As Catholic parents, we make sure our children are well-prepared for their First Holy Communion, Penance, and Confirmation. We discuss vocations and catechize about Holy Orders and Matrimony. But since Baptism is usually received at such a young age, it can be easy to overlook explaining the its importance to young children. If you’re looking for a beautiful, informative picture book to help your young children understand more about the symbolism, character, and rite of Baptism, check out When You Were Baptized, a new book from Liturgy Training Publications.
Written directly to Catholic Children
My little children were immediately captivated by this beautifully illustrated picture book which speaks directly to the child. Written in the second person, When You Were Baptized methodically moves through the rite of Baptism, highlighting each symbol and action. Children learn what each oil symbolizes, why the priest blesses the holy water, what the white garment signifies, and more.
Simple Explanations for the Littlest Listeners
Note that this picture book does not event attempt to touch on the depths of symbolism behind each part of a Baptism. In a message for parents at the conclusion of the book, the author explains that very young children (under age 6) are not yet old enough for moral considerations. Therefore, this book is focused on the more natural symbolism involved in Baptism versus the moral and Biblical implications.
It’s apparent that the author’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd background influenced the scope of this book. In the Catechesis, the first years are focused on cultivating wonder and love for God. This book with its simple explanations and overarching tone of welcoming the child into God’s family is true to the Catechesis vision.
A Great Baptismal Gift
This lovely picture book would be a wonderful gift for a godparent to give at a Baptism, or even to commemorate the Baptismal day of an older child. It also makes a wonderful addition to any Catholic family’s picture book library. See further information here on the Publisher’s website.
For more great books about Catholicism, the saints, sacraments, and more, check out this book list!
You may not be surprised that I’ve taken a book-based approach to teaching my preschoolers the ABC’s. This method is super simple: you just make sure to regularly read your toddler or preschooler several ABC books, pointing to the letters and making the sounds before reading the text on each page. My kids have learned letter sounds and recognition easily this way without any formal teaching needed. Here are some of our favorite alphabet books!
Alison’s Zinnia is one of my children’s favorite alphabet books, and mine too! Each page has a detailed illustration of a flower beginning with a particular letter. This is a wonderful way to learn flower and letter recognition at the same time. Also, I really appreciate that even the difficult letters like X have a flower beginning with that letter!
Albert’s Alphabet is a wonderfully creative alphabet book by Leslie Tryon. There is almost no formal text, but my children and I always enjoy narrating our own story about Albert’s clever use of materials to build a super-sized alphabet on the playground.
Little Bear’s Alphabet is written and illustrated by one of our favorite picture book authors, Jane Hissey. Children who already love Old Bear will enjoy this introduction to the alphabet which features Jane Hissey’s cast of stuffed animal friends.
We all enjoy the incredibly realistic illustrations in A to Z of Animals, a Wildlife Alphabet. This is one you have to buy used, but so worth it! It also includes a section at the end of the book with information about each animal featured.
The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta was a big hit with my oldest son at about age 3. He memorized most of the book in no time, and we both learned a lot of the appropriate technical names for large machines!
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Advent is nearly upon us! As we turn our thoughts to preparing for this blessed season, here is a merry miscellany of Christmas books to encourage the true spirit of Christmas in your home. I hope you enjoy reading these beautifully illustrated versions of the Christmas story, stories about popular saints, Advent-calendar style Christmas collections, and stories about the origins of various Christmas symbols and traditions. With a story here for everyone from the very young to those only young at heart, these books are also great to give as gifts!
The Story of Christmas is a simple retelling of the Christmas story which I particularly like because of its emphasis on Jesus’ birthday as the reason for Christmas and a short explanation of why we give gifts at Christmas: “to show our love.”
Picture books for young and old: The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale is a whimsical story about a baker who learns that sometimes a dozen is really 13, thanks to St. Nicholas’ intervention. This book is perfect for reading on St. Nicholas’ Day prior to decorating gingerbread St. Nicholas cookies!
Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins is my favorite version of the true story of St. Nicholas. This book’s iconography is a fitting visual companion to the story’s focus on Nicholas’ desire to be an icon of Christ, imitating his Lord in word and deed.
The Cobweb Curtain: A Christmas Story is a unique Christmas story about a tiny spider who helps save the Christ Child from Herod’s soldiers. The theme of the littlest helping and a fun connection to tinsel make this one worth buying.
The Legend of the Poinsettia is another story to explain a Christmas symbol. This legend offers one explanation of the pointsettia: how little Lucida’s selfless, humble gift of weeds to the Christ Child is miraculously transformed to bright red star flowers.
All for the Newborn Baby is a sweet lullaby sung by the Blessed Virgin to Jesus, describing how all of nature is rejoicing at His coming.
