Episode 159: Laura Sassi Interview and the Launch of My Tender Heart Prayer Book

In this episode we talk with Laura Sassi about the launch of her wonderful new book: My Tender Heart Prayer Book and about teaching children to pray. 

Our Guest: Laura Sassi

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of nine books for young children including the best-selling Goodnight Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist,  Goodnight MangerLove Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book, Little Ewe, Bunny Finds Easter and Happy Birthday Christmas Child.  She is delighted to introduce her readers to the My Tender Heart series including My Tender Heart Bible, which released in spring 2023 and My Tender Heart Prayer Book which is out this fall. The third in the series, My Tender Heart Devotions releases in fall 2024.  

Laura had a fulfilling teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in pointing kids to God through story and in passing along her love of reading and writing with the next generation at school visits, church gatherings and other book events.

Contact Laura through her website at https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

Show Notes with Links:

(00:00): Welcome and Introduction

(00:28): My Tender Heart Bible

(01:00): My Tender Heart Prayer Book

(02:47): My Tender Heart Devotions

(03:50): Freebies

(04:52): Helping our children understand prayer

(10:08): Praying for our children

(13:53): Classroom visits

LauraSassiTales.wordpress.com

(14:13): Closing

TerrieHellardBrown.com

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Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today we have a returning guest with us, we’re so happy to talk with her. Laura Sassi is here to talk about her newest book launch that will come out in August, 2023. Well, Laura, I’m so excited to talk with you today. Thank you for joining us.

Laura:

I’m so excited to be here, Terrie.

Terrie:

Well remind us about the first book that we talked about last time, Your [My] Tender Heart Bible.

Laura:

Alright, in February I had the first book. It’s going to be a three book series. The first book is called My Tender Heart Bible. It released in February, it’s 12 of my favorite stories, six from the Old Testament, six from the New Testament rendered in poetic rhyme that individually and then as a whole sort of tell the story of God’s redemptive love, so it starts with creation and it culminates, of course with glorious Easter Sunday.

Terrie:

Okay. Yes, and it’s such a beautiful book. I love it, and so now we’re looking at the launching of the second book, My Tender Heart Prayer Book, right?

Laura:

Yes, so My Tender Heart Prayer Book, it’s also published by Paraclete Press, and all three books are going to be illustrated by Sandra Eide, so if your viewers have a picture of the cover, they can see what a darling job she has done with that. So this one, the Prayer Book is 23 prayers starting from the moment a child wakes up until they go to sleep, that foster conversations with God. So they’re sweet rhyming prayers, fun prayers that kids can connect to and relate to things like going on an errand or driving in the car, a sports prayer, a snack time prayer, all sorts of different prayers throughout the day. Each one is paired with a verse from Scripture so they can connect with God in that way, and then an overarching feature of all three books is something that I’ve called The Heart Moment, because when we encounter God’s love, we have to respond; we can’t help but respond, so that’s sort of the heart moment. The heart moment in the Tender Heart Prayer Book is a chance for the child to personalize the prayer in some way and make it theirs by doing something or responding in some way that’s more specifically relates to them. So like for example, I have a prayer that’s called the Counting Wonders Prayer, which might be my favorite prayer in the collection in that one, the prayer is noticing all sorts of different wonders as your outside one swirly shell, two buzzing bees up through number 10, and then the heart moment is to go out with your parents or with your caregiver in your own backyard or in a park and notice more of God’s creation and His beautiful wonders.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s wonderful. Oh, I love it. And what is the third book in the series going to be?

Laura:

Okay, so the third book is called My Tender Heart Devotions. Those are devotionals, 52 devotionals, so you could do one a week or you could do them however you want to, and they don’t have to be done in any particular order, but I’ve taken that a concrete object or a moment, and there’s a short fun poem that then sort of is the transition to a devotional and a prayer.

Terrie:

Well that’s great, and when will that one be coming out?

Laura:

It’s coming out next fall.

Terrie:

Okay. This one, My Tender Heart Prayer Book comes out in August, correct?

Laura:

It sure does. So it comes out, yeah, in about five weeks.

Terrie:

Yay!

Laura:

From today, but…

Terrie:

Well, yeah, and they can pre-order it on Amazon, and that’s one thing I wanted to be sure we mentioned because that helps so much. When a book can be pre-ordered, it gives a boost to the writer and also helps the company support the writer more because they know it’s a good thing, so anytime we can leave reviews and anytime we can pre-order a book, it just blesses the writer a whole lot. So I want to encourage our listeners to do that if they can.

