PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Picturing God (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was Children’s Ministry Director at a small satellite church, I planned a Sunday morning children’s program called “PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture”. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to continue with a regular blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. 

Today’s lesson uses PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019), written and illustrated by poet and visual artist Ruth Goring as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

PICTURING GOD

by Ruth Goring

PURPOSE: To be filled with wonder and gratitude as we explore a beautiful sampling of the many “pictures” (i,e. metaphors) for God found in the Bible using Ruth Goring’s PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019) as the spark.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: What Am I? (a metaphor guessing game!)

Ahead of time write down on little cards a rich sampling of the biblical metaphors for God found in the Bible. You can use Goring’s book to get you started, but also feel free to explore the Bible on your own and add concrete examples can easily act out.  Examples:  shepherd, eagle, rock, gate, hen, light. The morning of the lesson, open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be exploring what God is like, but first  we’ll be playing a guessing game. (Don’t say yet that each is a metaphor for God.). Put the cards in a basket, then have each child pick a card and then use pantomime to act out what it is. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Hold up the book and have someone read the title. Explain that Ruth Goring is both the illustrator and author of the book.  Ask them to take a close look and see what kinds of materials she uses to create her art.  Do they know what this is called?  (Collage.) Based on the title what do they think the book will be about? Then say there’s a special connection between our game today and the book. Do they know what it is? They are all pictures/ images that have been used in the Bible to describe God! Then read the story, pausing and marveling together at just how God is like the various metaphors ascribed to Him.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many pictures of God they can remember from the book. 

Then for each, see if they describe in their own words how God is like a rock, eagle etc.

Finally, ask again where Ruth Goring found these wonderful metaphors?  Did she make them up?  No, then where did she find them? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Special note: For first grade and up, I recommend having several children’s bibles on hand so children can work in pairs to find the verses. They LOVE this and in the process learn how to locate biblical passages by book, chapter, and verse – a rewarding and important foundational skill for future bible study.

Wrap up the discussion by going a little treasure hunt into God’s Word to find a few of the images of God we marveled at in Goring’s beautiful book. Use the verses listed at the end of the book, but prep ahead by putting a sampling on cards to hand out to each pair of children or, depending on ages, to look up together.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Create Your Picturing God Collages!

Ahead of time, gather an assortment of collage materials as well as glue and one plain white paper plate (with two holes punched at top) for each child. Then, opening up Goring’s book one once more, take a moment to marvel at how she uses bits of this and that to create beautiful images. Thus inspired, let each child pick their favorite metaphor from the book.  Neatly print it across the top. Then, dig in and start creating! Our bits of this and that included shiny gold ribbon, sequins, pom poms and tissue paper squares, but use whatever you have on hand. As each child finishes, loop yarn for hanging, but instruct them (or their parents) to carry their masterpieces home flat until they have dried. 

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity, give thanks together that God loves us like a rock, shepherd, door, mother, father etc.

NOTE: Beaming Books has also created a wonderful discussion guide if you would like additional ideas: https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/9781506449395%20Discussion%20Guide.pdf

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

TEACHERS! CAREGIVERS! LIBRARIANS! I’ve rounded up TEN activities created just for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE, perfect for kicking off the new school year, which is just around the corner, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Make a pair of fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE at Celebrate Picture Books

TWO: Do a book-themed Read, Discuss, DO! 

THREE: Discuss what it means to be a diva, then make a feathered fan like Delores uses in the book with this project created by Rebecca Gomez.

FOUR: Spark even more meaningful book-themed conversation using these seven teacher-approved discussion starters.

FIVE: Extend the story with a DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE coloring page and writing prompt.

SIX: Read the story, then create your own Delores and Fernando puppets inspired by illustrator Rebecca Gerlings puppet activity.

SEVEN: Teach a lesson on RESPECT with Diva Delores and Fernando.

EIGHT: Organize an eight-book opera-themed story time featuring Diva Delores plus seven other fabulous titles!

