With the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s celebration of Easter as the Coronavirus pandemic rages, parents have been asking about Easter basket fillers that will help to enrich a child’s faith. Here are a few of my favorite resources for Catholic formation at any time of year. They aren’t necessarily Easter-themed, but they provide a wealth of solid age-appropriate instruction to nurture wee souls while public worship is suspended (and beyond). We use all these good things in our home, and I encourage you to support small Catholic businesses during this time of crisis.
First Faith Treasury series by Katie Warner
This collection of four board books introduces the tiniest Catholics to the critical elements of catechism, Scripture, prayer, and the saints. Each little guide is brightly illustrated and brimming with God’s love. The content is brilliantly chosen to illustrate solid principles of our faith in a way that children can understand and embrace. They are sturdy and simple enough for babies, but rich and deep enough even for children preparing for First Communion. I have gifted these to my own godchildren and was hugely impressed with the selection of essential teachings, verses, prayers, and quotes included in these little volumes. (I also highly recommend Warner’s interactive Father Ben Gets Ready for Mass for youngsters who might have trouble following a live-streamed Mass.)
Saints for Little Ones series by Kimberly Fries
The My Little Nazareth apostolate offers multiple resources for supporting the domestic Church and introducing young ones to the faith. I tucked the saint stories for boys and girls into my children’s Christmas stockings last year. The tales are very well chosen and simply told, with a quote from each saint where possible. The illustrations are warm and real, and help children learn to recognize the attributes of their friends in heaven. These stand out among the many children’s books of saints; the tellings are just the right length with an emphasis on choosing to love God in our own lives. There is so much good packed into these pages. The writing is clear and the pictures arresting; an excellent choice for future saints from toddling age up through about First Communion.
Good Shepherd Tales series by Madeleine Carroll
Rooted in the author‘s training with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, this lovely series brings to life key moments in Christ’s time on earth through the eyes of people who encountered Him. The Nativity and the Resurrection are artfully imagined down to the sound of birds and the warmth of the sun. Gentle illustrations pair beautifully with the descriptive text, inviting children to meet Our Lord themselves. In true CGS spirit, there are accompanying coloring books to allow children to enter into these mysteries with all their senses. Sent to my children by their godmother, this is a happy discovery from the well-respected publisher Second Spring, with very reasonable shipping rates from the UK (also available from Carroll’s newly-launched apostolate Isaiah Books, along with her other work).
The popular children’s version of Magnificat has been a staple in our home for many years. (My grandmother maintains a subscription for my children: a meaningful way for long-distance loved ones to contribute to a family’s faith formation.) These guides are delivered monthly, providing one issue for each Sunday and Holy Day. The readings unique to that day are included, along with helpful explanations and prompts to help children follow along with the Mass prayers and responses. There are also activities, comics, and prayers to help youngsters integrate the faith into their daily lives. You can be creative with how you employ this excellent resource; by the time children can read well enough to follow along, they may already know the Mass responses and understand how to behave, but they can still benefit from preparing before Mass and reviewing the readings afterward. MagnifiKid! is currently available for free downloading and printing through May, so this is an ideal opportunity to see how it might work for your family; and to help them through this strange season of worshiping from home.
Shining Light books, dolls, podcast, and more by Chantal Baros
While Shining Light does have a couple of adorable books that I do recommend, it is best known for the smiling dolls that have put a love of the saints into the littlest hands. These cheery images are now finding their way onto lots of sweet products, any of which would be perfect for finishing off Easter baskets. I would also suggest checking out the weekly podcast, Saint Stories for Kids (available right on the main page). My children – aged 3-11 – never fail remind me to tune in to these five-minute profiles of great and lesser-known saints (with some very cute sound effects). These stories stick with them when others fade away.
This is a challenging time for families, but a unique opportunity to focus on a holistic approach to Catholic family life. The faithful have endured difficult times before, and died with all the hope of heaven. Now it’s our turn to bring up saints who will be brave enough to love and serve a shattered world.