Episode 72: Helping Our Children Have Hearts of Thankfulness

In this episode we look at great books that help us be thankful even in the hard times. We also have some books about Thanksgiving. 

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

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. Today, we’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving through books, and I want to share some fun books with you that will help your children learn how to have a heart of gratitude. And if your kids are fans of certain books like Elephant and Piggie or Llama Llama, there are some books that deal with thankfulness that I want to share with you from them as well.

So let’s start with the first one. The Thank You Book: An Elephant and Piggie Book. This one is so cute and I love how Mo Willems in his books uses humor, irony, and breaks the fourth wall quite often in his stories. And this one is no exception. So Piggie is talking about how wonderful his life is and how thankful he is. And he tells Elephant, “I’m going to think everybody.” And elephant keeps saying, “You’re going to forget someone.” And he’s like, no, I’ll remember. And so he goes through the book, and elephant is getting more and more upset. And of course, we think it’s because Piggie hasn’t thanked him yet, but that’s not it. What’s going on once Piggie says, “Oh, but Gerald, you are my best friend. You’re the best friend anyone could have.” He says, “No, I’m not talking about me.” There’s a surprise ending that I don’t want to give away, so you’ll have to read the book to find out the surprise ending for you and your children. It’s a really cute book. And I think any kid would get the jokes and enjoy the irony throughout the book.

This one is by Anna Dewdney, Llama Llama Gives Thanks. It is so sweet, and it suggests that children give thanks all year long for what they’re thankful for, not just at Thanksgiving. So I really like that part of it.

Now, some other really special books: One is called Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland and Sonja Lamut. This one is really just a sweet, sweet book about Thanksgiving and what we do at Thanksgiving and how we give thanks for all that we have, especially for family.

Another one is called In November by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner. This one goes through November as a season, as a time of year, as a month. It also deals with Thanksgiving but doesn’t just focus on thankfulness. It focuses on what’s happening. And what I like about this book is it has a quietness to it. If you’ve ever been in the woods in the crispness of winter, that quiet feeling you get, that’s how this book makes you feel. And so I really liked that one. So even though it’s not technically a Thanksgiving book, it is a beautiful book of what the season is like, what that time of year is like. And it does deal with Thanksgiving as well.

And then there’s an alphabet book called T Is for Turkey by Tanya Lee stone and illustrated by Gerald Kelly. And this is a Thanksgiving story about the first Thanksgiving as shown in a children’s play. And it has of course, a letter for each letter in the alphabet, goes through the whole Thanksgiving story, including talking about President Lincoln, the lady who helped start Thanksgiving whose last name is Hale. I can’t think of her first name at the moment, but she was the one who suggested it become a holiday. And he’s the one who officially made Thanksgiving a holiday. So it even talks about that in the book.

We also have one called Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes and illustrated by Doris Barrette. This one is another very sweet book. The illustrations are beautiful, and it goes through the whole Thanksgiving day and what we’re thankful for and the Thanksgiving season, different activities the family might do together during this time of year.

Then there’s one called Thankful by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston. And this one is very pretty and has you go through many, many things we can be thankful for not just Thanksgiving, but just a gratitude attitude and being thankful for all the things that we have in our lives.

And then the last book I want to share with you today is a funny book. It is a Yiddish tale that is called It Could Always Be Worse. And I just love this book by Margot Zemach. She’s the author and illustrator, and this book is so clever and so smart this story, and there’s such wisdom in it. And so the husband lives in this home with this family, and it’s crowded and it’s noisy and everybody’s cranky. And he goes to the rabbi and he says, what do I do? I need a bigger house. I need this. I have no money. What do I do? And so he tells him to bring one of his animals into the house, and the man thinks it’s crazy. Why would I bring an animal into the house? And so then the animal comes into the house. And of course it’s just more crowded, more crazy, everyone’s more cranky. And then he goes back to the rabbi, and the rabbi tells him to do something else. And everything that he tells him to do makes it actually worse inside his house until finally the rabbi says, okay, now take out all these things that he’s added in. And suddenly they seem to have enough room, and they find out they can be content with the situation they have. Very good lesson, very cute book. It would open up some great conversations with your kids about being content and being thankful for all that we have and for the situations we have. So I really love this book, even though it’s technically not a Thanksgiving book, it is definitely one that helps our children to understand what gratitude is. Gratitude doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means that we count our blessings and learn to be content with what God has given us.

Last year, I did an episode on gratitude. I shared a lot of great books, and I’ll put a link in the show notes for that episode, because it has some of my very favorite books about the historical Thanksgiving. They’re real life adventures that children go on in the Plymouth Plantation, and it shows the way they lived. And it has real photographs of the children who are in the living museum, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. And so it’s a really neat opportunity to teach what life was like for the native Americans and what life was like for the Pilgrims when they came to America. And there’s one for a little girl, it’s Sarah Morton’s Day, and one for a little boy and one for a native American boy. And so those are in the show notes for the other episode. Be sure to check those out. They’re out of print. You have to order them used, but they are well worth hunting for.

