“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?
Update- Click here to go to my growing list of Catholic Books for Kids
(Click here to view the presentation slides on this topic, including clickable links to resources)
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?
- Graphic novels
- Info books
- Picture books
Do you have books covering a variety of Catholic genres?
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- Church History
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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:
(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:
Collected here is a list of my favorite Catholic books!
Other curated book lists from Catholic organizations: