Episode 85: Crystal Bowman Interview and Building the Habit of Reading God’s Word

In this episode we have a great interview with Crystal Bowman, author of over 100 children’s books. We discuss the importance of starting Bible reading with preschoolers and creating bedtimes that are peaceful and restful. 

Our Guest: Crystal Bowman

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Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and families. She is the creator and co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, M is for Manger, and I Love You to the Stars—When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers. She is also a conference speaker, freelance editor, and contributor to several blogs. More than 3 million copies of her books have sold internationally, and her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. She and her husband enjoy spending time with their grown children and eight huggable grandkids. www.crystalbowman.com

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Terrie:

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 I’m very excited to tell you that we have a special guest. Crystal Bowman, who is an author, is our guest today, and she has written over 100 books for children.

Crystal:

I’m excited to be here. Thank you so much.

Terrie:

Recently on my podcast, I actually featured one of your books. The One Year Devotional for Preschoolers. I was doing an episode on devotionals, and so we talked about that one, and I’m so excited to get to talk the author of that book. Now you’ve written a lot of devotionals. Can you tell us a little bit.

Crystal:

That book has been out the longest, and it’s still going strong. We’re going on almost 20 years. That was my first children’s devotional, but I do a lot of children’s devotionals and Bible stories. My daughter and I–I picked up my daughter as a co-author several years ago, and that’s been so fun, and she’s a mother of two children. She’s a beautiful writer. And so together we launched Our Daily Bread for Kids a few years ago. So we have Our Daily Bread for Kids: 365 Meaningful Moments with God. We have Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers, and then we have little board books, Our Daily Bread for Little Hearts. We’re working on a second, Our Daily Bread for Kids. I’ve also done Devotions for Beginning Readers. So that’s another devotional book that I’ve done.

Terrie:

You’ve written a lot for preschoolers, and we don’t usually, when we’re thinking of devotionals, automatically think we need to read devotionals with preschoolers. Why do you think it’s important to start reading devotionals at such an early age?

Crystal:

Well, first of all, I think it develops the discipline of daily devotions. You know, reading, let’s read, you know, every day, beginning the day, or maybe at mealtime or at bedtime, it begins that routine-discipline-good habit. I would like to say, getting a slice of God’s word every day. And I think that with devotions, it’s usually based on a scripture verse. So they’re a little bit different than a Bible story book, even though they might refer to a Bible story, but it’s just a slice of scripture. And then it’s that daily application. And of course, writing for preschoolers, it has to be kid-friendly and age-appropriate. We have to be careful to make sure that the little message that we’re giving them is something that they understand. God is always with you and God watches over you and God wants us to be kind to others. And so making it age-appropriate and kid-friendly, I think is the toughest challenge when you’re writing for that age group. But preschool is my thing. I was a preschool teacher before having children. It’s where I found a good fit for my writing and a lot of devotions too. They’ll have a little prayer. One time I had a mother email me and say, my daughter’s learning to pray through your books. So keeping it short and simple. They have very short attention spans, but also engaging. I know Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers–We often ask a question. We might refer to the illustration, “How many birds are in the tree?” if it was something about God protecting the birds. And so today’s preschoolers–everything they play with moves or makes noise. And, you know, toys are very interactive. And so I have been trying to bring that interaction and engagement into my writing. You have to draw children in to hold their attention. And so we do that through fun questions.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s cool. That’s awesome. One of your books that I think is very touching is I Love You to the Stars. Can you tell us about that one?

Crystal:

