Books that teach children to know and love their faith

Children carry flowers in procession as they leave Christmas Eve Mass celebrated by Pope Francis (CNS/Photo Paul Harring)

How do you teach young children to know and love their faith? This is a question that has long caused debate among parents and teachers. The first teachers are the parents and for them Bible stories, along with memorising prayers, will be the primary resource. But how do you help a child to understand that the Bible is not just a collection of riveting stories but the story of human salvation? Again, how do you help children to understand what is going on at Mass? Second Spring Books (email: [email protected], answerphone: 01798 343718 and post: PO Box 2001, Petworth, GU28 9YA), run by Leonie Caldecott and her daughter Tessa, has produced two books on these subjects, aimed at children in the age range 3-9, which combine clear, straightforward explanations and line drawings on every page to be coloured in. These are pictures that are closely linked to the narrative. Thus memory, art work, the imagination and visual aids come together as tools for learning.

The Mass book, illustrated by Susan Bateman with text by Leonie Caldecott, was first published in 2005. Since then it has gone through four editions and has now been revised, drawing on feedback that this small publishing company has received during the last nine years. Leonie tells me that it came about because they could not find “a really good guide to the “interior” meaning of the Mass in the UK.” She strongly believes that it was important to make it a colouring book “because the act of colouring in images encourages interaction with the subject matter and thus gives a series of visual “cues” to the child’s imagination.” Children follow the action of the Mass through prayers, responses and illustrations from the New Testament and how it links with what happens at the altar.

Another popular book they have produced is “God’s Covenant with You: the Bible Tells a Story”, written by renowned scriptural scholar Scott Hahn and illustrated by the icon artist David Clayton. Written at the level of children able to read for themselves as well as being easy to read aloud to younger children, it goes through the major stories of the Bible – Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses and so on, until the coming of Jesus into the world and the meaning of our baptism into the Church. Alongside are beautifully drawn illustrations that invite careful art-work.

There are two other books in the same format: “Meet the Angels”, explaining the rank and purpose of angels in the work of salvation history, and “Teach Me Therese”, written in the first person by Leonie. She explains that they chose this very popular saint of Lisieux when her relics were brought to the UK for veneration. They hope to add other saints in the future. For now, they are working on a catechist/parents’ guide to the imagery in the Mass book. Leonie says they plan to bring out “a larger format colouring book or set of colouring sheets on the Mass, with fewer words, for younger children.” She adds that “We are also working (very slowly) on a book about Confession/Eucharistic Adoration and want to do a book on the Easter Triduum. Finally, I would like to do a series of “early readers” for small children eventually.”

Second Spring Books is a creative and lively publishing resource, hoping to expand its programme and thus needing the active interest of parents (and grandparents) to attract more publicity and sell more books. Leonie believes in “building on solid, small-scale foundations with proven track records rather than trying to expand too quickly”. She explains that the whole enterprise is “based on the human dimension, the talents of the people involved, our family, friends and our illustrators.” In this endeavour “small is beautiful”; it is also imaginative, artistic – and designed to help children gradually learn to feel at home in the world of the supernatural.