Books, Books, Books!

I found the following article to be very interesting. Basically, it is saying that kids who grow up surrounded by lots of books grow up smarter!

KS12198As always, I think of the ramifications for religious education. I wonder what we could do to expose our students to more age-appropriate books about the Catholic faith to help them be smarter Catholics.

For example, wouldn’t it be cool if  we catechists had access to a box of 30-40 age appropriate books about various aspects of our Catholic faith (the saints, the Mass, the Rosary, the sacraments, etc.) that we could put out on a table to let the kids peruse and pick one or two and then give them quiet time to read/explore their picks and then invite them to share what they learned?

Anyone have ideas?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. Thanks for sharing this article, Joe. It’s sparked several thoughts for me.

    There is a lesson is social justice here. Not all children have access to books. We might look for projects or organizations we can support at the parish level to help get books into the hands of children.

    I also think there s an analogy to be made with the article’s discussion of the clubbishness that might scare people from freely browsing libraries or bookstores. Too often, people can have that same experience of church. Our efforts in catechesis to make our children and teens and adults feel they are a part of the Church and belong are essential.

    On a practical note for what could be done to increase Catholic literacy through books, we can make our own Catholic books as art projects, from Stations of the Cross booklets to collections of prayers or saints stories.

    Finally, I wonder what impact ebooks will have on future editions of the quoted study. I agree with the idea that there is something about owning a book that is different from borrowing it from the library or now reading it online. None of those forms of reading are bad, but they are different, and that is key to remember.

    • Very valid thoughts, Denise. In our country (Philippines) there aren’t a lot of books on Catholic Faith, too. Access is really a problem. And the issue on the kids not being able to afford the books is a reality from where I’m from. I like the idea of making the books as a project. 🙂

    • Denise, your idea of making a book has been inspirational to me. I know of many catechists who have their students keep prayer journal. I have been hesitant to do that for several reasons, one of which being too much pressure on children who do not write well. If we make scrapbooks instead, the students will be able to incorporate words and art. I teach fifth grade girls and use Sadlier’s ‘We Believe’ series. I’m thinking that the scrapbook can be entitled, ‘I Believe.’ Knowing how much girls that age love to do crafts, I think that this will be a perfect way to bring their Faith into their everyday activities. My head is spinning with ideas. Thank you again, Denise. And thank you, Joe, for this forum.

  2. I grew up surrounded by books about saints, Jesus, and the like, and now I work in spiritual formation (Christian Life Community).

    Here’s a suggestion, it’s not really an original (they did this in my nephew’s pre-school class):

    The students were asked to bring one book at the start of classes (but if the catechist already has access to 30-40 books, then no need). This could be done as a homework (bring a book related to the Catholic faith). Then there will be a book trade! The kids take home other students’ books for like a week or something. This continues until the end of the program. I like this activity very much because the kids pick up a lot of things from it:

    1. Of course they get to read about their Faith.
    2. They are able to share their Faith at home. For sure they will show the book to their siblings, parents, or other family/friends.
    Additional learnings:
    3. They learn how to take care of other kids’ books!
    4. Sharing.

    I guess that’s all. I hope my suggestion helps!

  3. As a DRE and mother, I love finding great Catholic books for kids. Last fall our school hosted a JClub book fair ( Many of us could not simply choose one or two books, and we walked away with as many as our checkbooks would allow. One of the favs for both CCD students and Catholic students alike was a comic style book about the saints. It encouraged even those who wouldn’t consider themselves “readers” to learn about their faith in a fun, personal way.

  4. We have a few catechist who does this especially around the holidays as a way to build in some quiet time into classes at a busy time of year. Children are allowed to read, draw or simply contemplate so long as they do it quietly enough so as to not disturb others. Additionally we have a parish libraries for children, adults and a even Jr. & Sr. High.
    I keep a book shelf of picture books and lives of the saints in my office for catechsits to borrow. Each has some discussion questions with faith links.
    One of my personal favorite things to do is use books kids are reading at school or for pleasure and challenge them to name the lessons that the characters are learning and link them ( positively or negatively) to things like the commandments, beatitude, and virtues.

