10 Living Books About Church History

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in October 2016.


We sit at the table so long that my tea grows cold. With my left hand I sprinkle Josie’s tray with smashed popcorn, one salty shard at a time; with my right hand I hold a book open, one of the stack piled in front of me. The older girls shell pistachios or poke each other or stare dreamily into middle distance as I read.

We call this time “elevensies”—we eat like hobbits while it happens—and it is a part of our home school routine. By the time we sit down, everyone who is of age has practiced piano; everyone has bumped fists with math and Latin. That stack of books at my seat holds everything from a biography of Tchaikovsky to a picture book about constellations to a systematic theology for kids.

But the core of our reading has two main threads: Scripture and history. I want my daughters to understand their context, to know that the world was an interesting place before they were born and that they have a particular role to play in this part of it. I want them to be able to trace the thread of God’s redemption through Scripture and to recognize where he is still working in the world. Sitting down at the table each morning is an act of trust in the Lord who knows what my daughters will question, what will touch their memories and dissolve, and what they will retain.

10 Living Books About Church History | Little Book, Big Story

The aspect of history I find most fascinating is the history of the church. I have compiled for you a list of my favorite church history books here. They’re written for children, but if you find that they just whet your appetite, never fear! I’ve also included some recommendations for you.

The Church History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols

The Church History ABCs | Little Book, Big Story

What better way to learn the alphabet than by using key figures of church history to illustrate each letter? No, I’m kidding. This isn’t an alphabet primer, but a biography sampler: A is for Augustine, Z for Ulrich Zwingli. This is, and probably always will be, my favorite picture book about church history. (Read the full review.)

The History Lives Series, by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

History Lives Series, by Brandon and Mindy Withrow | Little Book, Big Story

This series offers a great introduction to church history for kids or adults (confession: my husband and I both read these. For ourselves, not for the kids). Spread over five volumes, History Lives tells the story of the church from the first century to today, by introducing a new key figure each chapter and telling a slightly fictionalized story about some moment in their life. I use these in conjunction with our history curriculum and my daughter loves them. They’re a bit like Story of the World, but about church history rather than world history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Church History in Plain Languageby Bruce Shelley

Lily, The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley

Lily: The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story

This simple, lovely biography of missionary Lilias Trotter is a keeper: a great fly-over view of a woman who loved and served God, no matter what the cost. And while many missionaries are wonderful to read about but hard to relate to, Lilias’s story resonates with me. Not many of us here are called to be martyrs, but we’re all called to lay down our lives and desires to serve the Lord whole-heartedly. Lilias Trotter, who set aside an opportunity to become “the greatest artist of her generation” in order to place her gifts in the service of the Lord,  is a beautiful example for child and parent alike. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham

Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham | Little Book, Big Story

This collection introduces readers to a handful of saints from the early days of the church. Joyce Denhem’s beautiful language pairs nicely with the illustrations, which suggest stained glass windows, but the most beautiful part of the stories is the way they glorify not the saints themselves but the God they served. (Read the full review.)

The Tinker’s Daughter, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Lawton’s exploration of the life of Mary Bunyan, John’s daughter, is lovely. This is historical fiction at its best, and it’s one of a series of books about young Christian girls throughout history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Pilgrim’s Progressby John Bunyan

MOSESby Carole Boston Weatherford

Moses, by Carole Weatherford | Little Book, Big Story

Through an imagined conversation between Harriet Tubman and the Lord, Carole Boston Weatherford paints a portrait of a woman who relied upon the Lord for every step of that first journey from slavery to freedom. The illustrations are moving, depicting Tubman’s travel in a way that captures both the beauty and the hardship of that first flight. Knowing how difficult that first trip was makes the knowledge that she went back (many times) to rescue others from bondage even more amazing.

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

This series is like a sampler platter of Christian biographies. There’s a set of biographies about men, and a set about women, with five volumes apiece. I’d be willing to bet that your favorite historical figure is in here somewhere. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, by Noel Piper

MARTIN LUTHERby Paul L. Maier

Martin Luther, by Paul L. Maier | Little Book, Big Story

This is a powerful, detailed biography of Martin Luther. It is a picture book (and a beautifully illustrated one), but the text is weighty and rich: more suited for independent reading than for reading aloud.  Maier writes about not just who Luther was, but about why his work still matters today.

