbishop Charles Chaput. Another beautiful aspect of the book is that the essays are short and really could be read in any order, making this the perfect book to keep at your beside or on your desk just to read a little bit at a time.  I really couldn't recommend it more highly!


Sermons in Times of Crisis, edited by Fr. Paul D. Scalia
After finishing That Nothing May Be Lost, I went on the hunt for any other books Fr. Scalia had written and found that he had recently compiled this edition called Sermons in Times of Crisis.  While not his writing, he does provide an introduction for each of the twelve homilies contained in the book.  Looking back at dark eras for the Church, each of the sermons addresses the current problem and how to solve it by turning to Christ.  A dozen different situations stretching from the 4th Century to the 21st Century, you'll read the writing of great men like St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Charles Borromeo, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.  The crises they were facing varied- teaching of heresies, conflict between church and state, trouble in leadership, etc., but there is something to be learned from each situation and each response.  While the current sex abuse scandal is not directly addressed, it is clear that this collection is meant to embolden our priests and bishops to preach the truth at all times and to challenge those in the wrong even at risk to one's own life. This collection is beautifully bound in a soft touch hunter green hardback with copper foil stamping and metallic copper endpapers.  It may seem silly to comment on the "looks" of the book, but I really think that the high quality makes it a perfect gift book to give to another, hopefully getting them to read the truth inside.  It would be ideal to get in the hands of those responsible for teaching the faithful, first and foremost our priests and bishops, but also might be the right thing to pass on to someone really struggling with this dark night that we Catholics are fighting through.

Letter to a Suffering Church, by Bishop Robert Barron
I'm so glad that Bishop Barron, undoubtedly the American bishop with the greatest media presence, is using his platform to speak out at respond to the sexual abuse crisis.  This little book is meant to be readable in a short amount of time and is being offered free to individuals and inexpensively in bulk, and other resources like studies guides and FAQs are available for parish leaders to guide discussions. In his letter, the Bishop calls out and names the horrific evil that we have seen revealed in the American hierarchy and the damage that Church leaders have done to their victims.  He shares about dark periods in the Church's past and how they were overcome, and gives the laity the challenge to stay and fight for Christ and His Church. The book is not perfect, but I don't think any letter, book, or exhortation could be- there is too much damage, too much pain, and too much anger for any one person to say all the right things or to issue the perfect ten step plan.  I do admire that Bishop Barron rolled out this resource, made it readily available, and is providing the framework for continuing the conversation, hopefully moving toward change.  No other bishop has done that. It is my hope that Bishop Barron's challenge to "stay and fight" is echoed in other writings as soon as possible, and that more church leadership, the good and holy men we are praying for, rise up to lead us into a new era.

^^^The Virtue of Hope; How Confidence in God Can Lead You to Heaven, by Fr. Philip Bochanski
The virtue of hope has become an important one to me and my family after the death of my mom this spring.  I knew when I saw this title it would be a good read for me, hopefully a piece that would help me grow in my understanding of heaven in the midst of our grief. The author first shares an analysis of the Theological Virtue of hope, and then writes about hope within the themes of change, service, struggling, suffering, and prayer with several Saints or people of faith highlighting each topic. Never reading like a string of biographies, Father Bochanski uses the experiences of actively living the virtue of hope as an example for the reader, weaving in commentary and quotes from other writers and church documents, as well as the Saints themselves. I think that this book would be a good read for any Christian, but certainly would recommend it to those going through struggles, grief, or big changes in life. (I unintentionally ended up at a workshop last weekend Fr. Bochanski gave on his work with Courage International and he was incredibly well spoken and articulate, a characteristic that carries through in his writing.)

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
I've always heard a lot about Corrie Ten Boom, but had never read any of her writing. Fortunately I found a copy of her autobiography this summer while thrifting and it was a page turner! Corrie was part of the resistance movement during the occupation in Holland in WWII. As a middle aged Christian woman who still lived with her father and sister and worked in the family business, she wasn't who you would expect to be hiding Jews behind wall, carrying secret messages, and lying to authority, but Corrie turned their home into a hub of underground activity with the help of her family, saving hundreds of lives.  She was eventually arrested, but against all odds survived jail time and being sent to a Concentration Camp. All along the way, her message then and as she later looked back on her life was one of hope and trust in the Lord.  It is always good for me to read about the struggles others have faced, especially as perspective for my own battles. I found The Hiding Place inspiring and I definitely will be keeping an eye out for her other books.

