Episode 33: Teaching Our Kids about Love and Celebrating Valentine’s Day

In this episode we look at books about love and enjoy some fun books that celebrate Valentine’s Day. We also look at some great books for both parents and children about God’s love. 

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.

This week, we’re going to be talking about Laura Ingalls Wilder just briefly. Her birthday was on Sunday, February 7th. And that just happens to also be my birthday. And we are coming up on Valentine’s Day next Sunday.

So I want to begin with mentioning again, the handbook I have talked about before, but it is such an excellent resource, especially if you’re homeschooling. It’s called The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter by Chapter Guide to the Little House on the Prairie Books. And it’s by Annette Whipple. She’s gone through every chapter in every one of the books and given you little bits of information. She also talks about what it’s like to be a child living during the pioneer era, and it has many ideas that we can use with our kids to make the books come to life even more than they already do.

I also wanted to recommend the biography Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder by Patricia Brennan Damuth from the Who HQ authors and illustrated by Tim Foley. This is one of the books that’s in that series that I’ve mentioned on other podcasts. Even a week or so ago, where I was talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. And the book they have in their series for him. There’s one for Lewis Carroll. So all these different authors and different people in history, they have books about so many wonderful people and events that happened in history. This series is excellent. What I like about it, too, is if you’re starting to introduce your child to chapter books, this is a great book to start with because it is divided into topics for each little chapter, But they’re very short. And so it’s not overwhelming for a child that’s not used to having chapter books, but has been reading picture books. I think it’s a great book for stepping into chapter books with your children.

I want to talk about books about love. And I want to begin by talking about one that I have mentioned before quite a while ago, when I interviewed Glenys Nellist, she has a series of books called Love Letters from God. The one I have is just the simple Bible stories, Love Letters from God Bible Stories. And it’s written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsup. Also, she has an illustrated Bible where the notes that she’s written are added in the margin of the Bible. And of course the Bible is God’s ultimate love letter to us in telling us who he is and what his character is and what his plan is for mankind and for the world. What I love about it is it shows the child that God wants to make them a part of his plan from them accepting him as their Lord and savior and following him with their lives. But also that he has a plan to use their lives to further his kingdom and to further the gospel. On each page of these books there’s a little note. You can put the child’s name in the note, and it just kind of brings home the story to that child. For instance, here’s the one that is on the page where we see God calling Samuel from 1 Samuel 3:1-10, and it says, “Dear _________, Can you believe that I know your name too. Just like I knew Samuel’s name. Can you believe you are special to me too? Just like Samuel was? It’s true. So it’s very important that you listen for me calling your name. You might not hear it out loud like Samuel did, but one day you might hear me calling your name inside your heart. So keep listening for me calling, I know your name. You are mine. Love God.” And what I like about that is if your child is not quite ready to open their heart, to become a follower of Jesus, it kind of plants the seed that they should be ready and they should be listening for that tug on their heart. And then on the next page, it’s David’s anointing from 1 Samuel 16:1-13. And the note here says, “Do you know why I chose David to be King? Was it because he looked like a King? No, it was because he had a good heart. Just like you do. So as you grow up, do not worry about how tall you are or how strong you are or how smart you are. Just remember that I have chosen you just like I chose David. And even though you may never be a King or a queen, you will be something just as wonderful and very, very special to me. With all my love God.” So what I like about it is we can personalize the word of God for our children. I don’t think it steps over where we’re taking things out of context too much, or making the Bible all about us. Because I do think that is a very dangerous and slippery slope. The Bible is about God and his plan, and we are a part of that. And what a privilege that is to be a part of that. But I think we have to be careful not to become so obsessed with ourselves, that we make the Bible all about us, but instead helps a child to understand the concepts that God does call us. He does have a specific plan and purpose for each of us. He called David to be a King. He called Esther to be a queen, but for us, he may call us to be a postman, a dentist, or a missionary, and whatever he calls us to be in that role, we are to glorify his name and make his name known.