NINE: Create colorful tissue paper bouquets just like Delores longs for in the story.

TEN: Have your kids draw pictures of their favorite scenes/characters and then share on your socials using the hashtag #divadeloresandtheoperahousemouse.

HAVE ANY MORE IDEAS? Let me know in the comments!

Free Printable LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game!

Are you a parent, teacher, or librarian, looking for a fun way to extend bilingual story time using LOVE IS KIND and its adorable Spanish version EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO?  Then this easy craft/game is just for you!  It’s primary purpose is to be a matching game, but you can also use the cards as stand-ins for puppets so your little ones can retell the story in Spanish or English, or both, in their own sweet words.  

LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO Matching Game

MAKE:

  1. Print out the English and Spanish versions of the cards.
  2. Color in the picture squares.  Then cut out.
  3. Glue the picture squares onto construction paper squares.

PLAY: 

  1. Place the cards face down. Take turns turning over two at a time.
  2. Name the pictures in Spanish and English. If they are a match keep them. If not, place back face down.
  3. Take turns until all the cards have been matched. Player with most cards wins.

FREE PRINTABLE GAME CARDS:

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for LOVE IS KIND

TEACHERS! CAREGVIVERS! I’ve rounded up 10 activities created just for LOVE IS KIND, perfect for summer reading, which is just around the corner, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Bake and decorate Little Owl cookies inspired by the book at Celebrate Picture Books.

TWO: Read the story then spread a little kindness by making book-inspired kindness pots.

THREE: Use the book to teach a kid-min object lesson on the theme “kindness is a choice”. Then make a hanging owl craft with children’s author Denette Fretz.

FOUR: After reading the story with your family, do the heart banner kindness project at Glitter On A Dime.

FIVE: Make character-themed puppets inspired by LOVE IS KIND.

SIX: Make a LOVE IS KIND Jelly Bean Jar using this ReadDiscussDo! Activity in English or Spanish!

SEVEN: Make and send heart-shaped notes using the heart coloring page in the activity kit as your template.

EIGHT: Make Little Owl masks! Template can again be found in the activity kit.

NINE: Bake muffins with toppers created by illustrator Lison Chaperon!

TEN: Put on a LOVE IS KIND Valentine’s Day party (any time of year!

NEED EVEN MORE IDEAS? Then check out this post featuring SIX more!

LITTLE EWE: Time for a CUTE Craft and a Review

CUTE! Little Ewe is featured today over at Glitter on A Dime with a craft that little ones will love. Hint: Glue and cotton balls and paper plates are involved. Plus there’s a review. Here’s the link:

PICTURE BOOK KNITTING CRAFT: A Little Ewe inspired by LITTLE EWE!

Here’s a fun craft for the parent or grandparent (or aunt or uncle, or teacher or friend) of a LITTLE EWE fan. It would also make a fun do-together project as it requires just knitting without the purls! Thank you to my friend, and Cranford Yarnstormers founder, Teresa Murray, for creating this sweet little project in celebration of the release of my newest picture book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021). LITTLE EWE is the story of a little lamb who wanders just a bit too far from her Shepherd and in the process discovers the comfort and joy of being found.

And here is the free printable:

Thank you, Teresa, for celebrating this release of the book with this adorable knitted sheep!

If you knit one, please take a picture of it paired with the book and tag me on your socials. Maybe, together, we will knit a whole flock!

LITTLE EWE Book Launch Party Craft: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE!

All my book launch parties up until now have been in-person, but this year is different! This year I’m having a virtual party, but one that I hope will feel just as fun as the in-person version. To give it that “in-person” feel, I’m keeping all the elements of an in-person party including a story time (of course!), games, a snack (virtual of course) and a craft!

I’ll explain about the snack as we get closer, but I wanted to share the craft today so you can be sure to have all the items on hand for the party. The materials are easy to gather and if you are local, it’ll be extra easy because I’m putting together party craft kits which you can pick up at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ starting later this week.

