Love First books for Advent

If you’re familiar with Love First, you know what we love to use contemporary literature to complement the religious texts in our curriculum. We get a lot of questions about which books we recommend, and we’re happy to pass along what’s worked for us.

There are many reasons why we love to use contemporary literature. First, children are familiar with a lot of the stories we use, which gives us opportunities to dig deeper into the story or the characters. And in many cases, the illustrations are better than your average bible story book. Also, you have a greater variety of characters to choose from, in hopes of getting these stories to resonate with the children in front of you. We think that this is a great way for Love First to come alive in children’s lives today.

If you’re familiar with Love First, you also know that we encourage children to develop a practice of perspective-taking, trying to imagine what it would be like as different characters in each story. Each collection of books we use strives to give children and their teachers multiple opportunities to take a familiar story and think about it differently each time it’s heard.

Here are our top 5 favorites for the Advent season:

The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardy

We love this book so much because it’s a great antidote to the consumer-driven message of Christmas. The little boy in the story spends the Advent season doing the kind of loving acts that would be a gift to Jesus on his birthday. Making – and filling – a sparkle box is a great activity for a classroom, or for a family project. (It also pairs well with our Love First advent calendar activity — every item children do on the calendar can be put into the sparkle box as a gift for Jesus on Christmas morning!)

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

This book is especially great for young children who will appreciate the sing-song rhythm and the illustrations of curious animals. It reads and feels like a board book (so easy enough to grasp for the youngest), but it’s long enough to spark meaningful discussion with children old enough to carry on a conversation about Jesus’ birth.

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

We really like this series of books by Lisa Tawn Bergren because they’re honest conversations between a parent and a child that many of us are already having. It’s helpful to see how we might answer children’s thoughtful questions in age-appropriate, meaningful and loving ways. 

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell

There are so many reasons to love this book: the illustrations, the rhyming, and especially the opportunities to talk about welcoming others. Jesus’ insistence that we be hospitable is appropriate all year long, but especially at Christmas when our spirit of giving can – and should – be directed at those who are different from us but who have God’s love, and so deserve ours too.

And Our All-Time-Favorite-Advent-Book (which you already know if you’re using our curriculum) is…..

The Nativity by Julie Vivas

The watercolor illustrations are simple and sweet, and if you’ve ever had a baby, you might notice that Mary actually looks like she just had a baby! She looks tired, yet at peace, while Joseph cradles their newborn in a blanket. In addition, the text is all scripture based on the King James version, so it’s familiar language that children will continue to recognize as they grow. We use this book for all ages because we think it’s perfect. In fact, we use it like a story board, presenting it week after week so children and teachers can focus on different illustrations and characters (and their perfectly captured facial expressions) each time they pick it up.

On any given evening in Advent, you’ll find Matt or me flipping through this book, whether the kids are sitting with us or not.