Reviewed by Meredith Flory
For adults who have gone through some deconstruction of their religious upbringing, having children can cause a season of uncertainty and more questions. If you were raised with a certain presentation of the Bible and faith, that’s the model of parenting and religious education you were exposed to. You may know you want your children to have a different experience, one that makes room for questions, social activism, and gender equality, but finding resources to educate your children when you may still be asking questions yourself is difficult.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist home, and I won AWANA awards, was president of my high school Bible Club and a leader in my youth group music and drama ministries, and I still faced messaging that told me that, once I was an adult, I could no longer lead or pursue ministry as an occupation due to my gender. My husband was raised with a very different perspective, as he attended an ELCA church, which has always had a more egalitarian and inclusive view of faith, yet church was not as central in his household when he was growing up, and his family slowly stopped their involvement in church.
So, we are now searching for a happy medium in our parenting; one that centralizes faith as an important aspect of our household and lives but inspires us toward inclusivity and equality. While we are active in our PCUSA church, the pandemic has complicated Sunday School, and I began to search for egalitarian children’s books that would help us with spiritual education at home.
Here are ten egalitarian children’s books that may better reflect spiritual education in progressive or deconstructing homes.
The Biggest Story Ever Told
The Biggest Story Ever Told, by Kevin Deyoung and illustrated by Don Clark, is a children’s Bible that fights against sanitization, white-washing, and male dominated storytelling. From the very first chapter, I was particularly struck by the way in which Eve was not blamed solely for the fall, and Noah’s sin after the flood was addressed. The illustrations are lush and abstract, and these age-appropriate retellings of Bible stories leave room for complexity and conversation.
The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights
The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford traces African American history using the backdrop of Matthew 5, putting a real world context to what we learn from the Beatitudes and poetically showing the presence of God to the oppressed.
God’s Very Good Idea
Trillia Newbell is a writer and speaker I have followed as an adult for her work on race and the Gospels, but she also has written resources for children. Her book God’s Very Good Idea, illustrated by Catelina Echeverri, celebrates our diversity and each person’s unique role in the church.
Matthew Paul Turner’s Books
Okay, you get three for one here, but Matthew Paul Turner’s books, including When God Made You, When I Pray for You, and When God Made Light, with different illustrators, address big questions small children may have with diverse illustrations and lovely child-focused language. We recently read two of his texts at a children’s storytime at church, and parents, kids, and pastors alike were moved by the words of love and acceptance Turner wrote for our children.
Paul and his Friends: A Child’s First Book About the Apostles
Paul and his Friends: A Child’s First Book About the Apostles, written by Rebekah McLeod Hutto and illustrated by Jacob Popĉak, retells the epistolary books of the New Testament in an engaging way for children. My favorite part is the inclusion of Lydia, Phoebe, and Priscilla with language demonstrating their leadership in the early church.
A Church For All
A Church For All, by award-winning author Dr. Gayle Pitman, illustrated by Laure Fornier, shows an inclusive and affirming church gathering together on Sunday mornings with simple text and illustrations.
The Marvelous Mustard Seed
The Marvelous Mustard Seed, by Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, with illustrations by Margaux Meganck, retells this parable in an urban, inclusive setting.
Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table
In Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table, by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, a group of diverse friends and family join together for Sunday dinner and begin to get antsy while Auntie Mabel prays over everything. Approaching prayer with levity, this is a sweet way to demonstrate the importance of praying together.
Christmas Books (Home By Another Way and Silent Night)
It can be difficult to find children’s books depicting the Christmas Story with illustrations and words that honor the skin color and cultures that are more historically accurate, but they do exist. Barbara Brown Taylor, respected female theologian and author, has written Home By Another Way, which tells the story of the three wise men; it is illustrated by Melanie Cataldo. Silent Night by Lara Hawthorn uses the words of the Christmas carol with beautiful, darker skinned illustrations.
Where possible, links are to Bookshop.org, an alternative to online book buying that shares profits with local, independent bookstores. If not available there, larger retailer links were used.
© 2021 by Christian Feminism Today.
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