For Grown-Ups

Luther on the Christian Life, by Carl R. Trueman

What is the Church?, by Mandy Groce and Bill Bell

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

Through a sweet rhyme and simple illustrations, the authors explain not just what the church is, but who. This book is great for young readers, but it’s also a nice, succinct look at the church itself for older kids and even adults. (Read the full review.)

Saint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda

Saint Valentine | Little Book, Big Story

This beautifully illustrated, moving story about Saint Valentine is my favorite Valentine’s Day read. Yes, we eat chocolate hearts while we read it, but Valentine’s story reminds us why we give each other notes and gifts on the holiday while painting a picture of sacrificial love given at a great cost. (Read the full review.)


Which books about church history would you add to the list?

The Anne of Green Gables Series | L.M. Montgomery

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared way back in February 2014, in the early days of this blog. But it is about one of my favorite series in all of literature, so it’s worth sharing again. (Also, these books are perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree. Just in case you were looking for books perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree . . . )


L.M. Montgomery’s books make me want to befriend some patch of land and explore it thoroughly until I know and have named every tree, every brook, every starry-eyed flower in its thickets. I want to wear clothes made from fabric with names that sound edible—chiffon, taffeta, voile—in colors like “dove gray,” “dusky rose” and “pale green.”

Oh, to eat preserves from quilted jelly jars and don hats festooned with silk flowers and curling ostrich feathers! (I also want to clean, because I harbor a strong suspicion that Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel Lynde would not approve of my standards of housekeeping.)

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Montgomery’s writing transports me so completely to the Prince Edward Island of yesteryear that it is with a jolt that I come to at the close of the chapter to find myself camped out on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest and a mean crick in my neck (a scene no less lovely, by the way—just slightly less romantic).

You have read Anne of Green Gables, of course. I had—twice—and had also acted in the play (some of you may recall that I married Gilbert Blythe), so I was more than familiar with Anne’s story. But in these early days of new motherhood, I decided to read on in the series and, in doing so, discovered a story of rare beauty.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Sometimes, when it is windy, I need a small assistant

Anne is an endlessly endearing, perfectly imperfect heroine, settled into a story of lush scenery and unforgettable characters. To walk with a character through childhood and into adulthood, to watch her friendships and marriage grow and change, is a delight. Montgomery’s ability to present Anne in the various stages of life without slackening the pace or vibrancy of the story, allowing the reader to watch Anne grow in wisdom as she becomes a mother, confronts loss and watches her own children mature without slackening, shows just how masterful an author she is.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

There is something singular about seeing a life spun out in story like that. I can’t help but hope that, in heaven, we’ll see our own lives in a similar way: we’ll step back from it a bit so we can see God’s delicate foreshadowing in our own stories and, knowing the end of things, we’ll see, in those moments when life seemed “a vale of tears,” the first glint of the glorious light up ahead.


Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery (1908)

John Brown | John Hendrix

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in 2016. But it’s an excellent book, worth sharing twice. I hope you enjoy it!


I knew two things about this book when I grabbed it off the library shelf:

  1. John Brown was a controversial guy whose legacy had something to do with a militia, maybe.
  2. No such controversy surrounds John Hendrix, whose book Miracle Man is one of my favorites, and whose hand-lettered “Hendrix” on this book’s spine compelled me to tuck it in my book bag.

I learned a lot more about both Johns when I got home. John Brown was controversial—I was right about that. As a white abolitionist living when the tide was turning, yet hadn’t fully turned, against slavery, John Brown took up arms and fought to bring slavery to an end. He loved the Lord and saw violence as a way to bring a great grief to an end. His raid on a federal armory in the town of Harper’s Ferry was distastrous and led to his capture and execution.

He is not an obvious hero.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

But John Hendrix treats his story well, neither glorifying Brown’s call to violence, nor underplaying Brown’s passion and love for those enslaved. Here was a man who saw injustice and said not, “Somebody should do something about that,” but “Something must be done”—and then did something about it.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

I try to keep my daughters’ shelves stocked with stories of heroes—people who trusted the Lord through difficult circumstances, yes, but also figures from history whose stories are worth telling and retelling. John Brown fits almost into both of those categories, but his story is not a clear success and that is, I think, one of its merits. We have to think about this story: Was he right to wage an actual war against slavery? Did he, in the end, accomplish what he set out to do? How was he changed by the events at Harper’s Ferry?

