by Dienna Goscha
Grab a fun book like The Very Hungry Caterpillaror Where the Wild Things Are and create opportunities for preschoolers to learn spiritual concepts. Classic read aloud books are excellent avenues to use to teach preschoolers biblical truths. Because kids love a good story that captures their attention, books are fantastic learning tools to use in a variety of settings. An added bonus is that by using books children normally read at the library, in day care, at home or in preschool or community education classes, preschoolers will see God as part of life instead of just residing in the walls of the church or the home.
The power of a story naturally draws and keeps preschooler’s attention. Imagine readingThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The children witness a caterpillar blooming into a beautiful butterfly. As they read about the emergence of the butterfly, they have a real life example of being a new creation and can make a link to the concept of being a new creation in Christ. Reading The Grouchy Ladybug, another book by Eric Carle, illustrates the difference between a grouchy, bad tempered ladybug and a friendly ladybug. Children can learn the consequences of having a bad attitude while learning how to answer a grouch with a friendly word. Proverbs 15:1 comes alive in those moments.
The Horton books, Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches The Egg, written by Dr. Seuss are also useful choices for teaching character traits. The message promoted inHorton Hears a Who of a person being important no matter what size resonates with preschoolers as does the practical application of compassion at work as Horton struggles to save the Whos. Horton Hatches the Egg teaches the importance of waiting patiently. As Horton demonstrates his commitment to keeping his word, the children learn the true meaning of being faithful.
In the age old tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, children learn the importance of honesty and the natural consequences that come when we are not honest. In The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Jan Brett, children learn about being content in their present circumstances. Reading Where the Wild Things Are reveals a boy treating his mother with disrespect which launches a discussion on honoring parents and the fifth commandment. As these books are read, the underlying meaning reinforces biblical truths.
Within the church walls, books can be successfully used in classroom situations. While books are not the focus of the lesson, as they should never take the place of the Bible, they do provide a biblical life lesson that illustrates an application from the Bible story. For instance, when teaching the story of the boy sharing his lunch in John 6, an extension could be made using The Rainbow Fish to show the children how sharing what we have brings us joy. Stories work well for introducing a concept or for illustrating an application of the lesson taught.
Outreach events from within the church walls using books could include a weekly story night, a Family Fun night around a book theme or special themed days. For a weekly story night, preschoolers could show up in their pajamas with their pillows. Lounging on their pillows, they would be transported in their imaginations. In between reading books, special God moments would take place where the reader would naturally discuss an underlying biblical truth found in the story. A Family Fun story night might include the reading of a book followed by a family created snack, an inter-generational game and a meaningful craft all constructed around the story. Finally, a special themed day such as a Christmas Snowman Day could use the book Snowmen At Christmas by Caralyn Buehner. After reading the story, preschoolers could create a snowman craft, eat a snowman snack made from powdered sugar donuts and throw snowballs made from wadded up paper. All of these events create opportunities for families to invite friends and introduce them to the church.
Outside the walls of the church, sponsoring a Story Time in the local Coffee Shop or other similar area provides a way to get into the community while providing a much needed and appreciated break for moms and dads. A Story time consists of more than just reading a few random stories to whatever children happen to show up. Instead, it is an intentional time of character building activities all built on a common spiritual concept. The Story time could consist of reading books, doing finger plays, puppets, and simple crafts or activity pages. The entire event is an effective way to not only be a part of the community but also to be Jesus to the community. The families cannot help but feel loved by the church as a portion of time has been dedicated to providing a quality experience for their child and a break for the parents.
Neighborhood clubs are especially fun for stay at home moms looking for activities for their preschoolers. Encourage parents in your church to start a neighborhood book club. Consider the possibilities involved in reaching out to neighbors while doing some simple activities and sharing faith in a relaxed and nonthreatening way. Reading a few good character books while following up the story with some activities based on the theme of the book such as acting out the storyline, cooking food used in the story or even going on a field trip to the setting of the story are all ways to make the club an exciting endeavor. These groups can meet once a month with a theme based event especially during seasonal times such as Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas. Other venues for a neighborhood book club might be a club house, park or local school.
Consider the possibilities of incorporating character building classic books into your ministry. Not only will they make an impact on the preschoolers in your church but they also could make a difference in your community when used in outreach situations as a tool to introduce the Gospel. Check out the local library or even your own bookcase for a few good books and set out to create faith-based story events that will leave memorable experiences on a preschooler’s heart.
Dienna Goscha, owner of River’s Edge Curriculum, has a passion for creating curriculum connecting children with Christ in fun, interactive ways. She has twenty-five years of experience leading children’s ministries. Currently, she is on staff at Real Life Community Church. Come see Dienna at CPC San Diego in March!