2019 Reading Challenges: One for Kids and Teens and One for Adults!

As we are halfway through this first month of the new year, and as this blog is primarily about reading, it is high time we considered some 2019 reading challenges! 

We start with that of the “Redeemed Reader,” which introduced their 2019 version for teens and children last week (Jan.11). Here are a few lines from their introduction to it:

Our 2019 Reading Challenge for Kids and Teens is back and better than ever! This is year 3 for our annual reading challenge, and we’ve added some different components to extend your reading life.

We’ve also packaged the whole thing up into a handy pdf you can download and save to your computer. Printing just the pages you want and/or referencing it throughout the year will be easier than ever!

Why a Reading Challenge, or, Why do YOU Want to Join a Reading Challenge?

Perhaps the most important question is not, “Which challenge should I do?” but “WHY am I participating in a reading challenge in the first place?” (Or, why does your son or daughter want to participate?)

The point of the Redeemed Reader 2019 Reading Challenge is not to encourage you to simply read more books. After all, speed reading merely to check a title off of a list does nothing to enrich your actual life.

No, the point of our reading challenge is to encourage you to be more intentional with your reading life. Depending on the habits you already have in place, different sorts of challenges will be more or less beneficial for you. Most readers need some nudges to diversify our reading, and our reading challenges below are directly geared to that.

You may want to get the whole family involved with this one. There is much more found at the link below about the “hows” and “whys” of a reading challenge like this. And, of course, “RR” has plenty of book ideas for you to get started and to sustain your commitment to reading in 2019.

Then, for us adults, Tim Challies has once again issued his yearly book-reading challenge. As you may remember, he breaks his down into nice categories, to accommodate all types of readers – from the casual to the serious. Here is how that looks:

The 2019 Christian Reading Challenge is composed of 4 lists of books, which you are meant to move through progressively. You will need to determine a reading goal early in the year and set your pace accordingly.

  • The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks.
  • The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  • The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  • The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.

And this is how he challenges us with this structure (pushes hard might be the better word – but that’s good!):

Begin with the Light plan, which includes suggestions for 13 books. Choose those books and read them in any order, checking them off as you complete them. When you have finished those 13, advance to the Avid plan. Use the criteria there to choose another 13 books and read them in any order. Then it’s time to move to the Committed plan with a further 26 books. When you have completed the Committed plan (that’s 52 books so far!), you are ready to brave the Obsessed plan with its 104 books. Be sure to set your goal at the beginning of the year so you can make sure you’re reading at the right pace.

All you need to do is download the list (or buy a printed version—see below), choose your first few books, and get going. Happy reading in 2019!

To which challenges I can only add – read on, my friends! Scour the bookstores (online and the “brick and mortar” ones) and find those special titles that interest you and that will grow your heart and soul and life! As we go through this year, we can share our good finds and good reads. And, yes, by all means enjoy your reading!

Source: 2019 Reading Challenge for Kids and Teens – Redeemed Reader

Published in: on January 16, 2019 at 10:21 PM  Leave a Comment  

Recent Pick-ups for Winter Reading

I have recently collected a few books for winter reading that I thought I would share with you. A couple I have already started, while the others will have to wait for later.


I am always on the lookout for books relating to local (Grand Rapids, Ottawa County) and Michigan history, and a while back I found this one in a thrift store – White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America’s Deadliest Maritime Disaster – by David G. Brown (International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2002). I really wanted to read this one last month (November), but it will have to wait. If you want to watch a video presentation by the author on this incredible storm and the havoc it wreaked on the Great Lakes, go here.


Another recent purchase ($5 for the hardcover at Ollies discount store in Wyoming – a treasure trove for new books – and Bibles – and children’s titles!) is noted historian Nathaniel Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking, 2016). The publisher gives this summary of the book:

A surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.


Did you know Christian author Douglas Bond has a brand new title out?! The Resistance is his latest historical novel and it looks to be another great read.  I am looking forward to delving into this one – and hopefully getting my older grandsons into it too.