But even though this time of year, we focus on being thankful, we really–like the one book I mentioned said–we need to be thankful every day. And it is such an important gift to have a heart of gratitude, to have a sense of peace and contentment in one’s life. We quote quite often the scripture, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That verse is actually about contentment, and in whatever situation we find ourselves that we can walk through it because we are content in Christ. Paul is talking about how he’s had lots of money at times, and he’s been poor at other times, but wherever he finds himself, he’s content and he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. In our situations, God gives us strength if we will trust in him and ask him to give us strength, and then we can be thankful for whatever he has given us and for the blessings he’s given us. And so I love that. And I really want so much for my kids to understand the importance of that. It changes everything. It changes the way we look at life. It changes the way we look at relationships, and it will change our attitudes about life if we can have a heart of gratitude and a heart that is content in Christ. So that is one of those gifts that I think is so important for us to teach our children. And so I want to encourage you to think of creative ways to help your children to be thankful. It is not an easy thing to teach if we are not ourselves thankful and content. And so that’s my prayer for us as well, that we would be content thankful, strengthened in Christ and counting our blessings daily.

I have a blog post that I’m going to be posting this month that will have some ideas of how we can help our children to be more thankful and more grateful. And I ask in that blog that you please post your ideas as well, because we need to share our ideas with each other. Maybe one idea won’t work for your family that I share. Maybe they think it’s silly, but maybe you have a great idea that would work for someone else’s family. So please share your ideas in the comments on the blog at TerrieHellardBrown.com. I would love to hear from you, and I do respond to every comment. We can share some great ideas and help each other to find fun ways to help our families be grateful, thankful, content, and to count our blessings every day.

Even in the hard times, we can find things to be thankful for. In fact, there is a book that I highly recommend for the parents that is called Champagne for the Soul, and this little devotional book–it’s a very short devotional book, but it helps us to see the gratitude and the blessing and the joy in even the hardest of situations. It’s an amazing book to help us renew our minds and keep our minds on Christ and to recognize how wonderful the blessings of God are and how wonderful it is to be his child. And for him to walk with us, even through the darkest valleys of life. I highly recommend getting that book. It will change your perspective on life. If you are going through grief and struggles, and this season is even more difficult than usual because of that, this book may help you. It might help you to be encouraged.

Life is not easy. Life is hard, and we need each other to help build each other up and to help carry each other. As we go through these hard times. And grief takes time, and we need to give each other grace and to help encourage each other as we go through grief. I want to encourage you, if you have friends who are going through grief during this season, to maybe give them an extra phone call, see how they’re doing and let them grieve and let them talk. Don’t try to help them feel better. Just be there for them as they’re struggling through this season. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is some of the hardest times for people, especially in the Western world where these are our biggest holidays of the year and our biggest family gatherings. And so if someone has lost someone and is going through grief, it’s a time we can really minister to one another. By ministering to one another, of course, I mean that we encourage each other and care for each other, but not that we try to take away the pain because we can’t do that. We have to let people walk through the pain. And I think that was the hardest thing I learned in going through grief was that you can’t hide from it. You can’t not go through it. You have to walk through it, and it takes time and it takes energy and it is an emotional roller coaster, but you can walk through it and you can come out on the other side of it with a sense of healing and wholeness and hope. Even though we have other times that we may grieve again, it’s not to the same heaviness and pain that it is at the beginning. It will pass. It will get better, even though we never totally get rid of the grief we have, because I always think C. S. Lewis was so wise when he said we weren’t meant to go through this kind of grief because we were created for eternity. It’s sin that brought death into our world. And our sin has caused this consequence of losing people and grieving for them. And so it’s unnatural for us. It’s not something we want or that we’ll ever get used to. It is just a painful thing that we have to walk through because we live in a fallen world. And I know that’s kind of a heavy way to end an episode on gratitude, but it is all part of it. It is in our darkest times that we find our greatest joy. And that just seems so weird, but it is true because in our darkest times, we rely more on God. We find out more of who we are in him and find his strength to carry us through.

For our devotion I want to read from Charles Stanley’s Every Day with Jesus: 365 Devotions for Kids. This is from November 26, and it’s called “Give Thanks Anyway.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 in the NCV says, “Always be joyful…and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.”

“Sometimes being thankful is the last thing you want to do. Troubles, worries, sad times, hurtful people, and just plain bad days can steal your joy and take your thoughts away from God.

“But if you ask God to make you thankful, He will! If you tell Him you really want to praise Him, but it’s just hard right now, then He’ll fill your mind with reminders of all His blessings. He will take you thoughts off your troubles and put them on Him and His many gifts to you.

“Why does God do this? Because God commanded you to praise Him—and He wants to help you obey Him. Even in bad times, God wants you to see the good that comes from following Him (Romans 8:28). Ask God to make you thankful—and then praise Him when He does.

“Lord, it’s hard to be thankful some days. On those days, please remind me of all Your blessings and gifts, amen.”

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions, as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to join my mailing list and get my monthly newsletter and have access to several freebies that I post for those who are on my mailing list, you can sign up at my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. And also remember if you liked this episode to download it so that you have access to it at any time you need it. And I hope most of all, that throughout this season, that you are overwhelmed with the joy of thankfulness and gratitude for what God has given you.

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.

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