Great Summer Reads For Christian Kids and Teens

Summer often brings reading lists for kids and teens. This summer you kids may have more time for reading than usual. Why not give them some books that can help them grow spiritually, dream godly dreams or develop empathy for others?

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.

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 and teens 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.

Tiny Habits for Christian Parents

Do you want to do all of those Christian parenting things you know you should be doing, but struggle with consistency? Perhaps you do well for a couple of weeks, then something happens and you never seem to be able to keep up those great new habits.

The key word there is habit. Although Christianity is ultimately about our hearts, many of the things we need to do to keep our faith strong and Christian parent well are actually habits. We need to do them every day or several times a day to accomplish our spiritual goals.

If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit or start a new one, you know how difficult it can be. Most of the time the very thought of trying to establish a new habit is enough to exhaust us. I don’t go to the gym because changing clothes, driving several miles, finding a class I like….all of it just feels too overwhelming.

There’s a great book called Tiny Habits by B. J. Fogg. I highly recommend reading it, if you can find the time. It’s not a Christian book, but a lot of the information can be easily adapted to be used in trying to live a Christian life.

There are a couple of key points for establishing new habits I want to share with you. It’s only a small fraction of all of the great material in the book, but you may find these three tips change everything for you.

Let’s say you want to have a family devotional time every day. You’ve started and stopped so many times, it feels like you will never be consistent. Here are three things you can do that may help you finally have those daily devotionals consistently.

  • Pick the best time. Find a time in your schedule as it is right now when you can easily and consistently fit a 20 minute family devotional. Make sure you consider possible roadblocks that could occur in that time slot, like a family member with other commitments. Let’s say your family always has dinner together. Can you work in the devotional immediately following your meal? Or could you have it while you are eating? Don’t try at this point to swap the devotional for another activity currently in that time slot, like watching a favorite tv show. You will be less likely to follow through if one of you feels they are giving up something for the new habit.
  • Make the new habit really tiny. This was the part that changed everything for me. Our new habits are always grandiose. We want a 20 minute family devotional that meets the spiritual needs of your kids, is engaging, and of course has some complex activity to make the point of the scripture reading memorable. It’s easy to fail the first time something goes wrong and give up. Instead, aim for reading a verse of scripture and having a very short prayer of blessing over your kids. Two minutes tops. If you want to do more, great! On those inevitable bad days, just read one verse of scripture and pray over your kids. Choose a book like Proverbs or a Gospel to start to make it easier to quickly find a great verse to read. (If you choose Proverbs, just read one verse from the chapter corresponding to that day’s date – January 15 – read one verse from Proverbs chapter 15. Or read the verse of the day in the Bible app.) A “victory” is that one verse and blessing prayer. Pat yourselves on the back and cheer every day you do it. On those days when you have a full devotional and activity…you’ve won the Super Bowl! On those crazy, bad days, you’ve still met your goal even if your family only read one verse of scripture together. The goal is consistency, not the amount of time or amount of scripture covered.
  • Create daily reminders you can’t miss. Set the alarm on everyone’s phone to go off at the chosen time. Have the Bible already out and open at the place you have chosen to have the devotional. Make signs that say “Devotional today at (time and place)” and hang them around your house where everyone will see them. Part of starting a new habit is remembering to actually do it! With lots of reminders, you will have less nights when you remember the devotional after everyone is in bed.

I encourage you to read the book to get more ideas, but start with these now. See if you can use them to ingrain those Christian parenting habits you need.

Help for Your Marriage in the Age of COVID19 and Other Problems

Often books on marriage focus on the fundamental problems in a marriage. They are written to help couples process issues from their past and correct bad attitudes and habits. Over the years, I have reviewed many books on marriage written by Christians. Rarely do they address what happens to a basically good marriage when it is barraged by problems from outside of the marriage itself.

With the COVID19 quarantine and the stresses that have accompanied it, many people with otherwise good marriages may suddenly find themselves struggling a bit. Ironically, a new book I was asked to review may be that extra help many marriages need right now.

Staying Power: Building a Stronger Marriage When Life Sends Its Worst by Carol & Gene Kent and Cindy & David Lambert is the practical guidebook you need to read to give your marriage the extra help it might need during this crisis.

