In February I had the sort of realization I hate having: I had forgotten something. Last year swallowed up a lot of things, and as it passed, we noted and mourned a lot of those losses. But this loss bobbed to the surface one morning, as startling as a shark fin in a smooth sea: This was supposed to be Josie’s preschool year.
Preschool, in our house, is a small affair. But for each of our girls so far, this year before kindergarten has been the one where I make playdough from scratch at least once, introduce them to the alphabet, collect snails with them, read all those picture books I want to read with them, and occasionally break out the super-messy art supplies with nary a thought for our floor.
But we were well into February by the time I thought of this. All the upheaval of starting a new school year under Covid protocols and, well, just surviving and tending to everyone’s needs—it had shunted this thought so far to the back of my mind that I’d noticed its absence, something felt off, but I hadn’t been able to name it. That morning I got out my giant binder of preschool magic, assembled a bag full of books to read together that month, and I began making lists.
I am utterly, profoundly, abundantly grateful that God brought this to mind when he did. Josie and I still had four months together to read and play and make messes in the garden while the older girls were at school; she still had hours each day when she knew she had me to herself. And every school-day lunchtime we had our routine—not, as formerly, she eats at the table while I tidy the dining room around her or something, but: we sat down together; we read a Bible story and a picture book. We took our time over them. It was delightful.
And so Jared Kennedy’s The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible became the stem of our time together, with everything else branching off it. The readings in this book are short but honest and deep, and they ask great questions of us. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations (have I mentioned yet how much I love her illustrations?) represent some fairly abstract ideas in ways that make sense to young readers. They’re symbolic and beautiful.
A friend described this book as “The Jesus Storybook Bible for even younger readers” and I think there’s something to that. But though it works wonderfully for toddlers, it doesn’t work only for toddlers: Josie, at five, picked up on big questions and mulled them over as she finished her peanut butter and honey sandwich. As we read, I saw her putting down roots in the truths of our faith and learning to know God a little better for herself.
School is out now and our house is full again with the daily bustle of sisters. But those mornings with Josie still feel like a gift—one we savored then, and one we’ll continue to savor in the years ahead.
The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2017)