Yes. That book. Oh, that was a heart tugger writing it. I actually had someone contact me. He was a professor, who’s written many academic books, but he doesn’t write for children. And he lost his wife. She was a brilliant woman, and she developed an aggressive form of dementia when she was only in her fifties, and she lost her ability to speak. And he wrote about it in his memoir. He wrote an adult version of the journey. It was about a 10- year journey with his wife before she passed. And somebody said to him, you need to write something for children. You know, parents and grandparents need a resource. We need to help our children understand, you know, this vicious disease of Alzheimer’s and dementia because everybody knows somebody who has it. And yet there are very few resources out there for children. So we did some brainstorming, and he shared, you know, the story of his wife. And then that was the inspiration. The book itself isn’t actually his wife’s journey, but it was the inspiration for it. And we used a lot of ideas from it. And it’s about a little boy whose grandmother comes to live with him and his mother. There might be a father. We just didn’t write that into the story. We tried to make it a little more broad to reach a little bit broader audience. So the story is basically on the boy and his grandmother. Shortly after she moves in with him, she starts doing some unusual things. She puts things in the wrong places, and she gets forgetful, and some of her words don’t come out right. Then the boy learns that she has dementia, and she actually has to go live, you know, in another place when the boy and his mother can no longer care for her, but it’s very sweet, very touching. I think one of the most important lines in there is when the mother says to the little boy, “Grandma has always taken care of us. Now it’s our turn to take care of her.” And we do mention God. So obviously it’s for the Christian market, but it’s also acceptable in the secular market. And then we have some questions at the end, just a few. “Do you know someone who’s getting forgetful?” And “How do you know that person still loves you?” And “How can you pray for that person?” And so it’s called, I Love You to the Stars: When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers. It’s published by Kregel. And the one thing that everybody is going crazy about in the book is the dog. There’s a dog named Sunny, and he’s actually real. He is a true character. The professor who asked me to write the book, he said, we’ve got to get Sunny in the book. And the reason why he was so insistent on having Sunny in the book is that as his wife’s dementia progressed, she lost her ability to speak. Her relationship with people was pretty much gone, but her relationship with Sunny never changed. So, he really wanted the real Sunny in the book. So he took a picture of Sunny and sent it to the illustrator, and the illustrator nailed it. He just did a beautiful job. It’s just this golden, fluffy terrier. It adds warmth to the book, you know, because it’s for children, we have the Sunny adds a little warmth and humor to the book. And then we end with hope. You know, not every story has a happy ending, but it has to end with hope. It does end with the boy and his mother visiting grandmother in her new home, and they smile and they sing and Sunny is there. It doesn’t have this ending where she’s all better, but it has an ending of hope in just accepting the changes and the challenges. So what people don’t know is authors don’t choose their illustrators. It’s done through the publisher, and the publisher could not have found a better illustrator for this book. I mean, she just absolutely poured everything into these illustrations.

Terrie:

That’s great. You’ve written so many books. I wasn’t sure where to go next. So, what would you like to discuss of all the different books you have?

Crystal:

Well, I would also like to discuss one that doesn’t really fit in my collection of children’s books. I’ve written more than a hundred children’s books, you know, picture books, Bible story books, devotional books. But a few years ago, I wrote a book with my daughter-in-law, who was experiencing a very dark and lonely journey of infertility. And she finally became pregnant. They actually ended up with three children to their surprise, and she said, you know, during those years she said she was so lonely and it was such a sad time. And she looked for books on infertility, but so often they’re just one woman’s story. And she said, “How can we do something that reaches more women? And that offers more of a devotional kind of spin to it?” And so I thought about it for a while, and I said, “Well, you’re right. One woman’s story isn’t going to reach that many women” because infertility encompasses so much more than just not being able to conceive. It’s, you know, miscarriage and it’s very broad. We collected 30 stories from 30 different women ages, 30 to 65. It encompasses everything that infertility addresses. We actually have two stories from women who ended up not having children and showing how they have peace and fulfillment in their life, because not everyone who reads this book is going to end up with a child. Many of them will, but some might not. It includes foster care, adoption, medical procedures. And it’s not a medical book. Some of them share how they did opt for medical intervention, but we don’t explain medical intervention or anything like that. But it’s Mothers in Waiting: Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms. They’re 30 different stories, but what ties them together is every story follows an outline: My story, my struggle, my strength, and my scripture. It ends with them sharing a Bible verse or maybe a few verses that they clung to while they were going through this infertility journey. This is an absolutely beautiful book, so needed because you know, infertility is not something you talk about openly or freely or put on Facebook or discuss with your girlfriends at your reunion. That is a book that was obviously very different from the kind of books that I write, but so needed. We’ve had tremendous feedback on it. And for those who need a book like that, they could not be more grateful. That was a special book.