This book was written well before anyone had even heard of COVID19. The authors wrote it for families who are faced with major trauma, not caused by any of their personal decisions. They share the stories of couples facing serious illness, incarceration of a child, death of a child, infertility, children involved in drug abuse, job loss and more. The types of outside events that can put strain on even the best of marriages.

The book is broken down with each chapter recommending a specific tool for helping your marriage thrive in adversity. Each chapter is full of practical suggestions that would help any marriage, but especially those experiencing stress. There are questions at the end of each chapter couples could discuss to bring them even closer emotionally in a tough time.

One of the best parts of the book is the appendix, which gives additional concrete suggestions for several specific issues like a financial crisis or eldercare. Every bit of advice in the book is extremely concrete and easy to understand. Since the book was written for marriages that are normally healthy, one would suppose the suggestions would be not only welcomed, but also used by readers.

The book is from a Christian perspective, but is not a Bible study. It does refer to enough godly principles and scripture, that Christians will find it generally aligns with their beliefs. The real life examples are relatable and make the book an interesting read woven through the practical suggestions.

This book should become a classic – if for no other reason than the advice is solid and there are very few marriage books like it. In this time of COVID19 and other problems, you may want to read a copy now…while you have the time.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Raising the Challenging Child

If your child is challenging, it may be hard for you to figure out why. It’s easy to become frustrated as the situation seems to get worse instead of better with every new thing your try. Raising the Challenging Child: How to Minimize Meltdowns, Reduce Conflict and Increase Cooperation by Buckwalter, Reed and Sunshine claims to have the solutions you need.

Unfortunately, I’m not so sure they do. The book is a bit tricky to review. On the surface, many of their principles make sense. When they start giving specific suggestions for how to put those principles into practice though, things begin to fall apart.

While some suggestions are fine, others would only serve to make the situation worse. They may work if your child is already well behaved and your relationship is healthy. This book, however, is billed as one that will help parents who are struggling with raising a challenging child.

Advice like “try to say no as little as possible” and urging parents to make sure their child’s “bank account” is full of them saying “yes” to the child, so things will be okay when they finally decide to deny their child something is a bit concerning.

And it doesn’t stop there. My child was given plenty of room to make her own choices, but the authors make it seem as if you can’t cook a meal or make any decisions without giving your child the decisive power in multiple ways. Page after page of their suggestions, left me feeling that their solution to raising a challenging child is to let him or her become entitled and selfish.

Yes, their principles say otherwise, but the suggestions read like a very passive parent who gives in to keep their children happy. I just kept wondering what children raised with their suggestions will do when confronted with a boss who doesn’t want to hear their opinion on everything or constantly praise their every breath.

This book may be okay for some parents. For those with challenging children, I would suggest looking into books by people like James Dobson instead.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Managing Worry and Anxiety

If anything can cause someone to worry or become anxious, it is parenting. Yet one of the most common phrases in scripture is “Fear not.” God knows our fallen world can be a scary place, but He wants us to not live our lives constantly wrapped in a blanket of fear. He wants us to put our trust in Him and fear not.

What do you do though when you can’t seem to shake those worries and anxieties? Managing Worry and Anxiety by Jean Holthaus LISW, LMSW addresses that very question. The book reads somewhat like a textbook on worry and anxiety – covering brain science and other secular basics of the problem.

Once she moves into the practical solutions part of the book, she addresses the faith aspects along with familiar secular solutions. The faith piece of the book is practical without being the type of book that can feel more emotional than helpful. It’s also not intended to be a Bible study. There are few specific scripture references, although she does refer to God, faith and a few verses.

The author shares some personal experiences in the book, but the book doesn’t read like a story. Rather, she uses her experiences to give specific examples of some of the points she is making.

Much of the information in the book will be familiar to anyone who has done any reading on brain science, anxiety or worry. She did have several practical suggestions though, that I hadn’t seen before. For some, those suggestions could make it worth reading.

This book is a solid introduction to worry and anxiety for Christians. It incorporates faith without laying blame or adding unnecessary guilt to the equation. If you are attempting to understand anxiety and want some practical tools to try, this is a good book to read.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.