I made a goal this summer for my children and I to read more and watch less. Surprisingly, it worked! I thoroughly enjoyed having the screen on less and spending more quality time with my children reading together. It was also amazing how often I watched them pick up books when they realized the screen was not an option. Even my toddlers pored over story books this summer after I starting setting them out in appealing, accessible ways. I constantly had books all over the couch and floor, but that is a problem I can deal with 🙂 Here is the list of books that blessed me this summer, just in case you might want to take a peak at a few of them!
1. The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
I read this book at the beginning of the summer, soon after making the goal to read more, and it both inspired and empowered me to strive to become a reading family. Sarah Mackenzie is passionate about literature, family and Jesus and she takes those three things and binds them into one in this practical, thought provoking book. This summer we became a “read aloud family,” and it changed our home atmosphere in subtle but beautiful ways. For anyone who, like me, spent their adolescent years buried in books, this book will reawaken the magic of stories and encourage you to give your kids the world through books. If you want some extra food for thought and an introduction to reading aloud, listen to Sarah’s podcast called The Read Aloud Revival.
2. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch
This summer was a challenging one for me, with five children of varying ages and stages at home kept me busier and more overwhelmed than I’ve ever been. However, this book shifted my perspective from one of stress and fear to one of gratitude and renewed peace in the middle of my busy days. Practical, authentic, encouraging and full of grace, this book taught me as much about my own issues with entitlement as about raising grateful kids. Kristen Welch speaks from real life experience and tells her own stories to help teach with humor, humility and kindness. This gratitude in a world of more, this contentment in a sea of excess…I want this for my kids. Especially geared toward middle school to teenagers, this book is full of tips with the heart of the gospel at its core.
3. Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake
This is my humble confession that I am an angry mom. I am strong willed, passionate and impulsive, and too often that spills out onto my children in negative ways. I read Triggers because I desperately needed my heart to realign with the grace-filled, gentle and calm way that God fathers me. Triggers is both practical and spiritually grounded, giving helpful tips for reactive moms that will help you tonight at five o’clock and will bring your heart into line with God’s desires. I found it challenging, encouraging and refreshingly easy to read. Divided into short, engaging chapters titled specifically, you can use this as a devotional, quick look up reference or pleasure read. If you have ever felt angry at your children, this book will help you work through the guilt and pain of those feelings and your circumstances towards peace, forgiveness and unity in your home.
4. Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristen Welch
After reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I leapt on the chance to read this similarly themed book by Kristen Welch. When I watch my daughters grow and interact with their friends, I dream of the world changers they can be for Christ’s Kingdom. Whether it’s in their homes around a weathered kitchen table, across the ocean or down the street at a friend’s, I want my kids to become a part of changing the world for Christ. The subtitle of this book is: How one family discovered the beauty of sacrifice and the joy of giving. That sums up the essence of this hope filled book compiled of stories of Kristen’s family and acquaintances who are truly changing the world. I loved the interview style conversations with her children Kristen included at the end of each chapter and the personal stories she shared. You can become a world changer, and this book will inspire you to see the place and space you are in right now as one where God can use you for His glory.
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
As I dove into reading aloud this summer with my girls, especially, this book kept niggling away at the back of my mind. My grade four teacher read aloud a multitude of exceptional books to her pupils, many of which are still favourites of mine today. This was my first introduction to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I have been waiting for just the right moment to introduce this series to my girls, and finally a few weeks ago at the tail end of the summer I couldn’t resist any longer. I wasn’t sure if they were quite prepared or not, but I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad I did. My very energetic, impulsive and concrete minded nine year old sat curled up beside me, wide eyes glued to my face through each rollicking, vivid chapter of adventure and drama. Many of the breath-taking metaphors to our spiritual reality brought tears to my own eyes as we pored over each page together. My soul ached with pain and understanding for Edmund’s self absorbed choices, leapt with joy for each victory over the White Witch and grieved at the cost of betrayal. It was awe inspiring to be introduced to the mighty Aslan and charming to enter the magical world of Narnia through the wardrobe where good and evil are painted in stunning clarity. When we turned the last page and found the children back in the real world, I marvelled all over again that this fantasy tale had brought to my children’s hearts the gospel, and lead my own heart to worship. I enjoyed this book just as much today as I did as an enchanted ten year old and all the times in between.
6. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
I had heard so much about this young woman’s memoir, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it until this summer. From the very first chapter I was hooked. God brought this book into my hands at the perfect time and lent me refreshing perspective to my days. Katie Davis’ story is one of an ordinary girl who chose to say yes to an extraordinary God, and the product is overflowing with love, beauty and the glory of our Abba Father. Through Katie’s eyes, her remarkable journey of surrender is not radical, but expected, in light of the gospel. I could not put this book down til the very last page, and a few weeks later it’s story is still churning through my mind challenging my motives, my actions and my status quo. We need more Katies in the world and I am so thankful she chose to share her story.
7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
While this was not the first time we read aloud this delightful classic, it’s a tale that never disappoints. Light, inquisitive, thoughtful and humorous, I am quite convinced that Charlotte’s Web will continue to capture the hearts of readers for years to come. I love the way the story unfolds in gentle detail, taking the time to help even young readers or listeners to develop affection for each character. The story celebrates friendship, kindness, loyalty and compassion while letting children immerse themselves in the perspective of ordinary farm animals. If you have never taken the time to digest this gem, know that it is never too late to fall in love with a pig, a spider and a miracle. Equally delightful is the 2006 movie version starring Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts.
8. Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
This book was a paradigm shift for me, helping me peel back the layers of my own motivations for teaching good things to my kids and helping me understand my own tendencies toward law-based behaviour modification. I didn’t expect this book to make this list of my ‘favourite books’ as it is a bit of a heavy read and was a bit of work to slog through but it challenged me to rethink some of my habitual responses in parenting so I decided it had earned its place. I feel like I’ve been on a journey of rediscovering what grace means in my own spiritual life, and putting grace into practise in my parenting has helped me to identify the areas I struggle to fully embrace and believe these things personally.
9. Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
This was another elementary school favourite of mine and this summer I finally got around to reading it to my girls. This children’s book weaves childhood themes such as friendship, fantasy and innocence with deeper undercurrents of grief, shame and poverty. For young Jess Aarons, life is predictably gloomy, disappointing and demanding until a new family moves in next door. Leslie Burke will change his world forever, and the tale will nestle its way into your own heart as well. This story enchanted me as a fourth grader 18 years ago and I enjoyed it just as much this time around with my girls.
10. Carly’s Voice by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann
Another foster mom lent me this book to read when she heard we were caring for a child on the autism spectrum. It took me awhile to pick up and dive into but about halfway through it grabbed my attention and I couldn’t put it down. Written cooperatively by father and daughter, Carly’s Voice is the true story of an autistic young woman who inspired and challenged the world around her to think more deeply and creatively about individuals on the spectrum. Their capabilities, their intelligence and the ways that we view them. I guarantee once you have met Carly you will not forget her! Sassy, smart and sensitive, she set out to change the way the world saw her and others like her…and succeeded. Carly will challenge the way you define normal, the systems we live by and the ways we define success. Her story makes it clear that lack of verbal skills in a person on the spectrum should not be equated with limited mental, social or emotional intelligence. Through typing, Carly takes the opportunity to free herself from her own space of isolation and help those closest to her understand her inner world.