Crystal:

But one of my very newest books is a very sweet board book. Board books–some people don’t really understand what that means, but it’s those books with those hard, with the cardboard pages, you know, the pages are the same material as the cover and therefore little ones who chew on them and spill their Cheerios. And they’re fairly indestructible, but this one is called My Arms Will Hold You Tight. It’s another one I wrote with my daughter. It’s one of those emotive books that, you know, the mother weeps as she reads it, but it’s just so sweet. It’s “My arms are for hugging and holding you tight, all through the day from morning till night, I’ll hold you as sun beams shine down from the sky. We twirl round and round and pretend we can fly.” And so every spread is just playful interaction. They’re mother and baby animals. We have llamas and elephants and seals and kangaroos. And the one that really surprised me was there’s a mother bat and her baby bat, and I’m not a huge fan of bats, but I’ll tell you that illustrator made them so cute, I’m kind of changing my mind now toward bats. She has him wrapped in a purple blanket hanging upside down. it’s a really fun, fun, sweet book. We’ve gotten phenomenal reviews, and we’ve got a lot of distribution companies that have picked it up. So My Arms Will Hold You Tight. That is my latest one. That’s with Tyndale and coauthored with my daughter.

Terrie:

That’s awesome. Okay. I always ask everyone what picture book or board book meant the most to you, either as a child or that you read to your children?

Crystal:

Well, my favorite one growing up was The Poky Little Puppy. I love puppies, you know, of course, as a child, I didn’t know I was going to be a writer, but I do a lot of my picture books and board books–All of my board books are in rhythm and rhyme. And so I’ve always had that draw to rhythm and rhyme and repetition, and The Poky Little Puppy is not written in rhythm and rhyme, but I always loved that. Well, it actually has a rhythm to it and that repetition, “And down they went to see, Rolie Polie Pall Mall.” I loved the story. I loved the illustrations. I loved the poky little puppy, the little brown and white puppy. And the lesson in the story was so cute. There was just everything about that book. I loved it. And then my daughter,–I have two boys and a girl and my boys liked it too, but my daughter had that same attachment to it that I did. So it was really cute to see that–how she just gravitated toward that too.

Crystal:

Of course, my mother at night would read. She had a Bible story book, and I’m sure it’s out of print because that was a long, long time ago, and I don’t even know the name of it, but it was a hard cover, and it was a Bible story book, but it was a little bit of a devotional book too. She would read a story every night from that book. And I just remember being so comforted by that. I think it’s so important to put children to bed with comfort. All these wonderful resources that we have in books, put children to bed with thoughts of love, God’s love, and God watches over you. When we put children to bed with comforting thoughts, it gives them peace. It gives them security, and it might even help them sleep better.

Terrie:

Yeah, you know that’s true. And that’s so important for them to do well the next day is to have that good night of rest. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience today? Is there any way we can support you in the ministry God has given you?

Crystal:

I am so honored that God has called me to this ministry. When something I’ve written, if, in any way, it helps a parent teach their child more about God–if it helps a child learn more about God, that is the greatest, greatest reward that any writer could ever have. But practically speaking, if you read a book to your children that you love or any kind of a book, what really helps authors are those reviews. The brick and mortar stores are closing. It’s a whole new marketing now for books. Authors don’t have the support of the marketers that go to bookstores anymore because there aren’t any–I shouldn’t say there aren’t any–but there are very few, and I’m not just asking this for myself. It’s for all authors. If you read a book that you love, and you want to recommend it, the best thing you can do to support that author and that author’s ministry is by writing a review–by going to Amazon, Christianbook.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you want to go. And even maybe, you know, post about it on Facebook, or word of mouth. I mean, that goes way back for decades. Word of mouth, whether it’s books or any kind of merchandise, word of mouth is always the best form of advertisement.

Terrie:

I also think books like yours are just wonderful gifts to give to new moms.

Crystal:

Yes. In fact, that’s how board books, over the last decade, have skyrocketed in their sales. And the reason for that is somebody, and I wish I knew who it was because I would like to thank that person, somebody started a trend to bring a board book to a baby shower. “Help us start the baby’s library, bring a board book.” And so that has been a trend for quite some time and seriously, that has spiked sales for board books. And then also what I always tell people too, is buy a book for the mother. Don’t just get a book for the child; get one for the mother. There are so many wonderful devotional books out there for mothers.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s a great idea. Thank you so much for being my guest today. It has been so much fun talking to you. If you would like to connect with Crystal, you can reach her through her website at crystalbowman.com. And if you’d like to connect with me, you can connect with me at terriehellardbrown.com. 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.

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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