There are several books that explain love to children, and I like it because they help the child to see there are different ways that we can express love to each other. One that is probably my favorite book for Valentine’s Day or talking about love is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. And it’s written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz. Mr. Hatch is a very lonely man on his own. He has his routine he follows every day, and he doesn’t deviate from it. And he’s kind of a loner. But then one wintry day, the postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to Mr. Hatch. It has a card that simply says, “Somebody loves you.” “‘Somebody loves me,’ Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. ‘Somebody Loves me,’ Mr. Hatch whistles, as he does his errands in town. ‘But Who,’ Mr. Hatch wonders, ‘could that somebody be?'” So he doesn’t know who loves him, but just knowing that somebody loves him, makes all the difference. And he doesn’t know who his secret admirer is, but it changes everything. He begins reaching out to the people around him. He does little kindnesses for people, takes time for people, and gets to know people. And in the process, they get to know him. Then one day the postman returns and he says, I made a mistake. That package wasn’t for you. It was meant to go to another address. I delivered it by mistake. And so Mr. Hatch and us, as the readers, are devastated. He gives back what he has left of the present, and he’s dejected. And he feels like nobody loves him. He goes back to his routine. But when he comes home from work, that next day, there’s a banner that says, “We love you, Mr. Hatch.” And the whole community has gathered around and they’re doing a cookout and barbecue and everything at his house and returning all the love he showed to them. It’s just such a wonderful book.

If your child is making Valentines for Valentine’s day, especially if you’re homeschooling, a really cute book is called The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia bond. She is the author and the illustrator. She’s the illustrator of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This little girl is outside, and it starts raining hearts. She grabs one; she grabs another. And then she just grabs a bunch of them and realizes that each heart is special and is meant for someone. And so she begins to make Valentines for all her little animal friends. And she gives out these Valentines to everyone.

Another one that is really good for Valentine’s day and if you’re making Valentines, and this one also would be good for Mother’s Day too is I Love You and Cheese Pizza: A Story about the Meaning of Love. It’s in the Pig in Jeans series, there are three books in that series written by Brenda Lee. This book is so cute. I love this book. It’s very silly, but really cute. Little Brian, the pig in jeans, sees a picture his mom has hung on the wall, and it’s a really cute picture that says love on it. And he says, “‘Mom, what does this picture say?’ And she says, L-O-V-E, love.’ He says, ‘Well, what’s love?'” And so she explains what love is. She says, do you know anyone? You love, maybe someone whose name begins with M. And he goes, yes. I love the pizza delivery, man. I think his name is Michael. I forget. And she’s like, is that all? And he’s like, no. And I love cheese pizza. His mom is standing there trying to hint at herself, of course. And he’s not getting the clue. Then he says, well, tell me more about what love is. And she explains that when his dad throws him in the air and plays with him, that that’s showing love and goes through several things that show when people are showing love. Little Brian goes up to his room, and he makes all these Valentines to give to everybody. And he gives one to his brother, one to his sister, one to his dad, one to his grandma and grandpa, and just handed them out all over. And then he has a whole arm load of Valentines. And he comes down the stairs and trips and falls down the stairs with all his Valentines. And his mom comes running to make sure he’s okay and checks him out and says, are you all right and picks him up and dusts him off. You have so many Valentines to give to so many people. And he says, “No, these are for you.” And he has a lot of Valentines for her because she shows she loves him in so many different ways. So it’s cute and funny. At the very end, it ends with him giving a Valentine to the pizza delivery man. And throughout the book, he’s often eating cheese pizza, but I just think it’s so funny and cute. And I think kids will love this book. The others in the series are Pig in Jeans Fights Germs and Pig in Jeans Learns Manners. But this one is, I Love You and Cheese Pizza.