###Be Brave in the Scared, by Mary E. Lenaburg
If you follow Mary on social media, you know that she is a bright, strong, vibrant voice for the Church, but Mary's story runs much deeper than that.  I remember reading about the impending final days of her daughter Courtney's life and listened to her speak on podcasts about her death and what she had learned from raising her severely ill daughter.  Filled with compassion and hope, Mary writes openly about their family, including the great gift Courtney was to them, as well as struggles that she and her husband faced in their marriage and in raising their older son.  Mary's honesty does not paint a picture perfect life, but instead invites the reader into the brokenness to see what God has claimed and redeemed.  It indeed is a book that is filled with hope and the challenge to be brave when the world around you is telling you to give up. Mary closes each chapter with a challenge, a Scripture verse, and room to journal, inviting the reader to be inspired by the Lenaburgs' journey and find the strength to trust God even in the darkest days.

How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, by Elizabeth Lev
In this beautiful published text filled with glossy pages and dozens of examples of art from the era, the author writes about how the Catholic Church intentionally used the best artists to create works that counteracted the mistruths and false teachings of the Reformation.  As a lover of Church art and the use of beauty to evangelize, I read with an open mind and learned so much about the artists, their lives (that often were in direct contradiction to the truth they were painting), and how the subtle use of color, symbolism, and details in paintings and sculpture were intended to form both the hearts and minds of the viewers. I think that this book would be a great read for Catholic catechists of all kinds- school teachers, youth group leaders, and Bible study leaders- because it helps you to see the traditional art in a new way, and might help you to find further depth in the art and architecture of the churches local to you. I think in this tumultuous era for the Western Catholic Church, a movement to promote truth, goodness, and beauty through the creations of the modern Church would be a great gift to future generations.


Beauty; What It Is & Why It Matters, by John-Mark L. Miravalle
Similar in intent but with a different focus than the book above, this book really is a treatise on how something is qualified as beautiful and why it matters so much to the Christian faith.  He analyzes how truth, goodness, and beauty are not just matters of opinion, and how beauty can be analyzed.  He looks at both beauty in nature and beauty that is man made, including all forms of art. Filled with quotes from Saints, Church documents, and other scholars, the book is filled with things to think and talk about, and I imagine that the more people read it, the more they will start to look at what they create and what others create a little differently.

Which of these books are you the most excited to read?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Back to School Printables: Monthly Devotions and Lesson Planning


Here we go! It's back to school week for me, and I know that many of you are starting school and religious ed over the next few weeks.  Today I've got some basic printables for you to help enhance your classroom, whether in school, parish, or home.

I have been working on growing our rhythm of living the liturgical calendar in my classroom over the past few years, and just added these monthly devotion signs to our calendar area. Each month has a traditional Catholic devotion, often associated with the season or a particular feast day.  We typically remember that October is the month of the Rosary, but I thought with some signs right in our calendar area, we might be a little more intentional in celebrating the devotion of every month, even by simple things like the prayers that we say at the beginning or end of class.


I have the signs, two per page, ready to print for you in both cursive and manuscript. I cut mine out and put them in a 8.5x11" page protector, folded the page protector over, taped, and stuck it on my white board.  Now all the months are stored right in my calendar area, so on the 1st of a new month, I can just slide out the new sign instead of scrounging to find where I stored them. ;) (And I've got a fun project planned for the new calendar year to help bring these devotions into your home.  Hopefully I can get it all finished before December!)


 Click here for the monthly devotions signs in cursive:


Click here for the monthly devotions signs in manuscript:


I also have a couple of new pages to use for planning religious ed in your classroom.  This annual planner lists the main nine months of the school year and gives you space to choose a prayer and Saint to focus on each month, as well as a place to list the key content you plan to cover.  It's a great idea to start with a big picture like this, even if the plan has to deviate from week to week.

