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Book List: Spirituality Books for Young Children

December 4, 2008

This post is a counterpart to another list, Books for Introducing Young Children to World Religions. These two lists are particularly dear to me, as I began them when my [then] four-year old daughter began to ask questions about my meditation practice and the meditation classes that I teach. As I sorted through what I wanted to convey to my daughter (and her younger siblings when they are old enough), I realized I had two goals. First, I wanted to introduce her to general spiritual concepts that I value such as compassion, gratitude, contemplation, and mindfulness. Second, I wanted her to be aware of the diversity of world religions, to foster both multicultural understanding and religious tolerance. Each of those goals became the foundation for one of these lists.

Both lists were compiled the same way. I started by soliciting recommendations from all mothers, teachers, child librarians and other child caretakers that I knew, both on- and off-line. Within a few weeks I had well over 100 recommendations, and I read every single one. I read them all to my daughter and considered her reactions to my selection choices as well.

All the books are picture books appropriate for children 3-9 years old. This first list focuses on general spiritual values, while the other one focuses on world religions. I have tried to keep both lists under 10 books, so it is not too overwhelming. Both lists are of course entirely subjective, and if you have more books you would like to recommend, please feel free to add them in the comments section.

The Golden Rule, by Ilene Cooper – “Treat others the way you would like to be treated”, a grandfather explains to his grandson, in this lovely introduction to compassion and empathy. Grandpa goes on to explain how the golden rule is represented in six different religions. When I read this to my daughter, the real-world examples triggered lots of questions, particularly the picture of a sad little girl on her first day in a new school. “What would make her feel better?” asks the Grandpa in the book, and my real-life listener had plenty of ideas – “smile at her”, “give her a toy”, “show her the library”, and more.

Each Breath A Smile, by Sister Susan – Also included in my Meditation for Kids post, this book is based on the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and written by a nun in one of his centers. It introduces children to mindful breathing and awareness, but steers clear of any explicit religious teachings. The text uses simple, repetitive phrases to create a sense of calm, and the pictures are in soothing but cheerful pastel colors. Reading it was a meditation in itself, and both my daughter and I were noticeably more relaxed at the end.

Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee Maclean – This one is on my Meditation for Kids post too, but is geared for slightly older children than the above selection, 4-8 year olds or so. It centers around a young cow/boy who has a very bad day, and gets very angry because of it, thus earning the nickname ‘moody cow.’ His grandfather teaches him a ‘mind-jar meditation’ (instructions included), in which sparkles in a jar of water represent his swirling angry thoughts. As he watches/meditates on the sparkles, they gradually settle down, as does his anger. I like this book because it deals with difficult emotions, and provides a way of talking about anger with kids, and presents meditation as one tool for dealing with this. Meditation is presented in an entirely secular fashion here, no religion involved.

All I See is Part of Me, by Chara Curtis – “All the plants, the animals and trees, Are in your light…and you are these.” Told from the perspective of a boy in conversation with a star, this book highlights the theme of connectivity. The text is general enough to support any religious denomination, but it does have an explicitly spiritual message about valuing your own inner wisdom. Although I loved this book upon first reading it, I thought it might be too abstract for my daughter, but she loved it – the rhyming and bright pictures captured her interest.

Seven Spirals: A Chakra Sutra for Kids, Deena Haiber and Aimee MacDonald – This is a great non-religious introduction to the chakras for anyone interested, although it’s targeted to children. For each of the 7 core chakras (within the system Westerners are most familiar with through yoga- there are actually other systems), there is first a page featuring a mandala-type picture with the color, English, and Sanskrit name of the chakra. Then there is a brief vignette featuring a child – kind of a story, but really more of a ‘scene’ or setting that corresponds to the energies that chakra represents. So for example, for the root chakra, a little girl ‘talks’ to a tree, saying she wishes she had ‘roots’ too, and the tree explains to her how she does. And for the heart chakra, a little boy helps some elderly neighbors, and then they tell him the story of how they first met and fell in love. There is a final reference page that lists the locations of the chakras within this system, and provides an overview of how to meditate on them. The pictures are colorful and fanciful.

God’s Paintbrush, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso – Written by the second woman to be ordained as a rabbi, and the first to become a mother, this book presents a series of scenarios and questions designed to help children explore different aspects of God. From watching clouds, to the changing seasons, to feeling lonely, this book uses experiences young children can readily relate to as springboards for spiritual questions. The vision of God that emerges is anthropomorphic in nature, and this may make it more appropriate for those with Judeo-Christian leanings, but it is most definitely non-denominational, and its exploratory nature left room for a non-affiliated believer like myself to feel comfortable.

What is God?, by Etan Bortizer – This book could almost serve as the mission statement for this blog. Designed to answer a child asking ‘what is God?’, it provides both a poetic and open-ended vision, and introduces the idea of world religions by exploring the different ways each view God. It includes a page on each religion’s holy books, and even touches on the concept of religious intolerance and disagreement. If you have a very orthodox view of God, this book might not be for you, but if you consider yourself more interfaith-oriented, it is perfect. It was a bit wordy for my four-year old, but I think she will grow into it.