And then another really beautiful book–I just love this one. This one would be great for Valentine’s day talking about love or when a family is getting ready to have a new baby. This would be an excellent book to read with the older siblings. And it’s called Two Hands to Love You. And it begins with talking about how the mom takes care of the baby. “I’ll Bathe you. I’ll wrap you up. I’ll feed you.” You know, all the different things that the mom does to take care of the baby. But then as the baby gets older, suddenly the pronouns change to now include we. And it’s in, we’re getting ready to welcome a new baby. We have two hands to love and it’s to love the new baby and shows ways that they can show love to the new baby. So it’s Two Hands to Love You by Diane Adams and illustrated by Paige Keiser.

Now, Diane Adams has another really cute book it’s called Love Is, and this one’s illustrated by Claire Keane. In this book, a little girl finds a little duck that’s about to get run over by a car. And so she takes the duckling home and is caring for it. And it shows all the things she has to do to take care of this little duckling. It grows up and then she takes it back to the pond because it needs to go back to the pond. And it’s too big to keep at home. She wonders if it will remember her. And then at the end of the book, the duck comes back with its baby ducklings, following it to kind of show her the babies. And she realizes the duck remembers her. So it’s really cute. And it is in rhyming form. And it’s done really well.

A couple of board books that are really cute for our youngest children. One is Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar from the world of Eric Carl. And if you love The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you’ll love this book. It’s called love. I mean, the cover just shows love really big. It uses similes, metaphors, idioms to talk about love. And so where he’s eating through the strawberry is says, “I love you because you are very sweet.” Then where it’s the cake with the cherry on top, “You are the cherry on the top of my cake.” “You make the sun shine brighter. You make my heart flutter.”

Another cute board book is How Do I Love You by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Carolyn Jayne Church. This one specifically goes through different ways that we show love to each other. And it’s a rhyming story starts out. “How do I love you? Let me count the ways. I love you as the sun loves the bright blue days.”

The same illustrator has another book, I Love You Through and Through, which is also a board book. This one’s written by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak. And again, illustrated by Carolyn Jayne Church. This illustrator draws just adorable pictures.

And then one last book I want to share as far as picture books is God’s Great Love for You by Rick Warren and illustrated by Chris Saunders. This picture book starts with creation and talks about how God’s love created the world. And it even created you and created the universe, including you. The illustrations are beautiful. The story is very short and very sweet, but reiterates over and over that God loves us and that God loved us before he even created us. And that his love is always with us and it is perfect. It’s everywhere and it will never end.

One of the books for parents that I wanted to share is called The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. If you’ve read The Five Love Languages book, this is one specifically geared toward parents, but I just appreciate the work that Gary Chapman has done in explaining how we can show love to each other and with our kids to be able to show love in many different ways, but also to understand what each child’s first love language is. We have four kids in each one is different. And one of my children, her first love language is words of affirmation. And you can just see it’s like pouring water on the desert when you say words of affirmation to her, she soaks it in and lights up. It changes her whole ability to do things. I mean, it’s amazing to me.

Now I want to also mention a few really special books. Bob Goff has written several books. Some are devotional books, and a couple are just really great encouraging books. One is Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365 Day Journey. This book is for us, for adults as we’re walking in our Christian faith. And like I said, it’s by Bob Goff. This is an excellent devotional. Well, the first devotional in this book is “Live in Grace, Walk in Love.” And it says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me for, I am gentle and humble in heart. And you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light and that’s from Matthew 11:28-30. He says, I remember learning to ride my first bike, but my favorite bike memories are when I taught my kids without fail. At the beginning, the front tire would wobble back and forth more and more wildly just before one of them bit the dust and they all bit the dust. Sometimes they would try again. Sometimes they would call it quits. Learning to ride a bike at first is completely unnatural. Once it clicks the balance peddling steering, it’s hard to imagine not knowing how to do it. With enough practice you don’t even think about riding a bike anymore. You just do it. Jesus talks about taking up a challenge to live differently. It’s sort of like riding a bike. He wants us to live in grace and walk in love. But at first it is a gangly wobbly wreck. We might even get banged up a bit. Then after a while, you just know how to do it. The Bible describes it as a rhythm, like breathing itself, where we are taking in grace for ourselves and holding out love for others. It is not natural and it takes some practice, but Jesus showed us the way. Maybe one day we’ll look a little more graceful and pull off some cool tricks. Hop a couple of curbs, do a wheelie or a bunny hop, not unlike Peter and John who healed a man in acts three. Jesus wants us to stick with him through the awkward learning parts so we can learn to ride like he does. He wants to take our mind off of falling so we can peddle more fearlessly. Sure. There will be some scratches and scrapes, but we can pick each other up and help each other. Get back on for another go.” And then it ends with a question. “What habits and rhythms do you need to practice to help you naturally experience God’s grace in your life?” January 2nd has “Plans Work or They Don’t. Love Always Works. Go With the Sure Thing.” I love that. “In the verses Galatians 5:14, the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself.” They’re just great devotionals for us as we’re growing in our walk with God.

