Although we do not celebrate Valentine's Day here, I decided on love (and hearts) as our homeschooling theme for the month of February. After all, love is the greatest commandment the Bible gives us, and certainly an area where both the children and I need growth. It is a value that virtually everyone, even those who are not "religious," believes in. So why, I wonder, am I having such a hard time finding quality books to read to my children about love?
Sure, there are dozens, if not more, picture books with "love" in the title. We have owned several of them...I say "have owned" because Don and I decided that many of them were rather useless when it came to actually teaching children about love. Stories like Love Is a Handful of Honey and I Love You With All My Heartmay have warm fuzzy illustrations of bears and bunnies, but the truth is, love is NOT a handful of honey. (Unless you're giving your last handful of honey to someone else out of love for them...but that's not what the book is about.) The popular Guess How Much I Love You(a title that we decided to send to Grandma and Grandpa's house for occasional reading) covers the popular theme of "I love you as much as..." But practically speaking, what does "I love you as high as I can hop" really mean? Even the classic Love You Forever, known for bringing mothers to tears with its repetitive verse, falls short. Is breaking into your grown son's home to sing to him while he sleeps really demonstrating love? It sounds a bit more creepy than lovely to me.
When we look to the greatest Book of all, we learn that love is not about red roses or furry hugs. Though countless passages of Scripture deal with this topic, the children and I have been focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, the classic love passage, and Romans 12, which details some practical applications of loving others. The Bible certainly has plenty to say about God's love for us and how He calls us to love Him and love others. But for purposes of illustration, where are the books that teach how love is patient and kind, love is not rude, and love honors others over oneself? Are there any materials in our local library - besides Veggie Tales DVDs - that show what it means to love one's neighbor?
And while I'm on the subject, would it be too much to ask for more children's books to be about, well, children? Talking trains and teddy bears have their place, but I would love to find more realistic fiction that relates to everyday life and values. My boys love books - in fact, at the moment they are engrossed in the latest stack we brought home from the library - but it would be nice to conclude a story session without having to explain the impossible elements to my very literal preschooler.
I wish I had a list for you of lovely children's literature, but sadly, my searches for supplementary books have not been successful thus far. If by chance you have discovered any quality picture books that teach the true meaning of love, please share them in the comments...and tell my library to stock them soon!
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.