A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers, by Eliza Blanchard – Written by a Unitarian Universalist minister, this lovely collection is the perfect way to introduce children to prayer. It includes dozens of child-size blessings, poems and prayers, drawn from all the world’s major religions, and many other cultural traditions. Ranging from mealtime to bedtime, birthdays, holidays and everything in between, you will find a little prayer in here to cover just about anything.

Honorable Mentions:

There were three books by contemporary spiritual teachers/authors that I enjoyed, but they are geared for slightly older children (6-10 or so.) However, you could paraphrase them a bit for younger children, so I thought I would mention them here:

Milton’s Secret, by Eckhart Tolle

Emma and Mommy Talk to God, by Marianne Williamson

The Little Soul and the Sun, by Neale Donald Walsch

Lotus and the Golden Pearl, by Libby Pink

Check out more book lists and reviews on the Books page.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2008 11:09 am

    Nice list. This is something I spend time on Amazon, trawling reviews for spiritual books for children. So that I am prepared when she is of age. So it’s useful to have a blogger I like offer some recommendations.
    I would be interested in your future recommendations on books that don’t mention god as this would be my preference.

  2. Sarah Fisher permalink
    December 5, 2008 2:20 pm

    Mon-

    While you are checking out Amazon you should look at this website: http://www.readhowyouwant.com/pcsWebUI/AuthorDetail.aspx?AuthorId=2212, it has a lot of great books, both spiritual and non-spiritual and they come in audio versions as well!

  3. December 5, 2008 3:09 pm

    LIsa-
    I was so happy to find this wonderful list of recommendations in my mailbox. Thank you for creating it. As a grandmother of a 7-year-old, I know that any of these would probably foster our family’s need for interspiritual understanding, and touch my Anna’s heart! She is a book hound like her grandma.

    It is a challenging task today. especially for someone with a non-affiliated focus, how to best raise their kids and grandkids, withstanding pressure from mainstream culture to do so in a specific faith tradition. I salute the efforts of anyone who can bring our next generation to greater understanding and compassion for people of all faiths. Perhaps we could coerce the Dalai Lama to write a spirituality book for children. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!? By the way, I just read on his website:www.dalailama.com that the results of a Harris Poll determined him to be the most respected leader in the world. Hallelujah!

    Blessings all around,
    JLL

  4. mommymystic permalink*
    December 5, 2008 6:05 pm

    Mon – Thanks for your comment, there may be a few books on the next list (world religions) that you will like. The only two books on this list that use the word ‘God’ are the two with God in the title, but they both offer a broad and open idea of what God is. I also was hoping to find more non-deity spiritual books. For awhile I did not use the word ‘God’ in my own writing or teaching, because (as I think Eckhart Tolle says in his intro to Power of Now) the word is so ‘loaded’ with connotation for most people. Lately however, I have decided I am more interested in helping to redefine and broaden the idea of God, as the concepts behind words change as people use them differently. So I do like these two books in that regard.

  5. mommymystic permalink*
    December 5, 2008 6:07 pm

    Jan – thanks for your comment, and I hope you do check some of these out for your granddaughter. I think most will not offend most religious sensibilities (although you never know…)

  6. December 9, 2008 10:12 am

    Yes, good point. For me, the definition would have to stretch so much that it renders it irrelevant really, lol. I prefer the idea of being spiritual (mindfulness, kindness, connecting to others as well as nature). Being spiritual is more my focus that any particular beliefs. NOT easy to find in cildren’s literature! lol

  7. mommymystic permalink*
    December 9, 2008 5:45 pm

    Got it – yep, not easy to find, unfortunately. From these two lists, Each Breath a Smile, Piggy Meditations (which you already noted), and Thank You For Giraffes might be the best. Zen Shorts too, when your daughter is a bit older (Each Breath a Smile is the youngest oriented on here.) All I See is Part of Me is great from the nature perspective and does not mention God, but it is very metaphysical, so not sure about that one.

  8. April 29, 2009 5:36 am

    Hi – how wonderful that you’ve created this list. We will add it to our page of ‘Other books’ to assist our customers to find more wonderful spiritual titles for children.

    We get many parents purchasing our titles from as far away from us (we are in Australia) as Dubai, Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, US and UK etc. Not just a few sales but a lot.

    We were told that there isn’t a need for these genre of books. Well we can prove otherwise. Our sales are increasing each month and as mentioned we sell to all corners of the world. The awakening of consciousness for these books for children is happening.
    Once again – thanks for being an advocate of children’s spiritual books and helping parents to locate them.
    Blessings
    Skye
    Pick-a-WooWoo Publishers (Publishers of Divine Children’s Spiritual Books)

  9. mommymystic permalink*
    April 29, 2009 4:42 pm

    Skye, thanks for your comment, and I will check out your offerings. I was surprised at what a hard time I had finding books like this, as it seems like so many parents I know are looking for non-denominational spiritual material for their kids. So I hope these do increase.