Here’s the description and one blogger’s description:

Lt. Eli Evans, B-17 bomber pilot, is shot down over enemy-occupied France in 1944. Surrounded by Resistance fighters, a licensed-to-kill SOE British agent, and Marxist sympathizers, Evans and his navigator must evade a ruthless Nazi manhunt if they are to survive. Resistance sympathizer Aimée hates war but is forced to act with courage, risking her life for others. Amidst ambush and sabotage, the combatants will debate broadcast talks by C. S. Lewis, heard as they listen to the BBC for coded messages from London.
“True to form, Douglas Bond delivers yet another historical novel sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of both the young and the old. Readers will thrill at the high-stakes, fast-paced cat and mouse game …tension hovering above an 8 on a 0-10 scale. From the moment the B-17 crashes, until the invasion of Normandy; time (and pages) seemed to fly by.”
AMANDA GEANEY, book blogger at Shelf Esteem


Speaking of children and grandchildren, I also just bought a copy of the “Coloring Book of Church History” titled A Colorful Past, by William Boekestein and Naomi Kamphuis (Illustrator), published by Reformation Heritage Books (2018). This brief description will give you an idea of its contents and purpose:

This coloring book introduces children to important characters from church history, focusing on at least one person per century. The basic timeline illustrates how God has woven humanly flawed characters into a single living story. And this story is not over. As children color these pages and see God’s unfolding plan in church history, pray they will learn to praise God for the “wonderful works that He has done” (Ps. 78:4).


And, finally, one I found at a recent Baker Books sale and have started to read is They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims by Jay Milbrandt (Nelson Books, 2017). I have always enjoyed early American history, in part because of its Christian – even Calvinistic – character (at least some aspects of it), and the story of the Pilgrims has always intrigued me. This is my first exposure to this author, and so far I find his style lively and instructive.

Amazon gives this description of the book:

Once a year at Thanksgiving, we encounter Pilgrims as folksy people in funny hats before promptly forgetting them. In the centuries since America began, the Pilgrims have been relegated to folklore and children’s stories, fairy-tale mascots for holiday parties and greeting cards.

The true story of the Pilgrim Fathers could not be more different. Beginning with the execution of two pastors deviating from the Elizabethan Church of England, the Pilgrims’ great journey was one of courageous faith, daring escape, and tenuous survival. Theirs is the story of refugees who fled intense religious persecution; of dreamers who voyaged the Atlantic and into the unknown when all other attempts had led to near-certain death; of survivors who struggled with newfound freedom. Loneliness led to starvation, tension gave way to war with natives, and suspicion broke the back of the very freedom they endeavored to achieve.

Despite the pain and turmoil of this high stakes triumph, the Pilgrim Fathers built the cornerstone for a nation dedicated to faith, freedom, and thankfulness. This is the epic story of the Pilgrims, an adventure that laid the bedrock for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the American identity.

For more on this book, visit the publisher’s marketing page.

Happy reading this fall and winter! What’s in your book bag? 🙂

Christmas Books for All Ages: A Booklist – Redeemed Reader

It has been a bit since we have posted anything relating to children’s books, so tonight we refer you once again to the wonderful website “Redeemed Reader,” where you will find untold resources for your children – from the little tikes to the giant teens in your household.

To make the beginning of the Christmas season, the folks at “RR” posted a Christmas booklist for ALL ages. That’s right, that means for us old children-at-heart people too! How many of you remember the short story “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry? If you haven’t read it, now is a good time to get acquainted with it. And that title by noted historian David McCullough looks inviting.

Browse the list and while there look up some of their other book lists. Tis’ the season of giving and what better gift to give than the gift of books.

Source: Christmas Books for All Ages: A Booklist – Redeemed Reader

Published in: on November 23, 2018 at 10:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Benefits of a Book-Filled Home Remain Strong | Book Patrol

This recent post from the folks at Book Patrol caught my attention – and not only because of the picture of the beautiful home library! It’s especially the reference to the importance of surrounding children with books in the home.

