(Here is an annual favorite post on some books to make your kids think and spark family conversations.) Summer often brings reading lists for kids and teens. Sometimes, they are given specific books to read, but often there is a lot of freedom. Wouldn’t it be great if some of that extra reading time could be spent reading books that will encourage your children to live godly lives? There are actually quite a few good Christian/positive secular books for kids and teens on the market.
I have had several people ask me for suggestions, particularly of good non-fiction books. The list below is not complete and not all are technically “Christian” books. They are all, however, books that will get your children thinking. Take advantage of the summer slow times and ask them to share with you some of the things from these books they particularly liked and others with which they are not sure they agree.
- Various books of the Bible – Make sure your children have an NIrV version of the Bible for an easy to read and understand translation. Instead of encouraging them to read it from cover to cover, tell them to think of it as the 66 individual books it really is. Have them start with James, Mark, Acts, Esther, Ruth, Proverbs. They are all story-based or highly practical.
- Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris- A great book to encourage teens to try and change the world.
- Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are by Alex and Brett Harris- The follow-up book that offers more specifics on how to get started.
- Lose Your Cool: Discovering a Passion that Changes You and the World by Zach Hunter- Helps teens discover their passion.
- Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the Worldby Zach Hunter- The author relates his journey as a teen to help free slaves around the world. It also has tips on how teens can change the world.
- Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself by Austin Gutwein- How the teen author used his love for basketball to make a difference for AIDS relief in Africa.
- Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud- Most teens don’t have the business experience to fully appreciate this book. He teaches some very valuable principles though.
- Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk by Ben Carson- If your child isn’t familiar with Ben Carson, you may want to have him read Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story first. The author does an excellent job of teaching teens how to measure risk and determine what is an acceptable risk. He helps them avoid both extremes of taking dangerous risks and doing nothing because of a fear of risk. (The tv movie, with Cuba Gooding, Jr playing Ben Carson, is also very good.)
- unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Jamieson- Explains how the information we are given in the media and other places can be presented in ways that are meant to push a certain viewpoint. Helps them understand how not everything they see is necessarily totally accurate.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath- How to get your message across so people remember it.
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell- An interesting look at what makes some people succeed. This book should lead to a lot of interesting discussions. (Whether you agree with it or not!)
- Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs- The author analyzes “famous” orators to see why their arguments are effective.
- Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt- While I disagreed with a couple of his points theologically (He does not believe baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. Although, I believe he may have changed this belief recently.), he does a wonderful job making you take another look at your priorities. He examines what God demands and how it has been clouded by the American Dream. My newest favorite by David Platt is Something Needs to Change. It reads like an adventure story, but points out the brokenness in our world and how one person can begin to make a difference.
- I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond – Michael Oher does a phenomenal job telling his own story. In the process, he shows how people can make a real difference in the lives of hurting children. Chapter 20 should be required reading for every hurting child and the people who are trying to help them.
- Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories – The children of migrant farm workers tell about their lives in their own words.
- Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-Li Jiang– Life in communist China during the time of Mao.
- Thinking In Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autismby Temple Grandin- A wonderful look into the world of autism, written by a woman who used her autism to change how animals are slaughtered. (Not as gory as it sounds. This is one of our favorites and there was an excellent movie made about Temple Grandin recently.)
- Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes Courter- A harsh look at life in foster care. One of my favorites, although it broke my heart to read it.
- In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir by Neil White – The memoir of a prisoner who is placed in a facility that also houses people with leprosy. This is also an excellent look at arrogance, entitlement and how to handle great pain and rejection with grace and love.
- Eric Liddell: Pure Gold by David McCasland- The story of a man who not only stood up for his beliefs at the Olympics, but went on to become a missionary.
- Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John – The story of how one woman helped refugees from war-torn countries.
- The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz – A woman tries to provide assistance to the people of Africa. Along the way, she learns that her ideas of their needs are not necessarily the same as theirs. Explains the problem with “helpers” assuming they have the answers without talking to the people who are experiencing the problems first.
- Love Does and Everybody Always by Bob Goff – Want your kids to love others – a lot? These books by Bob Goff come in versions for younger readers, but even the adult versions are easy enough for most teens. Goff’s books are fun and inspiring, even if a little light on the passion for helping others get to Heaven side.
Not all of these books are appropriate for every child and many of these should only be read by teens. Please do your own research before giving your child a book to read. Older children can find series like Christy Miller, which will satisfy their desire to read some quality fiction books.
Many of the books today have hidden agendas for promoting ungodly thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Some of these your children will be forced to read in the process of their education. Providing books that encourage godly thinking and empathy can help counter some of these influences. (Of course, the Bible will always be the best counterculture tool you can ever give your child.)
Have fun reading this summer – some of these books I have enjoyed as much as our daughter did – you may want to read the same books yourself. If you find other great books for Christian kids, be sure and let me know. I would love to share them with other readers.