PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Dream Big my Precious One (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was a Children’s Ministry Director at the satellite branch of our 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 write an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE (Worthy Kids, 2021), written by Jill Roman Lord and illustrated by Brittany E. Lakin as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE

by Jill Roman Lord

PURPOSE:  Using DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE,  Jilll Roman Lord’s delightful ode to a child imagining all the possibilities for what they might be and do, this lesson will celebrate the dreams God places in each child’s heart, dreams that not only bring them joy, but spread God’s love to others.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: When I Grow Up… (building challenge)

Open in prayer, then explain that it’s time for a game – a guessing game! Ask the children to quietly think about what they want to be when they grow up, but not say it out loud.  Instead, have them give you a thumbs up once they’ve thought of something.  (If needed you can have a whisper conference to help those can’t think of something.)  Then, explain that they will have five minutes (or time of your choice) to build their “when I grow up” dream out of Legos.  Once the dreams are built, give each child a chance to present their project, allowing for guessing and then the reveal. 

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Marvel at all the wonderful dreams the children have for their futures, then introduce the story by showing the book cover. Have someone read the title. What do they see on the cover?  What do they think the book will be about? Dreams!  Future hopes! Possibilities! And what might this have to do with God?  Ponder together.Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many dreams they can remember from the book. Did they had a favorite?  Then remind them of what you asked them before reading: What do our dreams have to do with God?  Ponder the possibilities together, then open the story book again to reread the three precious spreads remind us that:

 1) GOD is the one who plants dreams in our hearts because and HE is the one who grows us lovingly along the way;

2) that we can count on God to guide us we follow the dreams He plants; and

3) the dreams GOD plants in our hearts will not only bless us, but will BLESS others as well!

And where can we find God’s promises that all this is true? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find God’s promises of love and hope as they relate to our dreams.  Use these verses to get you started: 

1 Chronicles 28:20 Jeremiah 29:11 Joshua 1:9 John 6:26

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.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Dream Big, My Precious One Paintings

Ahead of time, decoratively print the words “Dream Big, My Precious One” in thick yellow crayon on sheets of water color paper, one per child. Then get out crayons, watercolors and paint brushes, so children can create their own Dream Big, My Precious One images inspired by the Brittany E. Lakin’s gorgeous illustrations. First, have them draw what they dream of doing/being with crayons. Encourage them to use bright colors and to press firmly.  When they finish, have a supervised water color station where, using a thick brush, they apply a color-popping coating of blue water color paint.  

Another option: 

Download Free Activity Sheets on the Worthy Kids DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE book page. (Scroll down to find it. ) 

WRAP UP: As children are finishing the activity – give thanks for each child and the dreams God has planted in their hearts. Close in prayer.

LITTLE EWE: Feasting on FIGS!


One of the sweet distractions Little Ewe encounters on her day of exploring in my book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021) is figs! And I just love how illustrator Tommy Doyle has captured their green-purple hue and deliciousness in his illustration of Little Ewe rejoicing as figs tumble after seven sparrows land on twigs.

 
The inclusion of figs in the story was not by chance. As part of honoring the biblical retelling, I wanted every encounter Little Ewe made to be rooted in the Mediterranean terrain where the original parable, told by Jesus, took place. And if you look them up, you will discover that sparrows, figs, and yes, even badgers, all resided or grew in the countryside Jesus knew and loved.

 
I also picked figs because, as a child, I didn’t even know they existed, except in the form of a fig bar, a favorite childhood cookie of mine. It wasn’t until I was all grown up that I had my first taste of an actual fig. I remember the moment vividly. We had moved to New Jersey and my Italian-American neighbor, whose mother had a fig tree on her property, shared a bowlful with us. Oh, my goodness, one bite and I was in heaven!


However, my picky-eater daughter who was about five at the time was sure she wouldn’t like them because they looked funny to her. Finally, after much joyful animated eating on my part, she agreed to nibble one. She loved it. In fact, just one fig wasn’t enough. She wanted more and more! It was a figgy feast!


Thus, it was also with picky-eaters in mind that decided to include figs in my story. 


At our house, we like to pair books that we read with treats made from foods mentioned in those books.  So, if you, like me, relish opportunities to broaden your picky-eaters palettes, may I suggest pairing LITTLE EWE with a bowl of figs? Or, if they are not in season, how about fig jam or dried figs or a fig cookie!


Happy Figgy Feasting!

Note: These figgy thoughts were first shared on the Beaming Books blog. Here’s the link. While you are there, you might also enjoy their other book-themed blog posts. Be sure also to check out their LITTLE EWE book page which includes a free downloadable activity kit, plus links to your favorite on-line vendors.

