Rooted Parent Recommends

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We are coming up on the first anniversary of Rooted Parent! In the spirit of giving, and as a thank you for reading, the writers at Rooted Parent wanted to give our readers a Christmas present: a list of books we have given our kids.

Because we are writers, we believe in the power of reading to instruct, challenge, edify, and happily entertain. Because we are parents, we invest in our kids every chance we get. It’s only logical that we love to give our kids good books. Good literature fosters closeness and conversation with a child of any age, and so we compiled a selection of tried-and-true titles that have prompted thought-provoking discussions in our own homes. Read them aloud, listen to a book on tape in the car, or wrap them up and put them under the tree.

Rooted Parents recommend:

– Make reading together a part of your family traditions. One family reads Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every December, marveling together at how Ebenezer Scrooge is a picture of true repentance. Another family reads a children’s book, The Real Reason for Christmas by Margaret Taliaferro, because it depicts the pure message of the gospel in a way that combats busy-ness and consumerism with God’s truth.

– Read what your child is reading. Parents will enjoy these too. Nonfiction is a great way to spark conversations with your kids about everything from contemporary issues, to theology, to the intersection of the two. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a profoundly challenging and important book about the racism in our criminal justice system. Both the title and Stevenson’s own spiritual journey promote conversation about God’s justice and His mercy, and our role in demonstrating both in our broken world. Scott Sauls’ Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgement, Isolation and Fear challenges us to love like Jesus, to reach out to people who may be quite different from ourselves. Theology like Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God not only invites us to a better understanding of the character of God, it opens our eyes to how we, and our family members, respond differently to His prodigious love. All three of these books will prompt teenage believers to talk with their parents.

– Give a book to address a specific need if a child is reluctant to talk. We parents didn’t grow up with social media, so it helps to have resources that orient our kids to a Biblical perspective on this issue. FaceTime: Your Identity in a Selfie World by Kristen Hatton combats the lies of our Insta-culture with the truth about our daughters’ identities in Christ. For high schoolers with big decisions to make, Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something is an accessible, funny, yet theologically sound discussion about learning how to discern God’s will.

-Buy a copy for yourself too, and make a date to discuss the book together. John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life challenges kids to think about what they’re living for: the paltry pleasures of the world or an eternity of glory. Try working though Mike McKinley’s Am I Really a Christian? with kids who have grown up going to church but may not be grasping the gospel. Schedule time to read Who Is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert aloud with the family. One mom found this book invaluable in teaching her kids how to talk with unbelievers about Christ.

Speaking of making dates, one excellent resource is The Donut Date Journal by Chap Bettis. Years ago, Bettis began a tradition of taking each of his four children out individually for donuts (what a treat for everyone, huh?) and asking them questions. He recorded their answers in a journal, and this excellent resource was born. It contains seventy questions designed to start conversations with kids of all ages. Open Your Bible: God’s Word is For You and For Now also works well for a date with a daughter. It helps teens move beyond typical “Sunday school answers” to a deeper engagement with God’s Word.

-Introduce your kids to role models through biography. For the serious kid, Eric Metaxis has two hefty biographies about giants of the faith: check out Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and the newly released Martin Luther. His books Seven Men and Seven Women are great reads for any teen, as Metaxis explores the faith and godly character of several individual believers. Kisses From Katie is the autobiography of Katie Davis, a courageous young woman from Tennessee who fell in love with orphans in Uganda and moved there to adopt thirteen little girls; set ten years later, Daring to Hope brings us up to date on her journey with God and her daughters. Corrie Ten Boom’s testimony in The Hiding Place profoundly demonstrates the truth that the joy of the Lord is our strength, even in a Nazi concentration camp.

– Start them young. And does it ever get old to hear again that you are loved because of God’s grace and because He made you? For a back-to-the-basics illustration of our identity in Christ, Max Lucado’s You Are Special will speak to both parent and child. Sally Lloyd-Jones (of The Jesus Storybook Bible) has a beautiful Christmas book called Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story. Lloyd-Jones weaves in names for Jesus and provides easy ways to talk to children about His character and His saving work on our behalf.

– Consider the classics. Novelists such as Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and C.S. Lewis make the list because these authors explore Christian themes through vivid characters and memorable storylines. Les Miserables depicts the radical impact of grace, A Tale of Two Cities explores substitutionary atonement, and Perelandra asks what Earth might have looked like if Adam and Eve had NOT eaten the apple. (Honorable mention from these authors would include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hard Times, and Til We Have Faces.)

Often more secular classics offer a different kind of teaching opportunity. The Great Gatsby, an early twentieth century novel that captures Solomon’s warnings and wisdom from Ecclesiastes, sparks wonderful discussions on the emptiness of life without Christ. For younger teens and middle schoolers, The Witch of Blackbird Pond deals with the pitfalls of prejudice and legalism. Its heroine learns how to both curb her emotions and take a bold stand for justice when the time is right.

-Contemporary novels explore issues of faith and responsibility as well. Ben Sciacca’s modern parable Meals from Mars brings an African-American youth from the projects and a wealthy white businessman together for one desperate night. Each attempts to explain his life to the other; they find common ground even as they struggle to see the world through each other’s eyes. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is a coming-of-age novel with a minister father as wise as Atticus Finch himself. (To Kill A Mockingbird is another suggestion!) Amidst real-life struggles with death, addiction, and prejudice, two very different brothers learn to see the perfect grace of God as it touches the imperfect beauty of their family.

Of course it goes without saying: enjoy reading the Bible with your family! And Merry Christmas from the Rooted Parent writers.

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