You don’t have to have or build a room like this, but you can provide some shelves with good picture books and classic literature in any room to open up worlds unknown to your children and grandchildren and stimulate their minds to explore and grow.

Here’s part of the online article; find the rest of it and more to explore at the Book Patrol link below.

It’s no secret that a healthy portion of books in the home leads to more good things happening to the kids that live and grow up there.

In his 2010 piece, Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage, Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard alerted us to a comprehensive study that made clear that “the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.”

Now, eight years later, Jacobs is back at it with the results of a new study that confirms that not only do books furnish a room but they continue to be a leading indicator of improved performance in a range of areas. The study features surveys of adults (ages 25 to 65) in 31 nations.

“Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills…beyond the benefits accrued from parental education, or [one’s] own educational or occupational attainment,” the researchers report.

Source: The Benefits of a Book-Filled Home Remain Strong | Book Patrol

Published in: on October 20, 2018 at 9:13 AM  Comments (1)  

New from Simonetta Carr: “John Newton”

We have featured the titles of Reformed author Simonetta Carr before, and tonight we do so again, because there is a new release from her and Reformation Heritage Books in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series. That new title is John Newton (2018).


This fine series has books for young readers on such major church history figures as Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Knox among others) and this new addition also looks to be a valuable contribution.

The publisher provides this description:

John Newton’s life was full of adventure, danger, travels, exotic places, and romance. Young readers will encounter each of these things in Simonetta Carr’s carefully narrated and charmingly illustrated book. But more importantly, readers will come to appreciate the way Newton’s life was changed for good, even when he was attempting to run as far as possible from God. In spite of Newton’s rebellion and sin, God’s grace finally won—a grace that Newton recognized as amazing, invincible, and completely undeserved.

Besides covering the life and work of this noteworthy Anglican churchman and hymnwriter, Carr includes at the end a timeline of Newton’s life, a “Did You Know” section, and a sampling of his writing. The book is beautifully illustrated by Amal.

The contents of John Newton are as follows:


Chapter 1 – A Boy at Sea

Chapter 2 – Seabound

Chapter 3 – God’s Hand at Work

Chapter 4 – New Start

Chapter 5 – Pastor, Hymn Writer, and Friend

Chapter 6 – Opposing the Slave Trade

Time Line

Did You Know?

From Newton’s Pen

If you are willing to write a short review of this book for the Standard Bearer or for Perspectives in Covenant Education, this title is yours. You may contact me by email or in the comment section of this post.

And if you haven’t started collecting these books for your family library, it is high time you did! We have a nice selection ourselves for grandchildren reading and browsing.

Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention – The New York Times

The New York Times recently posted this article online and it was picked up by some of the book and reading news sources I receive, which immediately caught my attention. While it is not anything new, it confirms once more what other studies have proved – that reading to children at an early age is a tremendous benefit to their psychological, emotional, and educational development. And we would add, of course, that when God’s Word and other good Christian literature are read to them, their spiritual development is enhanced.

The article begins by pointing to the results of another new study that found the great benefits of reading to very young children:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

“We think of reading in lots of different ways, but I don’t know that we think of reading this way,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, who is the principal investigator of the study, “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development,” published in the journal Pediatrics.

After covering the special program that teaches parents during pediatric primary care visits how to be involved in their children’s lives through reading and playing, the article concludes with these additional thoughts:

But all parents should appreciate the ways that reading and playing can shape cognitive as well as social and emotional development, and the power of parental attention to help children flourish. Dr. Weisleder said that in reading and playing, children can encounter situations a little more challenging than what they usually come across in everyday life, and adults can help them think about how to manage those situations.

“Maybe engaging in more reading and play both directly reduces kids’ behavior problems because they’re happier and also makes parents enjoy their child more and view that relationship more positively,” she said.