Now for the craft:

PARTY TIME CRAFT: MAKE YOUR OWN FLUFFY LITTLE EWE! 

Inspired by illustrator Tommy Doyle’s sweet rendering of Little Ewe with a red kerchief, our launch party craft will be to create our own Little Ewes. 

To make one, each child will need:

  • a cut out of lamb body (approx 2.5” x 1.5”) from card stock with three holes punched for legs and bow (as shown) 
  • two cotton balls
  • two six inch-long chenille sticks
  • a piece of yarn or ribbon (about 8 inches)
  • markers and glue. 

Here are the steps:

Begin by coloring in Little Ewe’s face on the cardboard body. Be sure to color in both sides.

Next, have each child thread the yarn through the hole at the top and tie into a bow. This will be Little Ewe’s “kerchief”.

Next, fold each 6” chenille stick in half and gently twist together to create sturdy legs, as shown.

Let each child thread a twisted strand through the front leg hole. Stop half way, then bend in half and twist (like you would a twist-tie) to secure in place.  Adjust the ends to form two short legs. Repeat for back leg hole.

Stretch and fluff the cotton balls. Then, using fingers or toothpicks, apply tacky glue to the front and back of the little lamb body and press. Let dry.

Baa-ahh! Your fluffy Little Ewe is finished and ready for a game of “Oh,where is Little Ewe?” (Rules for that can be found in the activity kit.

As a closing reminder, this is the adorable craft that I’ll be presenting at the Little Ewe Book Launch Party which will take place LIVE on my Author Facebook Page on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm eastern.  Here’s the event link for that or you can just “like” my Facebook author page and then you’ll be sure to get all the updates for this and other bookish things.  

Wide Awake Baby Jesus: A Christmas Ornament Inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER

AUTHORS SHARING ORNAMENTS! This week I’m teaming up with picture book authors Mindy Baker, Jill Roman Lord and Tama Fortner to present FOUR days of book-themed ornaments inspired by our Christmas themed picture books. Each day this week, families can pop over to our Facebook and Instagram pages to hear a little bit about each book and then do the craft!  Today is my day! I just finished sharing my ornament online and thought I would take a minute to share the clip here and then provide more detailed instructions for the ornament.

Enjoy the short video. Then scroll down for the instructions.

Wide-Awake Baby Jesus

A Christmas Ornament Inspired by

GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Story Summary: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.

Now, to make the ornament:

  1. Gather your materials. (Feel free to substitute with items you have around the house). To make mine I used: 1/2 large craft stick, a small square of cloth, a 9″ bit of twine, a 7″ bit of colorful ribbon, a circle of gold sparkly paper, two google eyes, marker, glue and scissors.

2. Glue the ribbon loop for hanging ahead of time. (See picture.) This makes assembling the rest easier.

3. Refer back to the story as you add the remaining parts to the craft stick, using the experience as an opportunity to talk about Jesus, the real gift of Christmas. I suggest using the following order:

4. As you wrap and glue the fabric square around the body say, “This reminds us of the quilt Mary used in the story to keep Baby Jesus warm”.

5. As you tie the twine around the body say, “This itchy twine reminds us of the itchy hay in the manger on that Christmas so long ago.”

6. As you use markers to add hair, lips and those ten little toes at the bottom say, “These remind us that Baby Jesus wiggled toes and cried sometimes, just like you did when you were little.”

7. As you glue on the google eyes say, “This reminds us of what a hard time Baby Jesus was having falling asleep in the story.”

8. As you glue the gold halo behind the head say, “This halo reminds us that Baby Jesus is God’s son – sent to earth to be our Savior. He’s the real gift of Christmas.

OCTOBER CRAFT FOR KIDS: Spooky Halloween Rings

When I’m between projects or want to vary my writing, I sometimes make and write crafts for kids. Over the years, I had more than 50 crafts published, or accepted for publication at various magazines including Highlights for ChildrenPack-O-FunFamilyFun and Clubhouse Jr.