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

There is no setting this book down and thinking, Well, that was nice. John Hendrix’s words as well as his illustrations push the reader into deeper study, and his author’s note at the end of the book gives an interesting glimpse into what drew him to write about John Brown:

John was a devout believer in Christianity. He used the Bible’s words—that men are loved and valuable to God—as a holy plumb line. When he held this truth up against the crooked world, he knew things should be different. I was astonished to read about John’s belief that black people should not just be free but equal, which was an idea far outside mainstream abolitionism in the antebellum United States. His passion for freedom was undisputed. Frederick Douglass said of John Brown: ‘His zeal in the cause of my race was greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.’

Those are powerful words about a man who, in the end, did just that: he loved and laid down his life for his neighbors.


John Brown: His Fight For Freedom
John Hendrix (2009)

“To My Church on the Day It Dissolves” | Deeply Rooted

Last fall, our church of thirteen years dissolved. I wrote briefly (very briefly) about it here, but that acknowledgement only hints at how acutely I felt that dissolution.

About a month passed between the first twinge and our final service, and that month came during our remodel, when we were already displaced and presuming upon the hospitality of friends and family. We thought that move would be the year’s Big Event, but it was only the backdrop against which this much bigger displacement occurred—the breaking of our church fellowship.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

In her book Keeping Place, Jen Pollock Michel writes, “Surely one evidence of the world’s fallenness from grace is its failure to provide stability. To lose our places is to lose our place.”

We lost our place. And that loss was a lot to process.

So one night, in the thick of things, I started writing. I had no intention of writing an article but wanted both to tidy my own mind and to make a gift for our weary church body—something that might help us lift our eyes above the horizon line of our church’s closure and to see God’s glory written in the heavens overhead.

This is a big thing, I wanted to say. But it isn’t an ultimate thing. God’s faithfulness doesn’t end here.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

That thought eventually became a song that I wrote and sang at our closing party. But those ideas continued to simmer, and I kept lifting the lid and adding words to the pot. The soup gradually took on flavor, enough so that when I learned that the next issue of Deeply Rooted centered on the topic of the Church, I understood that I was, in fact, working on both an open letter to our church and a publishable essay.

That is one of the reasons I’m telling you this now. That article—”To My Church on the Day it Dissolves”—appeared both in Deeply Rooted’s newest issue (you can purchase a copy here) and on the Deeply Rooted blog (you can read the full article here).

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

But I also want to write about it because I have a little distance from the dissolution and I want to share that, too. We thought we had lost our place; we felt a wrenching, a breaking, an undoing, and we are still, in some ways, recovering from that.

Yet God’s kindness to us began long before this fall—or the Fall. He ordained for our good not that one church, now deceased, but The Church, a living body with members who carry the gospel to the world’s cities, villages, and camps; who translate the Bible so that others may know God’s Word in their own language; and who welcomed us in during those tender first months at our new church.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

We have heard people express a desire to rest from church, but what we needed in the months after the final service was to rest in the church. To lose our old church one Sunday and the next Sunday step into the foyer of a new one and feel a continuity between the services, a familiarity in the love and generosity of the people there—the Church has never seemed so radiant to me as it does now, and I have never felt so privileged to be a part of it.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

The New City Catechism answers its first question—”What is our only hope in life and death?”—with what has become a refrain for me in the past six months: “That we are not our own but belong body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

We are not our own but belong to Him. The Church is His; our church was His. We did not lose our place at all, for we are His, and there is no greater comfort in this world than to belong to Him. We are still learning the habits of our new church, but at the heart of it is the same command we strove to follow at our old one: love the Lord and love one another. He has given us new people to love, but our God remains wonderfully unchanged.


Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

“Weaknesses,” The Valley of Vision

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

If you’ve read this far—thank you. If you want to read further, consider this Part II of the story. The Deeply Rooted article is Part I, and you can read it here.

If you want to read further still (and I highly recommend that you do), you can read Deeply Rooted’s full issue on the Church. Of all the issues we’ve published in the last five years, this one is my favorite, because it looks at the Church from several perspectives and elicits a wonder and awe that I find thrilling. God’s plan for His people! It’s so stunning!

An Incomplete List of Bibles for Kids (Sorted By Age)

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in November of 2016. But here it is, dusted off and ready for revisiting! May your park picnics be lovely, and may you find a new favorite Bible to share with your kids this summer.