Reading aloud and playing imaginative games may offer special social and emotional opportunities, Dr. Mendelsohn said. “We think when parents read with their children more, when they play with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters,” he said. “They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”

“The key take-home message to me is that when parents read and play with their children when their children are very young — we’re talking about birth to 3 year olds — it has really large impacts on their children’s behavior,” Dr. Mendelsohn said. And this is not just about families at risk. “All families need to know when they read, when they play with their children, they’re helping them learn to control their own behavior,” he said, so that they will come to school able to manage the business of paying attention and learning.

This “truism” is worth remembering in our own homes as well. I hope we are exposing our children to good literature at an early age and giving them the thrill of seeing and hearing words and experiences expressed in the world of books. The benefits are well documented.

World Book Day: 50 Essential Books for Children

Today marks World Book Day (and night too!), a day to celebrate the world of books, reading, and libraries throughout the world. The annual event is celebrated with especially young readers in mind, and focused this year on “sharing stories and loving reading.”

In celebration of the event Abe Books rounded up the best books for young readers – 50 essential children’s books, prefaced by this fine note:

We might be a little biased, but we believe reading is an essential part of childhood. Teachers and schools can teach you many useful things (and some not so useful) but a steady diet of literature can ensure a child’s education never ends. Some kids are born bibliophiles, while others can’t be bothered with books. The challenge for any parent, teacher or librarian is finding the books that turn reluctant readers into voracious ones. But how do you know which children’s books will do the trick? Reading comes much easier if you read about what you love, so let your little reader decide. One book usually leads to another.

To help get you (and your young reader) started, we’ve gathered up 50 great books for kids. The list ranges from picture books for young children like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, to little novels for independent readers like The BFG and Stuart Little. Even if your child isn’t quite ready to read big books on their own, series like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia are fun to read out loud and will please children (and adults) of any age. Our list of the best books for children includes brand new books, Newberry Award-winners, and timeless classics you’ll remember from your own childhood. Head down the page to the comment section to leave your own suggestions! Happy reading.

We couldn’t agree more, and think you will find something for your youngster in this great list. Be sure to visit the link below to get a glimpse of the wonderful collage of colorful covers to these children’s classics. Won’t you take some time to read to your child today, or put a good book in his/her hands for them to read?

Source: The Best Books for Children

Published in: on April 23, 2018 at 10:26 PM  Leave a Comment  

Picture Book Biographies Booklist! – Redeemed Reader

Every so often I like to feature some children’s books (I won’t forget our focus on Newbery classics this year!), and today we turn again to the website “Redeemed Reader” for assistance and inspiration (If you have not yet signed up to receive their weekly email notices, this serves as a friendly reminder.).

Just today, their email called attention to a new book list, this time of picture book biographies! Who doesn’t like those?! As “RR” points out, such books are not just for the very young and early readers; they are for ALL of us. I will happily admit that I am always on the lookout for great children’s picture books – and adult ones. 🙂

The following paragraphs are Redeemed Readers’ introduction to an extensive list of picture books, which, by the way, may also be used toward their 2018 reading challenge (sounds like a great way to get your children involved in that program!).

Picture Book Biographies = Fantastic, Diverse Resources

Picture book biographies are one of the best ways to introduce a person from history. Why? They bring interesting people to life in a short, succinct, satisfying manner.

Illustrations can add tremendously to the information, enabling readers to get a “feel” for the subject.

Additionally, the subjects chosen for picture book biographies are so broad! Presidents and other famous historical figures such as Helen Keller or the Wright Brothers are obvious choices. But picture book biographies also tackle Noah Webster, the inventors of neon paint, the woman who first mapped the ocean, and the man behind the Macy’s Day Parade puppets! No matter what person, topic, or time period, there is sure to be a relevant picture book biography out there.

Picture Book Biographies are Not Just For Kids!