And then he has another book. This one’s not a devotional. This one’s a book and is called Love Does: Discover a Secret, Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. This is just a wonderful book. I’ve given it away at some of my seminars because I like it so much, but it shows us how to walk through this life being God’s hands and feet, not just spouting off platitudes and saying we love people, but showing it in the very core of our actions and so a really wonderful book. And he has a second book called everybody, always becoming love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people. It’s turns out the first chapters called creepy people. We don’t need to be who we used to be. God sees who we’re becoming and we’re becoming love. And it says, “My friends and I finished what we were doing at the restaurant and took the windowless van back to the airport. We pulled into the rental lot, looking a little windblown and the attendance stared at us with puzzled expression. It looked like this. When we got it, I told him nonchalantly, walking away. I tossed the keys to him. I felt like the guy in the movies, when he throws a match over his shoulder in the car, explodes behind him. Pro tip. If you do throw the match, make sure you don’t turn around and look, when it blows up, it wrecks the vibe. I was disappointed. Everything was stolen, but I figured it would all work out. What I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to get back on an airplane, to fly home with no identification. I got to the front of the security line and the guy with a badge asked for my ticket and ID. I reached in my pockets and turned them inside out. I had nothing. I shrugged my shoulders pathetically and said, man, it all got stolen. My luggage, my wallet, everything. I felt like Jason Bourne.” He has Love Does for Kids. The Everybody Always for Kids is coming out this month, February 16th, it’ll be available for order. You can pre-order it now.

I want to end today with sharing a couple devotionals with you. They’re very short. It’s called Hope for Each Day: 365 Devotions for Kids written by Billy Graham. I want to read to you from first one from January and then one from February. The first one I’m going to share with you is from January 19th in the book, and it’s called “The Tug of God’s Love” “The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God, Romans 8:16. Whenever anyone asks me how I can be so certain who God is and what he is like. I think about this story on a windy day with big puffy clouds, a boy went out to fly his kite. The kite went up and up and up until it was hidden by the clouds. What are you doing? A man asked the boy I’m flying a kite. The boy replied flying a kite, asked the man, how can you be sure you can’t see the kite? No said the boy. I can’t see it, but I can feel it tug. So I know for sure it’s there. God is real. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that he’s not his presence is just as sure as the tug of a young boys, kite and his love is just like the wind that carries the kite high into the sky. You can’t see the wind, but you know, for sure it is there. God is real. His love is real. Find out for yourself by inviting Jesus to come into your life, to forgive your sins. Then you will know by the wonderful, warm tug of your heart, that he is there for sure.” This one is from February 4th, it’s called “Love and Action.” And it says, “He loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10. We use the word love to mean many different kinds of feelings. We say, we love doing gymnastics or eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We love our favorite holidays. Video games and TV shows too. But loving those things is different from loving our grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends. And it is different from God’s love for us, which is the greatest love of all the Bible says, but God demonstrates his own love toward us. And that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. Even before he created the world, God planned to send Jesus. He knew we would need a savior. God shows his love for us with action. Now that is real love.”

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. 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 podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!

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