Finding beautiful, theologically sound Bibles for kids is, to me, like finding volunteer sunflowers in a flowerbed given over to weeds: you know you’ll find flowers in that bed, of course, but somehow you don’t expect them to be so flashy and radiant.

So many children’s Bibles mean well, but by chopping Scripture into disjointed stories or by tacking a moral onto each one that points away from the Lord and toward the child, these Bibles dilute the beauty of Scripture and become like weeds. They may be the pretty kind of weed that you wish you could let grow, but you know you’ll regret indulging them if they sow seeds of self-righteousness or despair in a child. So, weeds.

But there are so many Bibles out there for children that are beautiful and complex, that stand well above the weedy undergrowth in the children’s section at the Christian bookstore. And in the three-and-a-half years since I started this blog, I have found quite a few of them—so many, in fact, that I decided to do something only people who love checklists do: I made a list for you. Of all of them. Organized by age.

An Incomplete List of Bibles for Kids (Sorted by Age) | Little Book, Big Story

This list is not comprehensive. There are a lot of wonderful Bibles out there for children, but I haven’t seen all of them in person or read them through with my kids, so I’m sticking with the ones our family knows and loves. And because our family is full of children 11 and under, my list is woefully short on anything targeted at children over age 11. Sorry about that.

But these are our favorite Bibles for kids:

Story Bibles for Readers 5 & Under

Read-Aloud Bible SToriesby Ella K. Lindvall

lindvall-ella-read-aloud-bible-stories-3

These tiny re-tellings of Bible stories pack a lot of truth into a few short sentences. Each volume contains five or six stories, but they’re not told in chronological order. In fact, we own the first four, and with the exception of a few excursions into the Old Testament, they’re all mostly about Jesus. But these are great for beginning readers as well as toddlers. (They’re especially great for beginning readers who like reading to toddlers.) (Read the full review.)

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

If you don’t own this book, forget the rest of the post—no matter how old your children are. Buy this one. Even if you don’t have kids, buy this one. The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the stories of Scripture in such a way that “Every Story Whispers His Name,” and reminds us again and again of who Jesus is and why he matters. (Read the full review.)

The Big Picture Story Bibleby David Helm

The Big Picture Story Bible, by David Helm | Little Book, Big Story

David Helm walks through Scripture one story at a time, always keeping the big picture of Scripture in mind. Each story has its place in the greater story of Scripture, and the large format, short readings, and colorful illustrations make this a great Bible for toddlers. But the truth in it makes it a great fit for everyone else, too. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

Kevin DeYoung’s book is a flyover picture of the big story in Scripture: in ten short chapters he moves from Creation to Revelation, looking at Jesus through a new lens in each story. Also worth noting: I love Don Clark’s illustrations in this book. (Read the full review.)

Story Bibles for Children 5-8

The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski

The Gospel Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

The big people and the little people in our home love this Bible. Machowski doesn’t shy away from the less popular corners of Scripture, but includes over 150 stories in The Gospel Story Bible. They’re well-told, pretty short, and finish with discussion questions. These readings are compact, but they go deep quickly. (Read the full review.)

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story

Tomie DePaola selected stories from the Bible, illustrated them, and arranged them in a way that reads like a story Bible but features the full NIV text for each story. (Read the full review.)

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

Because, honestly, this book is amazing at any age. (Read the full review.)

Full Text Bibles for Children 5-8

ESV Seek and Find Bible

ESV Seek and Find Bible | Little Book, Big Story

This full-length Bible contains a neat coding system that builds beginning Bible study skills by teaching kids to look for context, to cross-reference verses, and to ask interesting questions about the text. It also has all manner of interesting maps and background information about the people and places in Scripture. (Read the full review.)

The Big Picture Bible

ESV Big Picture Bible | Little Book, Big Story

This Bible contains the full text of Scripture, as well as the familiar illustrations from The Big Picture Story Bible. We just bought it for our six-year-old, and it makes a nice transitional step from story Bible to full-length Bible. (Read the full review.)

ESV Children’s Bible

The ESV Children’s Bible is classic and simple. Full-text, some illustrations, no frills. Our church keeps this one on hand for kids to read during the service, and it’s a good one.