  5. We have a large parish library but it doesn’t get used very much. About a year ago, one of our parishioners took it upon herself to start a ministry called the R.E.A.D. table — it stands for Reading Educates Adult Disciples. She takes some books from the library each month and displays them at the enterence to church. Parishioners can sign them out after Mass and return them to a box located by the door.

    Recently she has added children’s books and videos. We haven’t gotten a huge responce from parishioners, but this really does make them more available to people.

    • Thanks, Theresa. I think it takes some kind of an event or captive audience to get people interested in such a resource, otherwise folks just pass it right up, not really knowing that it’s there or that they can take advantage of it.

  6. Here is a comment from Karen C.

    Hi Joe,
    This is only my second year on the job as a DRE- I used to be a science cluster teacher in the public schools. One of the things that worked well was sending home a “Bag of Science Fun” for parents and their children to work on together. I always included a book about a specific topic in Science (ex: weather). I provided some sort of science experiment or activity to be worked on with an activity page to compliment that activity, and then a black composition book in which the students recorded something about the book they read (either in words or with a picture), activity they did or something new they learned. Each student had several days to “borrow” the book bag and then return it to me where I would restock the activity sheets, materials, etc. Parents used to write in the journals sometimes as well!
    My “summer job” this year is to make some “Faith on the Go” bags for the younger grades on the Rosary, Bible stories, 10 Commandments, and Prayer. Each bag will include a book to be read, an activity and a journal book. For the rosary bag, I’m including the book The Rosary for Children,, a coloring book where each child would color one of the pictures, a little box with a small statue of Mary glued on top with a fancy rosary inside, a journal to write or draw in, and a plastic rosary that each child can keep when they return the bag. I ususally would have a sign-out sheet in a folder where the parent would record their family name and the date they “borrowed” the bag. We’re trying to get families more involved in our parish and this was one way I remembered being fun and worthwhile for my students when I taught science. Hopefully, it will catch on with the younger students and then perhaps the older students would want to borrow a bag for themselves.
    Good luck!
    Karen Colletti- Our Lady of Hope, Middle Village, N.Y.

  7. This comment is from Val K.

    We have two baskets of boxes in the vestibule that parents can borrow for before and during Mass to use with toddlers and small children. The books are about Mass, prayers, Scripture stores. They like having them available.
    We also have a growing collection of books on shelves that the children can read before we begin prayer together for our faith Formation Wednesday sessions. They have a broad selection of faith topics.
    And lastly we give our baptism Preparation session parents a large list of books for their infants, toddlers and young children as possible gifts for baptism, birthdays and holydays and holidays. They appreciate the list so they know what books are appropriate for their children. Godparent and grandparents can have an idea of the book list when they are buying books also.

    Peace, Val
    Val Keller
    Pastoral Assistant for Faith Formation
    St. Benedict Parish
    1805 N. 49th St.
    Seattle, WA 98103-6839
    (206) 632-0843 ext. 216
    (206) 518-6016 Direct
    (206) 632-2167 FAX

  8. This is from Christine…

    Back in the 50’s and early 60’s when I was in (Catholic) school, we had a school library but also a small classroom library with religious books, especially saints’ biographies.
    My 6th grade teacher insisted that ever other weekly book report be a saint’s bio.
    My kids’ Catholic schools had school libraries with religious books, but I don’t think that many kids took out those – I checked one out that the 5th grade teacher had read back when she had been a student there, and no one had checked it out since then!
    When I was a DRE at that parish, we did require that kids look up information about their confirmation name — the rel. ed. kids’ parents were surprised that the public library had a wealth of information, but that was 15 years ago.

    Sad to say, I’ve never had a kids’ lending library in any of the parishes I’ve worked. Some parishes have adult lending libraries. I’ve certainly missed a great opportunity .
    I did try a Catholic Book Club from Paulist Press (???) which worked like the Scholastic Book Clubs kids have at school – didn’t get many takers.

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