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is a favorite of mine. This adorable, wee little mouse named Mortimer hears the Christmas story read and decides to give up his bed for the baby Jesus in the family nativity scene.
The Nativity combines the Nativity story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke with beautiful, illuminated manuscript style illustrations.
Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing uses the story of a little boy who makes his own infant Jesus statue to introduce your child to an Italian tradition in which the Pope offers a special blessing on the third Sunday of advent to all the infant Jesus figures in St. Peter’s Square.
Little Star is the story of how only the humblest, small star can see past the newborn king’s humble surroundings and recognize his kingship.
The Christmas Candle is a fanciful take on what might happen if a candle gave one Christ’s eyes, and made one see each stranger as a loved family member.
Jacob’s Gift is a Max Lucado story about a young carpenter’s apprentice who learns to see Christ in those he meets.
The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men is a wonderful imaginative story about three animals, a horse, an elephant, and a camel who must work together using their unique skills to bring the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.
The Donkey’s Dream chronicles the dreams the donkey who carried a pregnant Mary dreamed, while exploring some of Mary’s titles. Beautiful illustrations again!
Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree is a powerful story which stars Saint Boniface smiting down the oak tree the pagans worship, and explains the miraculous origins of the linking of evergreen trees with Christ’s birth.
Lucia, Saint of Light is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the legend of Saint Lucia and how her feast is celebrated in Sweden.
Apple Tree Christmas is a charming story about a family who lives above a barn and practices the true spirit of Christmas.
Stations of the Nativity is a series of meditations on fourteen events leading up to the birth of Christ. Complete with reflections and prayers, this can be prayed similar to the Stations of the Cross.
The Trees Kneel at Christmas is a beautiful, humorous story of two Lebanese immigrant children who hope to see the miracle of the trees kneeling that their Grandmother told them happened in Lebanon.
Destination: Bethlehem is an advent book with twenty four chapters, one to read each evening in December, as you accompany the characters through Palestine on a journey to Bethlehem, meeting many Bible characters along the way. Perfect for a family read-aloud!
The Story Of The Other Wise Man is for an older reader. This beloved story by Henry Van Dyke is about a fourth wise man who never does get to see baby Jesus, but instead beautifully illustrates the Bible message of seeing and serving Christ in those one meets on one’s journey.
24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus is, as the name implies, a story a day until Christmas collection. The stories range from the various gospel accounts of the Nativity to Christmas stories and traditions from around the world.
Kersti and Saint Nicholas is by Hilda Van Stockum, one of my very favorite children’s authors, and therefore simply a joy to read. Four-year-old Kersti knows she falls into the naughty category, but her appeal to the good bishop on behalf of all the little ones who struggle to be good is a wonderful illustration of mercy versus strict judgment.
The Gift of the Magi is a famous O. Henry short story about sacrifice, true love, and the true meaning of Christmas.
Children need to hear poetry and rhymes from a very young age in order to learn the rhythm and flow of the English language. Additionally, exposure to poetry from a young age can help foster a lifelong appreciation for this form of literature.
When they are a bit older, 2 or 3, they love Shirley Hughes’ Out and About: A First Book of Poems, which has poems organized by season. Of course, you also get the benefit of Hughes’ distinctive, detailed illustrations which accompany each poem. Her other poetry collection, Rhymes for Annie Rose is fun for fans of Alfie and Annie Rose, and celebrates sibling play and mundane family life.
Our four year old loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses. These poems were intended for children, written with simple themes and commonplace similes that children will readily grasp, but many are still mini masterpieces. They make great first exercises in memorization.
Pied Beauty: A Children’s Book attempts with some success to make a wonderful poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins accessible to young children. Breaking the poem down line by line, this book offers imagery and word definitions to help your children understand.
Check out more of my book lists for Little Catholic Kids!
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At two to three years old, children have a longer attention span and a greater appreciation for detailed illustrations. There are so many wonderful books for this age!