To be successful, crafts must be simple with clear, step-by step instructions. They also need a hook- something fresh and different to make them stand out from the rest. Most of the crafts I’ve sold have had some purpose beyond their cuteness. Many have doubled as games or holiday decorations. Most take some seemingly ordinary items like bottle caps or old margarine lids and repurpose them in a fresh, fun way.

I like making and writing crafts for many reasons. As a former teacher, I find they’re a valuable and fun way to teach kids how to follow step-by step directions. The written directions can also be used as models to teach kids how to write their own instructions. Now I also do them for each book I write – just for fun and give my readers different ideas for activities to do after reading my books.

Today, in celebration of Halloween and writing and creativity, I’d like to share an easy craft you can make with your kids using plastic ring tabs.

Spooky Halloween Rings

What you Need:

  • plastic ring tabs (from juice or milk cartons)
  • felt scraps: orange, black, white, green
  • black embroidery thread
  • white tacky glue
  • scissors

How to Make It: 

  1. Trace and cut out simple Halloween shapes such as a cat, pumpkin, or ghost from black, orange, or white felt. Glue these on to the round part of the plastic ring tab.
  2. For the pumpkin, cut eyes and toothy grin from black felt and a stem from green felt. Glue on.
  3. For the ghost, glue on two eyes and an oval mouth cut from black felt scraps.
  4. For the cat, cut and glue two green felt eyes. Snip four two-inch strands of embroidery thread , tying them together with a central knot. Snip the ends till the are perfect whisker length and glue in place.
  5. Once dry, slip the rings on your fingers and say “Boo!” or “Trick-or-Treat!” or “Meow!”.

NOTE: I first shared this craft in October of 2012 – when my blog was still brand new! For other crafts, check the tag “crafts”.

SUMMER ON THE PORCH STORY TIME CRAFT: Egg Carton Creatures Inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Hooray for summer mornings, good books and cozy porches – perfect for story time! With that in mind, each Tuesday throughout July I have hosted Summer Story Time on the Porch (and a Craft!) on my Facebook Author page. Today is the last one. 

This week’s story time features GOODNIGHT, MANGER. It’s bedtime in this rhyming Christmas story, but between adoring animals, itchy hay, angels’ joyful singing, and three kings bearing noisy gifts, there’s too much commotion. GOODNIGHT, MANGER humorously weaves together the comforting and familiar routines of bedtime with the special magic and wonder of the manger story. I do hope you will join me for the reading. You can get there by clicking my Facebook picture in the sidebar of this blog. 

Now for the craft:

Inspired by illustrator Jane Chapman’s colorful depictions of the animals around the manger, today’s craft is to create our own stable creatures using egg cartons, paint, glue, and any other little add-ons you have on hand. As you can see by the samples made by my young assistant, the results are ADORABLE!

Here are the steps for creating your own:

  1. Read GOODNIGHT, MANGER and marvel at all the different creatures that illustrator Jane Chapman has included in the stable.

2. Next, take an empty recycled cardboard egg carton and cut the egg holders apart. Save the lid for extra bits.  

3. Then look through the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, MANGER again. How could your child transform your egg carton pieces into animals inspired by Jane’s art?

4. Shape your creature by arranging one or more cardboard egg cups together to form a body. Cut extra pieces from the lid to make heads, ears, legs… whatever!  For extra fun, use scraps of this and that to make each stable creature unique. For example, I used feathers and my sweet young assistant used cotton balls, glitter and more! Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

Tip:  Glue the basic shape together first and let dry completely before painting and adding your extra bits. 

5. TAKE A PICTURE!  I’d love to see your children’s egg carton creations, so take a picture and send them to me so I can share the pictures on social media and my blog and we can all enjoy each other’s creativity!

The virtual story time has expired, but you can still read the book! It’s available at your favorite book seller and local library. And if they don’t have it, you can ask that it be ordered.