Resources for Studying the Bible With Kids

Long Story Shortby Marty Machowski

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

Marty Machowski’s family study moves through the Old Testament chronologically, using short readings and engaging questions to introduce kids to every inch of Scripture. The accompanying book on the New Testament, Old Story New, is supposed to be good, too, but we’re still making our way through Genesis, so it will be a while before I can tell you definitively that it is good. (Read the full review.)

The Ologyby Marty Machowski

A systematic theology for children? Yes, please! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

Marty Machowski again? Yes. His books are worth putting on any list about any kind of children’s Bible. The Ology is a systematic theology for kids (yes, you read that right) that introduces key doctrines in a clear way that connects for parents and children. This one, too, has short readings and solid questions, and I love it so much. (Read the full review.)

What’s in the Bible?  (JellyTelly)

What's in the Bible? DVD series | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, so this isn’t a book. What it is, though, is an amazing collection of videos that leads kids through the Bible chronologically, while answering questions and providing background along the way. Created by Phil Vischer, one of the original masterminds behind VeggieTales, What’s in the Bible? is one of our family’s very favorite resources about the Bible. (To learn more about where to watch it, read the full review.)

What about you? Which Bibles do your kids love?

Bible Infographics for Kids

Important Notice:

Last year, we held a family meeting to settle our last-day-of-school tradition. Because I get to (sort of arbitrarily) pick which day is our last, this seemed important. And because, at the time of the meeting, we were at the beach with a trip to Menchie’s dangling in front of us like a sprinkle-coated carrot, the vote was unanimous: our last-day-of-school tradition shall henceforth be a day at the beach and a trip to Menchie’s.

That day came two weeks ago. We spent the morning picnicking on a rocky Pacific Northwest beach, rummaging through tidepools and climbing massive sandstone boulders, shaped through centuries of the water’s patient work (insert homeschooling metaphor here). We watched a trio of bald eagles swoop overhead, scraped our knees on barnacles, and petted sea stars.

The Last Day of School! | Little Book, Big Story

Then, we concocted the most horrific frozen yogurt sundaes at Menchie’s: mine had more to do with peanut butter and chocolate, but there were some variations on a cotton candy + marshmallow sauce + sprinkles happening among the other members of our table. It was all very pink.

The Last Day of School! | Little Book, Big Story

But I digress. What I meant to say was: we’re done with school. Summer is under way! And with it comes my annual summer break. Until mid-September or so, I’m going to share one of my favorite old posts with you every other week, so this will be the last new book review until the fall. But I hope to meet you on the other side with a whole bunch of beautiful new books. (I have a pile of them waiting for you already.)

In the meantime, may your summer be sticky, sandy, and sunny!


But this book can’t wait until September.

For those of you who annotate and doodle your way through every sermon or lecture, who find that listening to audio books is like not reading the book at all, who decode thorny problems by drawing them out in spidery graphs with squiggly lines—you visual people (you’re my people!). I’m talking to you.

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

Bible Infographics for Kids (subtitle: “Giants, Ninja Skills, a Talking Donkey, and What’s the Deal with the Tabernacle?”) is a collection of—wait for it—Bible infographics for kids. These are big, bold, graphic illustrations that, in the words of this book’s authors, “help [us] see information that might otherwise be hard to understand.” For the visual learners among us, getting to “see” information means we’ll also remember it. For all of us, it’s fun.

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

In Bible Infographics for Kids, the authors and illustrator use maps and probability charts and comparisons to bring home some of the weirder truths of Scripture (did you know that the odds of one person fulfilling just eight Old Testament prophecies is the same as someone finding one specific coin in a pile of silver dollars so big it covered the state of Texas two feet deep? Me neither. And yet Jesus fulfilled forty-eight Old Testament prophecies!).

But my favorite part, the book’s crowning beauty, is a Bible board game that is really a visual map of the Bible’s narrative. It’s color-coded. It’s clever. And it’s glorious.

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

I have found all of my kids (and some of their friends) curled up with this book at some point. I have even curled up with it myself. And despite the fact that I have been reading the Bible for nearly twenty years now, I still learn something new every time I pick up Bible Infographics for Kids: how the disciples all relate to one another! Which disciple took the gospel to which part of the world!

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

These may not be facts necessary to our understanding of Scripture, but they sure highlight the patterns and context of Scripture in a way that helps me (and, Lord-willing, my kids) better know and love its Author.


Bible Infographics for Kids
Harvest House; Brian Hurst (2018)

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud Now?