Giving is a wonderful conversation piece about all the ways one can give, as described by a little girl and illustrated by the ever-charming Shirley Hughes. Themes: giving, thankfulness, sharing
Blueberries for Sal is possibly my favorite book for two year olds. Little Sal and little bear learn that they should stay close to their mommies, even if yummy berries are tempting! Themes: obedience, courage
Baby’s Boat is a luminous bedtime story we love describing a dream voyage on a moon-boat. Themes: bedtime, poetic language
Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is by the great Margaret Wise Brown. Animals around the world settle down for bed in their own ways as their mothers urge them to close their eyes. Themes: bedtime, animals, mothers
A Home in the Barn is another favorite by Margaret Wise Brown with lovely illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. This book describes the coming of winter and how various farm animals prepare for the cold and wind. Themes: winter, opposites, onomatopoeia
Peter finds treasures on his walk, but has no pockets to put them in! Mommy saves the day by sewing new ones on in Peter’s Pockets Themes: sharing, creativity
Hush Little Baby is a nature-focused variation on the traditional rhyme, and is the version we sing in our house. Themes: mother love, enjoying nature
For the baby loving toddler, Everywhere Babies is sure to be a favorite with its descriptions of everything baby. Themes: loving babies
When the Rooster Crowed is a toddler favorite about the farm animals trying to wake up the sleepy farmer. Themes: persistence, sloth, patience
Shirley Hughes’ Alfie’s Feet is a simple but beloved story in which Alfie gets new boots and solves the mystery of why they feel funny. Themes: growing, calmly solving problems, enjoying the outdoors
Another popular Alfie story, Alfie Gets in First, is a cautionary tale warning children against locking doors. But don’t worry it has a happy ending! Themes: obedience, staying calm in an emergency
Little Lamb to the Rescue, one of the most beautiful picture books we own, is the story of a little lamb helping an even littler bird. Themes: helping, friendship
Little Baby Buttercup is a charming recounting by a loving mother of her day with her little girl. This sweet book is a must read to your little girl! Themes: a mother’s love for her child
Crocodaddy is one for the daddies and sons! A little boy and his father play at a pond, using their imaginations to make an enjoyable day even funner. Themes: using your imagination, daddy-son bonding
In Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, a very active little bear, learns about all the times one shouldn’t get wet, and finally when one should! Themes: obedience, patience
Jan Brett’s illustrations in The Hat are, as always, worthy of lengthy study. In this story Hedgehog struggles to get untangled from a stocking, and Lisa tries to find her missing clothes. Themes: perseverance, being kind to others
Little Mommy is a good old story of a little girl caring for her dolls. It’s sure to delight any little mommy! Themes: motherliness
Another good old story, The curious little Kitten details the adventure of a very curious little kitten! It is a good cautionary tale to show the dangers of too much curiosity. Themes: curiosity, persistence
Once Upon a Cloud is a modern tale with illustrations to delight little princesses and a fanciful story of a little girl going on a magic carpet ride to find the perfect gift for her mother. Themes: giving
Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake is a delectable, gentle story about a little mouse trying to get a huge cupcake home, with some help from his hungry friends. Themes: sharing, generosity
Illustrated by the marvellous Hilda Van Stockum, Pamela Walks the Dog is a hilarious little book about Pamela’s lengthy preparations to take her non-existent dog for a walk.
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We start reading young around here! By the time our kids have their first birthday, they are usually happy listening to me read simple picture books. As always, my criteria include an inspiring theme, beautiful illustrations, and that my children approved. These books are great read alouds for a 1 to 2 year old, and preschoolers will also enjoy them.
What Did Baby Jesus Do? is a beautifully illustrated little board book talking about Jesus’ childhood. Themes: Jesus was God and man
Who is Coming to Our House? is a sweet board book which shows the barn animals preparing for baby Jesus’ arrival. Themes: Jesus coming, Christmas
The Word of the Lord and Cloud of Witnesses are part of a new series of board books from Katie Warner aimed at exposing the littlest Catholics to religious artwork and Catholic teaching! These are quality books that would make great gifts for a Baptism or baby shower. Themes: Bible, Jesus, Catholic Faith, Saints
Bear Wants More is a short rhyming board book about a very hungry bear. Themes: friendship, kindness
Baby Listens (Little Golden Book) helps teach little ones about their senses as baby experiences the sounds around him. Lots of onomatopoeic words keep the youngest readers engaged. Themes: attentiveness to the world around us
Going to Sleep on the Farm, with its beautiful illustrations of farm life, is a simple story of a father soothing his son to sleep. Themes: patience (for parents!)
Ask Mr. Bear is a story about a little boy searching for the perfect gift for his mother with some help from his animal friends. Themes: persistence, a giving spirit
Amy loves the wind and Amy loves the sun are sweet little old books about a toddler encountering the outdoors with her mother. Themes: enjoying nature
Biscuit Storybook Collection stories are somewhat repetitive but so loved by my children that I had to include them! Themes: friendship, gentleness to animals, forgiveness
Jamberry‘s gentle rhymes and clever illustrations make it another much loved and well worn toddler favorite around here. It is a rollicking little tale of a boy and bear searching for berries. Themes: enjoying nature, a cheerful attitude in adversity
Big Red Barn is a classic Margaret Wise Brown story, less well known than Goodnight Moon but equally enjoyable. Big Red Barn describes barnyard life, while Goodnight, Moon focuses on a room at bedtime. Themes: attention to the world around us, whether outdoors or just in our own room
Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) is a great early book because it provides sensory stimulation which can engage a reluctant listener. Siblings Paul and Judy explore their house along with your child. Themes: sibling love, attentiveness to sensory information