Click here for the Catechesis Annual Plan:


And I also made up a basic lesson plan for a single class, giving you space for big picture planning, as well as listing supplies and steps.  It would be great to have a blank stack of these in a binder and fill out as much of them as is helpful each week.  Not only will it be good method for planning your class, but also could be a source of reflection for coming classes or even the next year if you are teaching similar material.

Click here for the lesson plan:

May the Lord guide us and give us the tools to draw our students' hearts closer and closer to His Sacred Heart during this coming school year!


Monday, August 12, 2019

JMJ Printables and Fulton Sheen Bulletin Boards


“As a custom which started in kindergarten, I always wrote ‘JMJ’ at the top of the blackboard, as I do on every piece of paper before I write- and which I hope will someday be on my tombstone. In answer to many letters, the public finally recognized me and the words Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
From “Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen”

You can read about Fulton Sheen's practice of writing "JMJ" at the top of his chalkboard in my upcoming Sheen Corner article in the Catholic Post.  I think that it would be a great habit to bring back in our Catholic schools, writing JMJ on our smartboards and teaching our students to write it on their homework as a way of dedicating our work to the Holy Family, asking their guidance and protection in all we say and do.

I've created a set of printables for you that have "JMJ" in Fulton Sheen's actual handwriting.  I've printed one and hung it in my classroom about the smartboard here, but I think they would also be great to hang above a family calendar, glue inside a student's school notebook, etc.


I also wanted to use Fulton Sheen to decorate my door as I welcome my students back to school in a few days, and thought I'd share with you how I made this quick sign that would easily double as a bulletin board decoration.

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.)

Supplies:
Black poster board (or black bulletin board paper)
Woodgrain Contact Paper or Woodgrain washi tape or duct tape (I already had some contact paper from the dollar store and it worked perfectly)
JMJ printable (pdf at bottom of post)
Favorite picture of Sheen (ideas and links at bottom of post)



First, I laid out my supplies to see how everything would fit. I cut one length of the woodgrain contact paper a few inches longer than the length of the poster board.  Then I split the contact paper into four equal sized strips (with the convenient grid marks on the back). I folded them over the edges of the poster board to create clean edges that were fairly even.  




Then I glued on the JMJ and photo of Sheen, and lettered on one of my favorite quotes.


This concept can work for a door decoration like mine all the way up to a large bulletin board.

You can print and piece together a favorite photo of Fulton Sheen, or order a poster of Fulton Sheen.  A few of my favorites from these shops:
Catholic Paper Goods

And we haven't started yet, but for CCD, I plan to use these cute little chalkboard labels and mini chalkboards for the kids' names and for a "JMJ" craft: 
I'll post more pictures once we're all decorated!

We'll be using these room signs on the doors.  They list PreK-8th grade and a few other labels, but if you need a special room sign, feel free to email me at looktohimandberadiant@gmail.com and I'll edit them for you! ;)




Click here for the JMJ printables (in Fulton Sheen's handwriting):

And visit my Etsy Shop for JMJ Vinyl Stickers and coming soon a JMJ Stamp!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Catholic Kids' Book List


After posting on Choosing and Using Good Catholic Books here earlier in the week, I suppose I need to share some of the Catholic books that I use in my classroom and/or DRE work. :)  So here is a list of my favorite books for Catholic kids. Obviously there are tons of books that you could find Catholic themes within (virtue, symbolism, etc.) but these are books with explicit Catholic content and I've sorted them into a "genres" below.

A few notes:
-Some of these books I've inherited, a lot I have purchased, and some were sent to me by the author/publisher, but all of them are books I have used/gifted/recommended in my classroom or as a DRE. I'm only sharing with you what I really like.
-This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
-By recommending these books, I am not saying they are perfect.  Their quality is somewhat dependent on the age and interests of the kids reading them as well as the support and background knowledge they have.  As always, you should preview and make the decision as to what is best for your kids or classroom (possibly thinking about some of the qualities I talk about in this post).
-These lists are roughly organized from youngest interest level to oldest.  They are also far from complete and I invite you to chime in with your favorites in the comments.  I have a feeling that this will be a growing post!