  10. May 13, 2011 12:37 pm

    I am searching for a good book for my children, 3 & 5, that addresses the various beliefs of what happens after death. We have recently tragically lost a close family friend. Is there anything you can recommend? Jo

  11. May 13, 2011 5:12 pm

    Hi Jo, I’m sorry about your friend. I have not personally read a book that specifically addresses lots of different beliefs re: death, but I know that Etan Boritzer, author of What is God on this list also has a book called What is Death. Based on What is God it might be a little sophisticated for 3-5 years old, but I would look at the Amazon reviews and preview to see – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0963759752/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mommmyst-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=0963759752 . The Little Soul and the Sun, by Neale Donald Walsch (author of Conversations with God) doesn’t explicitly deal with death, but does tell a lovely story of two souls discussing how they will teach other lessons in life once they are born, so if that matches your perspective you may want to try it. Another one I have used with my children that is not necessarily spiritually themed but is a lovely book about death is I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm, about the death of a family dog. Good luck finding something and may your friend rest in peace…Lisa

  12. March 12, 2012 11:35 am

    Fantastic list. I’m a UU and godfather to my nephew. I take that responsibility seriously so I’ve been fumbling through Amazon with queries like “world religions” to no avail. This list is exactly what I’ve been looking for and now, instead of desperately looking for just one book, I might end up giving him three. Cheers!

  13. March 13, 2012 3:55 am

    Thanks Chris, I’m glad this was useful to you. I have been meaning to update it as I think some good books have come out since I wrote this. If you find any you recommend, please send them along! – Lisa

  14. Anonymous permalink
    July 24, 2012 6:42 am

    Hi…here is one to check out…a spritual book for children.

    DO YOU WONDER WHO GOD IS? Written and Illustrated by Laura N. Bourree
    The first step to learning about God can be fun and simple. This inspirational book offers an introduction to God for children around the world. Whatever your religion and beliefs, this gentle guide speaks a universal language of love. Its subtle symbolism and hints of spirituality from around the globe reflect the perfection of each individual soul — showing readers and listeners of all ages their own truth and wisdom. Parents, grandparents, and teachers will enjoy the rewards of inspiring young minds to know the many dimensions of God. With colorful, fun-filled illustrations and a special place inside for the child’s photograph, Do you wonder who GOD is? will remain a treasured keepsake for years to come.

    Available on Amazon.com

  15. December 19, 2012 3:44 pm

    “God & You” by Raymond Wolf

    When we gaze upon a starry night we are struck by the immensity and richness of what we behold. Such vastness and splendor stirs the imagination to asking, How did this come to be? Is there a God or gods? Who am I? And if there is a God, what is our relationship?

    These thoughts and feelings are common to people of all religions and to the very quest of mankind. Today, more and more people are looking for spiritual answers that honor our individuality and that do not divide and separate us from our collective humanity.

    God & You is a special story; one rarely told in words so accessible. It is a story for our hearts, and for knowing who we are.

    In the book you discover that, yes, there is a Creator, and this Creator had a dilemma. No matter how unimaginable God is, or what God could do… God was alone. God’s gift to all of us was to make Life possible… you are like a sunbeam shining forth from an infinite sun discovering the potential and joy of our journey.

    The gift of a child’s innocence and creativity magically illustrate the story… a story for children and adults alike. God & You has a spiritual message that can be embraced by all.

    Available on Amazon

  16. February 10, 2013 6:44 pm

    My friend and I just published a children’s book called ‘Shekhina’ on the Jewish Feminine Divine. It’s great for Jewish families but it speaks about the healing qualities of the Feminine Divine in general so is something most kids and parents can appreciate. Here’s the amazon link:

    Thanks!

  17. Devora permalink
    July 31, 2013 12:38 pm

    i found the The King of Love in amazon nice for my kids and talkes about love and opening the heart.

  18. July 31, 2013 12:44 pm

    i’m proud to present my new book – The King of Love

  19. Jana Simonova permalink
    May 17, 2014 12:41 pm

    I recommend, Karma Kyle the Crocodile, an illustrated childrens books that introduces meditation and reinforces positve emotions in young childre, you an find it on amazon.com

  20. June 2, 2014 3:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing!

  21. Marcelle Hanemann permalink
    June 11, 2014 7:16 pm

    So happy to find this list. Thank you! I wrote a few stories for my new granddaughter last Christmas. Now, after reading The Power of Now, the stories are coming through! I want to share the message of presence and being with very young children who are in the early stages of development. Currently I have short, picture book type stories. Can you guide me to a potential publisher of books of that type with such subject matter? Meanwhile, I have started going through this list… :-) Thanks

  22. June 14, 2014 7:00 pm

    Marcelle, I think your best bet is looking at who publishes books in the same genre that you like. Unfortunately I don’t know them offhand myself. Good luck!

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