Even teens and grown ups can learn from picture book biographies. For instance, read one of the Shakespeare biographies listed below before tackling Hamlet. Marvel at the man who photographed snowflakes before a series on weather, the seasons, or microscopy. Supplement a history class with a look at a minority figure or a Christian hero that the history textbook might have glossed over; Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library and Simonetta Carr’s biographies are good examples that are certainly robust enough for middle and high school students.  Or take a look at River of Words before diving into William Carlos Williams’s poetry. The possibilities are endless.

And now, if you wish to check out the actual titles – and reviews! – visit the link below. But here’s a picture of one to entice you to do so:

Source: Picture Book Biographies Booklist! – Redeemed Reader

Mrs. Frisby and the Library of Nimh

Rats-of-nimh-OBrienThe room they entered was big, square, well lit, and had a faint musty smell. ‘It’s reasonably comfortable, and if you like to read…’ he gestured at the walls. They were lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, and on the shelves stood – Mrs. Frisby dredged in her memory. ‘Books,’ she said. ‘They’re books.’

‘Yes,’ said Justin. ‘Do you read much?’

‘Only a little,’ said Mrs. Frisby. ‘My husband taught me. And the children…’ She started to tell him how.

…Mrs. Frisby looked around her. The room – the library, Nicodemus had called it – had, in addition to its shelves of books, several tables with benches beside them, and on these were stacked more books, some of them open.

Books. Her husband, Jonathan, had told her about them. He had taught her and the children to read (the children had mastered it quickly, but she herself could barely manage the simplest words; she had thought perhaps it was because she was older). He had also told her about electricity. He had known these things – and so, it emerged, did the rats. It never occurred to her until now how he knew them. He had always known so many things, and she had accepted that as a matter of course. But who had taught him to read?

Found in the chapter “In the Library” in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien (Aladdin Paperpacks, 1975) a Newbery Medal book I recently picked up for my grandchildren, but was told to read myself before I gave it to them. It is a fun and easy read, filling the mind with imagination and adventure in the world of soft, furry animals. I just had to share the library part of the story with you. 🙂


Published in: on February 9, 2018 at 6:27 AM  Leave a Comment  

Time for Some Children’s Books

Tonight let’s look at a few children’s books, starting with a new one by Simonetta Carr that I received at the end of last year for review from Reformation Heritage Books.


That title is Irenaeus of Lyon, a book on one of the early orthodox church fathers (c.130-c200) and the latest in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series. We have featured the books in this series before (as, for example on John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine, and John Knox) and this one too looks to be a valuable contribution. The publisher gives this description:

Irenaeus is remembered for his work in helping the church to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when it was attacked. In this simply written and beautifully illustrated book, Simonetta Carr shows young readers the difficulties the early church faced and how Irenaeus taught Christians to discern truth from error by listening to the Bible. To Christians, the lessons Irenaeus taught are as important today as they were in his time.

Besides covering the life and work of this church father, Carr includes at the end a timeline of Irenaeus’ life, a “Did You Know” section, and a sampling of his writing. The book is beautifully illustrated by Matt Abraxas.

If you are willing to write a short review of this book for the Standard Bearer or for Perspectives in Covenant Education, this title is yours.

*UPDATE: This book has been spoken for.

The second thing I mention in connection with children’s books is that I have been collecting Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor Books. I look mainly in the area thrift stores, and I buy mainly to give to my grandchildren. Some of the older ones I remember and know that they are “good reads.” But there are others that I am not familiar with and instead of trying to read them myself or giving them to my grandchildren without review, I would like to enlist your help – and that of your own children or grandchildren.


I give you this picture collage of the books I recently picked up and ask if you can give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on any of these. I want to make sure not only that these are good stories worth reading but also that they pass the “Christian discernment” test. I want to be careful that I don’t give my grandchildren books that are not wholesome and not in harmony with Christian principles even if the story itself is not Christian.

What can you tell me (us!) about any of these? Yes, by all means ask your children!

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 11:04 PM  Comments (3)