Scripture
The Word of the Lord- Warner, Katie
The Gospel for Little Ones- Roche, Maite
Jesus, Savior of the World, Marlyn Evangelina Monge
Jesus, Son of Mary- Sheen, Fulton
Jesus, Our Savior- Szczebak, Patricia
Soldier of God. St. Maximilian Kolbe- Treece, Patricia (and other comic books on Fulton Sheen, Emil Kapaun, but I can't find them at a reasonable price online.  You can always contact the Foundations for the Causes for Canonization to order them more affordably)

Mary
Just Like Mary- Gortler, Rosemarie
Our Blessed Mother: The Story of Mary for Children- Orfeo, Christina Virginia
The Lady of Guadalupe- de Paola, Tomie
Mary: The Mother of Jesus- de Paola, Tomie
Mary Stories from the Bible
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Story Book- Windeatt, Mary Fabyan (and series)
Mary's Story- Boss, Sarah Jane
Take it to the Queen- Nobisso, Josephine
Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Graphic Novel- Muglia, Natalie
Our Lady of Fatima: The Graphic Novel- Estrada, Sam


Prayer
Little Prayers for Little Ones- Jablonski, Patricia
My Superhero Prayer Book- Tierney, Kendra
Mary Holds My Hand- Chronister, Michelle
On a Mission to Love
Sitting Like a Saint- Bottaro, Gregory and Barbra
Loyola Kids Book of Everyday Prayers
Be Yourself! Journal
To Hear His Voice Mass Journal
Rise Up; Shining with Virtue, Blessed is She
Made for Greatness: A Growth Mindset Journal for Courageous Catholic Youth, Ginny Kochis
Catholic Youth Prayer Book
YOUCAT Prayer Book
Jesus Speaking, Gabrielle Bossis
Manual for Eucharistic Adoration

Advent/Christmas
A Little Camel for Baby Jesus- Gianola, Maria
Guess Who's in the Manger: A Christmas Story- Howie, Vickie
The Cure for the Christmas Crazies- Hartmann, April
The Birds of Bethlehem- de Paola, Tomie
Angela and the Baby Jesus- McCort, Frank
24 Christmas Stories for Little Ones
Santa's Priority, Tom Peterson
Jacob's Gift- Lucado, Max
Voices of Christmas- Grimes, Nikki
Aaron's Secret Message, Pfister, Marcus
Sisters of the Last Straw #5: The Case of the Christmas Tree Capers, Karen Kelly Boyce
Christmas Around the Fire, Ryan N. S. Topping
The Jesse Tree Advent Journal, Lumen Ecclesiae Press

Lent/Easter
Stations of the Cross for Children- Douglas, Jerry
Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg- Degazelle, Terri
Walking with Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children- Burrin, Angela
Tale of the Three Trees- Hunt, Angela Elwell
The Way of the Cross: Discovery Mercy with St. Longinus- Sofie, Rev. J. Francis
Mary's Way of the Cross- Furey, Richard
The Way of the Cross- Sheen, Fulton J.
Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens- Prejean McGrady, Katie

Sacraments
A Missal for Toddlers- Lescoat, Ellen
I Went to Mass, What Did I See? - Warner, Katie
Fr. Ben Gets Ready for Mass- Warner, Katie
The Weight of a Mass- Nobisso, Josephine
My First Communion Bible- Groeschel, Fr. Benedict
Little Book About Confession for Children- Tierney, Kendra
Little Catechism on the Eucharist- Coggi, Fr. Roberto
Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids- Griffin, Kathryn
Stories of the Blessed Sacrament- Bay, Francine
Catechism on the Seven Sacraments: Building Blocks of Faith Series- ONeill, Kevin and Mary
The Catholic Field Guide- Chronister, Michelle
Anointed- Pope Francis
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Sacraments in Action


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Choosing & Using Good Catholic Books


“Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad. When you take them up again, they enrich you all the more.” ~Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Our Catholic classrooms (whether school or parish) should be filled with good Catholic books.  But how do we find them, and how do we use them?  How do we keep kids reading as a way to both catechize them in the teachings of the Church and engage their hearts to make the faith part of their daily lives?