TEACHER APPROVED: Eight Lessons to Cherish from LITTLE EWE

This week LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP received a LOVELY stamp of approval from longtime Colorado teacher and dear friend, Jeananne Wright. Thank you, Jeananne!

Please enjoy as she shares “Eight Lessons to Cherish from LITTLE EWE”. Use one, two or as many as you would like to spark sweet conversations with your little lambs about how they (and all of us, really) are very much like Little Ewe, in need of our Shepherd’s comfort and love and also so very blessed by the many shepherds (with a small s) that God has placed in our lives – like parents and teachers and more!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the free downloadable activity kit that I created and Beaming Books produced. It can be found here.

LITTLE EWE is published by Beaming Books and available wherever books are sold. If you purchase it through Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc., please consider leaving a review. Or leave a review Goodreads. Reviews help a book gain visibility. Thank you so much.

PARENTS! TEACHERS! KIDMIN! Download Your FREE Activity Kit for LITTLE EWE!

Reading LITTLE EWE is just the beginning.

Here is the link to the FREE downloadable LITTLE EWE activity kit designed especially for you and your preschooler. The kit includes six pages of ideas for discussion, activities, crafts, coloring pages and a maze. It can be found by visiting the book’s page on the Beaming Books website. You’ll find it at the end of the book’s description. Here’s the link. Enjoy!

Where is Little Ewe today? Celebrating PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY with Susanna Leonard Hill (PLUS A GAME!)

Today I’m delighted to have LITTLE EWE featured on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Series. Head on over to get Susanna’s take on the book. And in the extra fun department, she asked me to share an activity to go along with the book. It’s a fun one! What could it be, you ask? You’ll have to pop over there to find out. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link:

Interested in purchasing copies in time for Easter? They are available at Barnes and NobleAmazon,  Christian Book or your favorite local bookstore.

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!

GUEST POST: FIVE SIMPLE WAYS to TALK with PRESCHOOLERS about God as our LOVING SHEPHERD

I wrote Little Ewe as a fun way to introduce children to the the idea of God as our loving Shepherd through the eyes of one fictional little lamb. It’s such a fitting image, as He does indeed take tender care of us, His flock. It’s also an image that even a child can grasp, for who doesn’t love to snuggle up with a sweet lamb stuffy?

With all this in mind, I thought it would be fun to share five simple ways to talk about Jesus as our Loving, Good Shepherd with preschoolers and I’ve been invited to do just that over at Big Books, Little Ears.

I hope you will grab a cup of tea and head on over! I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link:

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.  

PICTURE BOOKS and END PAPERS: Thoughts and a GAME!

There’s something magical about picture books. For starters, their size is just right for reading snuggled together your child or grandchild. And, when done well, the intentional intermingling of image and text to tell a story is sure to captivate both child and caregiver. Indeed, a good picture book can be enjoyed again and again – with new discoveries unfolding with each reading.  

For example, it wasn’t until our seventh or eighth reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK, that my daughter discovered the toothbrush sitting on the window sill and then we laughed and laughed at the idea of Noah brushing the animals’ teeth. Similarly, it was with great joy after several readings that she later noticed that Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe in LOVE IS KIND sells organic chocolate which made Little Owl’s gift seem just that much more special.

And among the many extra little details I hope readers will notice in my newest release, LITTLE EWE, are the many opportunities for counting things like frogs on logs and spider webs!

Perhaps you and your little ones have also noticed extra little details and wonders as you read and re-read your favorite books.

Well, today, I’d like to share another little extra that I never paid much attention to as a child or even during my many years reading bedtime stories with my kids. I’m talking about the end papers. For those of you who aren’t as book geeky as I am, those are the papers at the very front and end of the book. One of half of these end-spreads are pasted to the front and back covers of the book and help to secure the interior pages which have been bound together and set in the spine of the cover.  

Now that I’m aware of them, I’m smitten! I mention them at school visits and I always begin the reading of a new book by investigating them. Sometimes they are plain, but more often than not, they have illustrations or designs. And when they do, those illustrations or designs connect to the story in some fashion. 

For example, the end papers of the popular KARATE KID (Running Press Kids, 2019), written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Mark Chambers provide a charming clue that the book might just be about different karate poses! And the end papers of the delightful TEA PARTY RULES (Viking, 2013), written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K. G. Campbell provide wonderful opportunity to predict with children just where this story will take place and what it might be about. 

Now, here’s a fun game to play your kids.  Have them find their favorite picture books and – before reading the book again – open up to the end papers and see if you they can figure out how the end paper illustrations connect to the story. To get you started, I’ve included a collage below with the end papers for four of my books. Can you guess which end paper goes with which book?  If so, what’s the connection?  Have fun! (Answers below.)

And the answers (but you still have to figure out the connection).

Have fun investigating the end papers of your favorite books and don’t forget that to make a game of figuring out the connections!