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ESTABLISHED: Eareckson Tada, Dungy, Ferguson, and Chan (from left to right).
Eareckson Tada: Patrick Henry College • Dungy: Chris O’Meara/AP • Ferguson: Desiring God • Chan: Handout
ESTABLISHED: Eareckson Tada, Dungy, Ferguson, and Chan (from left to right).

For future grown-ups

Books | Some well-known authors have written very good preschool books

Issue: "Border gridlock," Aug. 9, 2014

Having established themselves as storytellers for adults, some well-known authors have made the switch to preschoolers, with picture books designed for adults to read aloud.

Interesting stories are the surest way for preschoolers to develop an early thirst for books and pick up some lessons about life. Sometimes the moral of the story is obvious, but other times the author is more subtle. Francis Chan (best known for Crazy Love), illustrates the importance of following the “owner’s manual” (the Bible) in The Big Red Tractor. Ronnie Wilson’s Gift makes the point that people are more important than possessions. In Halfway Herbert, the title character learns to give his full effort to life’s challenges.

Famed football coach and TV sports commentator Tony Dungy pictures himself and his younger brother in the quest for finding a life calling in You Can Do It!

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Eric Metaxas has made some big splashes with adults through Amazing Grace, his William Wilberforce biography, and Bonhoeffer. But he also has written historical fiction for preschoolers, notably Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, about the Native American who helped the Pilgrims survive the early years in Plymouth.

Max Lucado reinforces the theme of God’s love with his picture book, Because I Love You, and explores our uniqueness in God’s image in You Are Special.

Joni Eareckson Tada shows how siblings can learn grace and kindness from someone with disabilities in Ryan and the Circus Wheels.

Teaming up with Gary and Norma Smalley, John and Cindy Trent have taught adults about different personality bents or gifting within families or churches. For preschoolers they echo similar themes with four animals on an adventure in The Treasure Tree.

Janette Oke has written character-building fiction for children and teens, usually set in western pioneer days. For much younger readers she shows the value of patient endurance in friendship in Spunky’s Camping Adventure.

Randy Alcorn takes one of his adult book themes about heaven to the preschooler level in Wait Until Then, as a grandson watches his beloved grandfather come to the end of his life.

Teachers of deep theology don’t neglect young children. R.C. Sproul writes engaging stories that preschoolers can easily understand, along with subtle themes of doctrine which they may not grasp until later. He introduces the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in The Priest with Dirty Clothes and the atonement in The Prince’s Poison Cup. He also offers a lesson on prayer through the Martin Luther story about Luther’s barber (The Barber Who Wanted to Pray). Sinclair Ferguson is working on a series of church history biographies for preschoolers, including ones that adults may have heard of only by name, such as Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Ignatius.

“Make time for books!” pleads Gladys Hunt in her classic work on family reading, Honey for a Child’s Heart. She says even very young children such as “Jim,” age three, can bond with books: He “welcomed back these familiar books as old friends, so glad to see them, carefully paging through them, his face lighting up with pleasure as he came upon favorites.”

These popular authors are on the right track in making special stories available to preschoolers. In these early years, especially, the mind and heart are setting lifelong patterns of love and learning.

Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.

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