My first philosophy is that we should fill our classrooms and homes with Catholic books of all kinds and styles that are true, good, and beautiful.  If the books are readily available, students are more likely to pick them up and teachers are able to use them to enrich instruction. I'll have a list of my favorite Catholic books posted later this week, but in the meantime, here are some things to consider as you grow your own Catholic library:

Consider the source of the book.  Is it's information true and trustworthy? Can you teach older students to discern the quality of a Catholic book?

Does your library contain varied styles of Catholic books, both to engage students with their favorites as well as to entice them to read something new?
  • Biographies
  • Graphic novels
  • Info books
  • Devotionals
  • Journals
  • Picture books
  • Novels

Do you have books covering a variety of Catholic genres?
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Saints
  • Sacraments
  • Church History
  • Prayer
  • Liturgical Year
Does the book contain supplemental info, increasing its value as a resource?
  • Part of a series
  • Resources in back
  • Linked to a website
  • Connected to curriculum

Evaluate the illustrations:
  • True, good, & beautiful
  • Attractive to target age
  • Contribute and add to the story or content
  • Variety of photos, classic art, and illustrations

Can the book be read with more than one sense, adding to the layers of its meaning and depth?
  • Literal
  • Moral (discerning right from wrong)
  • Allegorical (symbols, mysteries, and connections to Christ, Church, the Saints, etc.)
  • Anagogic (pointing to the truth and beauty of Heaven)

Are there symbols embedded within the story or illustrations that have deeper meaning?
  • Sacraments
  • Commandments
  • Beatitudes
  • Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy

When choosing books about Saints:
  • Variety of eras and locations
  • Diverse experiences, interests, and patronages
  • Multiple styles of books (novelization, picture books, biography, graphic novels, etc.)

Are examples of virtue celebrated and vice condemned?
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love
  • Fortitude
  • Temperance
  • Justice
  • Prudence

One way to help expand a Catholic library is to remember that books don't have expiration dates.  We might look at a picture book and assume that it is only good for a young child, but its value can grow and change with older readers.  We might also see a text that is too high of a reading level for a primary student, but can find ways to use it as a valuable resource when they are young.  Here are a few ideas for how books can be used outside of their expected age ranges.

Stretch to older readers:
  • Use illustrations, write own captions 
  • Listen as a read aloud
  • Teach to a younger buddy
  • Use to intro new material
  • Tool for review

Stretch to younger readers:
  • Look at illustrations/diagrams
  • Listen as a read aloud
  • Use in chunks- just one chapter or section
  • Exploration basket or shelf
  • Use as resource book

To help you and your students think about the good Catholic books that you are reading, I created a few printables for you to use.  One page has spots for about 50 book titles (of any kind) to be written in.  The other has shelves that are labeled with six different Catholic book categories. 
Here are a few ideas for the bookshelves:
  • Have students explore classroom books and the library for good Catholic books and make a "wish list" of what they want to read this year. 
  • Write titles on the spines and then color in as they are read.
  • Keep the bookshelves glued inside the cover of a prayer journal or reading notebook for easy access.  At home, they would look great on a fridge or taped on the side of a bookshelf.
  • Challenge your students to read in different categories by using the labeled shelf page.  That way they have to read at least a few books from the six categories.  
  • Use the blank shelf to create your own categories of books to read, or change it to styles (try Catholic graphic novels, biographies, info books, etc.
  • Have a book talk or book sharing time where students use their shelves to talk with a partner or small group about books they would recommend.
  • The shelves are not meant to be a competition- if a students fills one shelf, they can simply start another page and keep on keeping track of the great books they've read.


 Click here for the Bookshelf Sheen Quote Bookmarks:
Click here for the Choosing and Using Good Catholic Books Handout:
(A checklist of the discussion points above, meant to be used by you as you are thinking about adding books to your library, conversations with your coworkers, etc.)

Click here for the Catholic Bookshelf Printables: (all four pages in one pdf)
 

And here are a couple of other resources to celebrate reading:

Click here for this Fulton Sheen Quote Coloring Page:

Click here for these sweet watercolor bookshelves (in two sizes) to keep track of what you and your students are reading:
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Check back later this week for the list of my favorite Catholic books!