By Lauren Eash Hershberger
Sunday, June 19, 2016

I have two young children of my own, and I yearn to form them into people of good character, people who make strangers into friends, love God, and serve others. In an effort to find some character-building children’s books for my boys, I acquired these gems (and more, as listed in this blog post) from friends. I hope it brings you as much joy as it does me.

 

 

7. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. Stellaluna is a baby bat who finds her way home to her mother after they are briefly separated. She lands in a nest with three baby birds. Stellaluna finds that bird life is difficult, and she is unable to fly and land like the birds. She later is joined by other bats, one being her mother. After a touching reunion, her mother shows her delicious fruit and how to fly at night, which comes easy for Stellaluna. Stellaluna tries to show her bird friends what she's learned; however, they are unable to fly with her in the dark and need her help. They realize that although very different, they are still friends. This gentle and humorous story shows differences between individuals and the universal need to belong and be loved in spite of differences. –Jodi Miller of Walnut Creek, Ohio

6. Stone Soup. This common folktale about travelers wanting something to eat demonstrates how people can work together to extend hospitality to others (even if they don’t realize they are doing so!). There are numerous retellings of this story that identify with particular cultures and traditions. Check out a retelling by Jon J. Muth, who gives the story an Asian perspective, as well as the retellings of various European traditions. –Mary Ann Weber of Goshen, Indiana

5. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. This story shows a Mississippi family’s dignity and integrity in the midst of a struggle to survive the Depression and the injustice of the Jim Crow era in the south. This was a great read-aloud story that helped our now adult children develop a deeper sense of fairness, courage, and respect for others. Living with the characters in Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry helped our children understand the need for racial justice, and the twisted nature of white privilege. –Rose Stutzman of Goshen, Indiana

4. Are You My Mother? by P.D Eastman. A bird falls out of his nest and has an adventure while looking for his mother. As an adopted child, I think I found this book comforting because of that feeling at the end of the book when the little bird finds his mom. I didn’t associate it with finding the “biological” mom. Rather, just knowing who your mom is – the connection. Reading is a bond my mom and I share. It has been a way that we can connect throughout the years, by sharing what we have read, trading books, and just sitting together quietly while one or both of us read. –Marisa Smucker of Elkhart, Indiana

3. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. A young boy’s worn-out pair of shoes are a visible reminder that he is less fortunate than many of his classmates. After weeks of longing for them, he finally finds popular ones at a second-hand store and buys them despite the pain they cause his curled toes. Later at school, he notices a boy whose shoes are falling apart and decides to give him his treasured pair. This is a wonderful story about a child who finds compassion despite experiencing difficult times himself. –Lauren Eash Hershberger of Goshen, Indiana

2. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. A mother and her young raccoon separate temporarily to explore the world. The mother teaches that the love they share will carry them through new, and sometimes scary, experiences. As a teacher and a mother, I appreciated the image of a kissing hand as a tangible example of the love and support given to us from those who care about us. I use this same image to describe God's gift of the Holy Spirit. Isn't it wonderful that we can share with our children that their Creator's love is always with them? –Omie Baumgartner of Goshen, Indiana

1. Sassafras by Audrey Penn. This book tells the story of a little skunk who is uncomfortable with his "stinky old" self. Thankfully, his friends encourage him to stop hiding and help him learn to accept himself. As I read Sassafras, it was easy to see the similarities between a "community of believers" and the little skunk's group of friends. Both groups encourage their members to celebrate their special gifts. And both groups recognize that their members are all made in the image of God, so there is no reason to hide. –Omie Baumgartner of Goshen, Indiana

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Lauren Eash Hershberger works at Mennonite Mission Network as a production manager. When given the time to be her best self, she is a creator. Furnishing her home with DIY projects, singing/writing songs in the silo on her family's farm (there's great acoustics in there), helping her kids make a mess, and dreaming about future side business opportunities with her husband are just a few things that she enjoys in her free time.

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