As the mother of two boys aged 6 and 11, I am happy to see the wide variety of faith-shaping resources for parents of young children available from Mennonite Church Canada’s Resource Centre.
Children are sponges. Adding Anabaptist faith-based books, DVDs and downloadable resources to the other materials they view helps shape their faith as they grow.
Of the many children’s story Bibles available, my family especially likes Children of God, Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It comes with audio CDs of Tutu reading aloud. Every story ends with a short prayer that will help children connect the biblical story to their own lives. Beautiful illustrations by 20 artists from all over the world acknowledge to the child’s eye that the people of God are from all tribes and nations.
Great books help children articulate how they might see or perceive God. Because Nothing Looks Like God by Lawrence and Karen Kushner extends a vibrant invitation to children and the adults to explore—together—what, where and how God is present in our lives.
I also want my kids to explore themes of peace and nonviolence. One popular MennoMedia book on this topic is Plant a Seed of Peace, written by Rebecca Seiling and illustrated by Brooke Rothshank. It’s a delightful compilation of 43 stories about peacemakers of today, including Daniel and Joji Pantoja, Mennonite Church Canada international workers in the Philippines, and reflections on pacifists of the past, such as Dirk Willems. This Anabaptist book is particularly meaningful for older children and even teens.
Want your children to learn about the multicultural church? Shi-Shi-Etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe tells the story of two children’s experiences at residential school. Drawn from author Nicola I. Campbell’s interviews with her family and elders who survived Indian Residential Schools, these poignant stories are beautifully illustrated by Kim LaFave.
In Jeanette Winter’s book Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan, young Nasreen’s parents have disappeared and she hasn’t spoken a word to anyone since. In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enrol Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?
Books highlighting global cultural and linguistic differences also illustrate how much in common we have as part of the larger human family and the family of God. It is important to introduce my kids to stories of war, landlessness, economic instability and injustice. I want my children to learn empathy and understanding for the “other.”
In an age in which television programming, computers and video games threaten to consume so much of our children’s time, I am glad that there are so many faith-building options available.
Miriam Tshimanga-Maenhout is the administrative assistant at Mennonite Church Canada’s Resource Centre. She is happy to ship books free anywhere in Canada—both ways—and pay the return postage for a borrowed DVD. She recommends www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/2191 as a good starting point, and invites toll-free phone calls at 1-866-888-6785.