Laura:

Oh, absolutely. And if they do, Paraclete and I have created a bonus pack, so the prayer book itself is already chock full of like, opportunities for enrichment and to make prayer a part of your daily life, but together we thought it would be fun. There’s four pieces to the bonus kit and it’s a free kit. You just have to go to the My Tender Heart Book’s website, you can download it there. It has printables and one’s a prayer cube, so you can roll it, you can make a little prayer cube, and then each side has something, a fun way to pray. Then there’s a 30 day prayer challenge, I really had fun putting that together, really age appropriate for toddlers through preschoolers, just fun ways to pray, to jump and pray and to do different things where they’re active. Then there are some prayer cards that you can tell someone that you’ve prayed for them and maybe a little picture and then you can deliver it to them or mail it to them, and the fourth one again is something or someone you prayed for. Then you draw a picture and your thoughts on what you prayed for. So just some sort of hands-on ways to extend the book.

Terrie:

Oh, I love that, those are great. I want to talk a little bit just to encourage our parents and help our parents with young ones to know how to help them to really understand what prayer is and how to help children pray. What would you say to a first time parent who’s wanting to help their children learn to pray?

Laura:

I would say keep it simple, informal. Make it just a part of the rhythm of your day. The prayers don’t need to be long with my kids, what I was fostering was that you can come to God anytime, you can talk to Him anytime, and no matter how you’re feeling, God wants to talk with you and to hear from you, so I would say that would be one piece of advice. It is also fun by the same token, to have some simple prayers that you’ve memorized. I certainly remember prayer songs that we sang at the dinner table, for example, and at bedtime, and those were very soothing to me, and it was like just a wonderful way to feel God’s presence. So a few simple prayers that are memorized and making it a habit like at the dinner table and at bedtime. Those are great ways, and the prayers in this book are simple enough that after you’ve read them a few times, probably everyone will have them memorized. One thing that I liked to do with my kids when they were small was to say a prayer back, so I’d have them repeat it, so I’d repeat, “Dear Jesus,” and then they’d say, “Dear Jesus,” and then you do your simple next line, then have them say the next line, and then you put it in reverse and have them say something. Then you repeat it back, so that kind of echo prayer is another nice way to incorporate prayer.

Terrie:

I love that. I’ve even used that with older children who are afraid to pray out loud. So we would do the echo prayer to help them get used to how to pray when they felt uncomfortable like that.

Laura:

That’s a great idea. I guess it’s good at any age, right?

Terrie:

Yes. I’ve used it with new Christians too, yeah.

Laura:

Exactly, right, and that’s also reminding me with my kids, just with carpool and driving to the supermarket sometimes in the car is a great time to pray because it’s a great time to talk too. It’s a great time to talk about your feelings. You can lift them all to the Lord in prayer, but it’s just such a good captive time when there aren’t too many other distractions, so that’s a good place.

Terrie:

I love that, and I love that this book is geared towards such young children. It’s even toddler preschoolers, so it’s even younger than our “picture book gang” as a rule, and I love that because we don’t have a lot of prayer teaching for little bitty children, and so I think that’s wonderful.

Laura:

Absolutely. By the same token, I think that it will be enjoyable for say, kindergartners and first graders who are just learning how to read, because I work hard to keep the vocabulary level age appropriate for like a first grader so they could read the prayers to their younger sibling or just enjoy reading them on their own, so I think there’s a lot of room for this book to be with kids as they’re growing and they’ll just like with the Tender Heart Bible, sort of get different things out of it as they get older through about first grade, so…

Terrie:

Yeah, true. Then of course if they’ve memorized them, it’ll have a special memory for them as they get older too, and they’ll enjoy going back to it and reading it.

Laura:

Oh, I hope so. That would be a blessing.

Terrie:

Yeah. Oh, I think it’ll be a wonderful thing. So as we are helping our children learn about prayer and learning to pray, and as they’re getting older, I was just thinking before we met, ways that we can help our kids as they’re aging older, learning more about God and growing into their faith more, how we can keep encouraging them to pray, but I think this lays such a great foundation of conversational prayer throughout the day, wherever you are, and learning that you don’t have to fold your hands and close your eyes every time that prayer is just conversation with God, and I love that you added scripture because to me that’s God talking back to us, that’s where we can hear God’s voice and get used to what God’s voice sounds like because that’s Him talking in scripture, so I think this book just lays such a great foundation for helping our children grow into great prayer warriors and to have a life of prayer and then to kindle their relationship with God as they grow.

Laura:

Absolutely, and really, I do hope that parents will use those Bible citations to go into the Bible, cause even if their children can’t read the words from the Bible itself, yet they can see that you are opening the Bible and they will see that that is the book that we go to, to learn about God and to be in God’s presence, I mean that those were put there very intentionally, and I’ve memories of my mom opening her Bible, those are pretty powerful memories, and I remember even like at Vacation Bible School, the teachers opening their bibles when they were retelling a story or doing a prayer, just having the Bible there is so important.