Four years ago I wrote a post detailing when our family reads together throughout the day. I reread it recently and loved revisiting that time when Phoebe kept busy with blueberries while I tried (sometimes in vain) to read three pages (just three!) of The Jesus Storybook Bible in over lunch.

Our lives looked different then: the dining table dominated the kitchen instead of presiding over its own glorious, sunny room. The girls were in school, so Elevenses wasn’t a thing yet (what it is will make sense if you read on). Most notably, there was no Josie yet, though if my math is right, I must have been growing her when that last post was published.

Our family reading life looks different now: Lydia is 11, Josie is 3, and Sarah and Phoebe fit neatly between them. Our lives orbit that funky formica table as we school and eat there many times each day. No babies need to nurse mid-reading (though the little sisters are rather free range at times); we are in a New Season. I thought I’d give you a glimpse of when we read aloud now, with slightly older kids and a school schedule to factor in.

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud Now? | Little Book, Big Story

Note: I started writing this post during the school year, but am publishing it now, after the school year’s end. Things already look different than they sound below—bedtime remains unchanged, and the lunchtime reading remains, though it often happens over a picnic at our favorite park and Heidi has given way to Treasure Island.

Early Mornings

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Mitch and I still wake early. At the time of writing, we don’t wake before the sun, but the sun wakes obscenely early up here this time of year. Who wants to compete with that?

We drink tea (green for me; Earl Grey for him) and read our Bibles and pray over the coming day together. Then he works and I write until 6:20 or so, when I pop in my earbuds and work out like nobody’s watching.

At 7, the girls emerge from their rooms, wild-haired and full of questions about life and our schedule for the day and have we seen the cat. The starting gun sounds, and we’re off.

Elevenses

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud Now? | Little Book, Big Story

By 10:30, Mitch has left for the day and the older girls and I have finished their individual lessons. They’ve both had a brush with math and language arts; they’ve logged a solid fifteen minutes at the piano and done some assigned reading. Maybe we’ve squeezed in a drawing lesson by then or nature study, or maybe we spent that extra time feeling big feelings and taking a walk to sort those out.

But by 10:30, we’re back at the table with a stack of books. We call this time Elevenses, because we eat like hobbits while it happens.

After we pray, sing a hymn, recite our memory verse, read the Bible together and read a poem, the girls stow their binders (with sighs of joy! And relief!) and go grab their fancy dessert plates from the kitchen. Earlier, I piled them high with popcorn, pistachios, dried apricots, and fancy flavored marshmallows, and now they carry their bounty to the table, where they sip tea and nibble tiny, time-consuming snacks as I read book after book aloud.

Here is what we’ll read today: Children of China, by Song Nan Zhang. The Story of the World: Volume 4, by Susan Wise Bauer. The Secrets of the Woods, by William Long. Twelfth Night. Empowered, by Catherine Parks. The girls narrate portions of our readings back to me; we discuss as we go. We keep track of significant dates. And we eat pistachios. So many pistachios.

Lunch

Heidi, by Johanna Spyri | Little Book, Big Story

Immediately after Elevenses, one lucky daughter makes lunch. There may or may not be conflict over this; there may or may not be tears. But eventually, lunch reaches the table, and while the girls eat, I read aloud to them from a novel. Lately, it’s been Heidi. Heidi has become such an inextricable part of our lunch routine that Josie recently asked me, “After we eat lunch and read Heidi, then what are we going to do today?”

Evening

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud Now? | Little Book, Big Story

The afternoon passes in a blur of probable park dates and possible lessons. But after dinner, all six of us settle in on our bed and read together from The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski. After that, the big girls say goodnight to me and rush upstairs with Mitch, where they throw themselves on the floor with art supplies and draw while he reads from The Return of the King.

I, meanwhile, curl up with Phoebe and Josie and read to them from a novel more their speed. Currently, we’re reading The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Then I tuck them in and take my book (Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog) to an armchair, where I read until one of them gets up needing to potty, then again until one of them gets up needing a band-aid, and again until one of them wants a drink of water.

Eventually, all falls quiet. Mitch comes downstairs, and we watch a show maybe, or eat frozen mangos and talk.

When we go to bed, we bring our books (David Copperfield for him), and close the day when we can no longer hold those books upright but the words begin swimming sleepily as we doze. We turn the lights off. Our day ends.