Terrie:

Yeah. I think too, we’ve talked a lot on this podcast that we started day one with a child and that’s part of it. Letting them see us, read the Bible and pray and know that that’s important in our lives, and like we said, we’re building a foundation for these children as they grow, and I love that so much.

Laura:

Yes. I think we’re of the same heart, Terrie. For like a tired young mom after a full day or even just a full morning with their kids, just to sit down with a book and pray with your child, I think can be so restoring for the parent too, a reminder for all of us. So we’re planting seeds in our little ones hearts and reminders in ours.

Terrie:

Amen. I love that. Well, I’d like to also ask you to share how as parents, we can pray for our children. If you were going to talk to young parents, how would you encourage them to pray for their children?

Laura (10:21):

I would lean into scripture as I’m thinking right now, “I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord, I would put my child’s name in that and just pray that they would feel God’s presence. I would pray for them, but I would also pray with them. I think it’s wonderful for them to hear us praying for them to know Jesus, and I think about like confessing and those kinds of things. I think you can sort of be planting those seeds that we need to come to God to confess and that He loves us. So I know there’s different groups, I know there’s like a moms group at my church, where the moms come together and pray for their children, and that group, they’ve been doing it for years. So there’s some young moms and then there’s some moms of teenagers, and the older our kids get, they always need our prayer, but we live in a very complicated culture. So they really need our prayer just with all the things swirling around us right now and social media and everything. We just need to pray for them to stay grounded and to draw near to Christ.

Terrie:

Amen. One of the things that I’ve always done, I don’t remember who told me, but I was a young mom when they told me this. I pray through the “Love the Lord your God” verse, it helps me think about each part of each child’s life, so love the Lord your God with all your heart. I think about the emotional part of my kids’ life and where they’re hurting right now or where they may be struggling emotionally and the soul, of course, their spiritual life, the mind, their academic life, their thought life and what all that entails, and it would help prompt me as I went through that, and strength of course if they’re ill or have any physical needs or anything, so I would just pray through that to kind of remind me what are some of the areas my child needs prayer for? And it helped me also to individualize for each child. I would always pray for their future spouse, just because… they need prayer too.

Laura:

That’s wonderful. You know what? I think you could do that same kind of thing with the Lord’s Prayer, taking, breaking that down and just using that as the opening to your prayer and just lifting your child up to God a line at a time, and I love that, praying for your spouse.

Terrie:

Yeah. My mother-in-law prayed for me from the time she became a Christian. She started praying for her boys’ future wives. She had three boys, so when we got married, she gave me a hand embroidered handkerchief. They lived in Singapore, it’s beautiful, it’s from Singapore, and she said, I started praying for you about the time I got this handkerchief, so I want you to have it as a reminder that I prayed for you all those years, and I put it in my bride’s bible and had it in my bouquet and still have it, but that just meant so much to me to know that my future mother-in-law had been praying for me, and the minute I met my future in-laws, I knew they were my future in-laws, even though I didn’t know I was going to marry Dave yet. It was really weird.

Laura:

I love that.

Terrie:

So it was pretty funny cause Dave and I were best friends and I thought, “I’m not going to marry Dave. He’s just my friend.”

Laura:

The Lord works in amazing ways.

Terrie:

He does. But anyway, I just think prayer is so, so important and we talk about reading the word with our kids and teaching them the Bible, but I haven’t talked as much about praying with and for our kids. So I love this book and I’m so excited for it to be out in the world and I hope everyone gets that.

Laura:

Yes. Just, you’re my first podcast I’ve done here with this new book, and it’s getting me all excited about going into classrooms and speaking with mom’s groups, church settings, just about that, about praying and fostering, planting seeds of prayer in our children’s hearts, yes.

Terrie:

So if people want to reach you to ask you to come and talk in their mom’s group or at their school, how do they reach you?

Laura:

Oh, well that’s a great question. So I have a website, it’s LauraSassiTales.wordpress.com. I can send you the link and there’s a contact tab so they can just reach out to me. That’s the way to get it started.

Terrie:

That’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us. I really am excited for this book to come out and just have really enjoyed talking with you, and we’ll have to talk again when the next one comes out in the fall.

Laura:

Sounds great to me. Alright, well have a wonderful rest of your day.

Terrie:

Thank you, you too. Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media or leave a review on your podcast site that you listen to, it will really help people know that we are here and we appreciate your help so much. If you would like to connect with Laura, you can invite her to come and speak at your events with your mom’s groups or with your schools, and you can reach her at LauraSassiTales.wordpress.com, the link will be in the show notes and you can link right from there. If you’d like to connect with me, of course you can reach me at my website, which is TerrieHellardBrown.com. We would love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to empower children and adults to embrace everyday discipleship every day. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children everyday.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 35+ years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 35 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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