The database of Orthodox children’s books in English and currently in print now has over 200 entries. In addition, there are catechetical resources available from archdioceses and other organizations that are not included on the list because I see them as a separate genre. For the moment, I’m not studying curriculum. I’m not qualified to do so, and my primary interest is kidlit. But I qualify that with my strongly held belief that children learn from ALL books, not just the ones adults consider educational.
Right now at work, I’m researching various aspects of Orthodox children’s literature. It’s a thought-provoking adventure, let me tell you. Questions arise at every turn, and there are moments when I struggle with the wild urge to know everything and fix everything immediately! But as my mama used to tell me, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I’m not the solution to everything, and it’s important to remember that people are different. What one person perceives as a flaw is a great strength in the eyes of someone in other circumstances.
Regardless, I believe it’s important to raise and ponder each question. Orthodox children’s literature as a genre is relatively new and still inventing itself. It’s not a field in which you can earn a degree or any kind of standardized credential. It’s still subject to widely divergent opinions, amateur efforts, the absence of substantive data on its efficacy, and the urgency of love – love for the faith and its children and the urgency of their need as an underserved minority in a complex cultural landscape.
Therefore, I offer 7 questions for your consideration. There are others, but in my view, these 7 are starting points for reflection and discussion. You’ll realize quickly that not one of them has a simple answer.
1 – Who is the “customer” for a children’s book: the parent buying it or the child reading it?
2 – Do we hold Orthodox children’s books/curriculum to the same standards that we have for secular children’s products?
3 – Are we evolving from what you might call “informational” catechesis to experiential catechesis, or aren’t we? What’s going on with that and why?
4 – Why is fiction such a complicated thing? Are we able to conceive of children’s fiction as both Orthodox AND engaging? Can we only see or trust faith in fiction if it is OVERT?
5 – I suspect question 1 and question 4 are linked. What do you think?
6 – What do children learn from the ways we create and interact with their “church books”? What are we telling them about their faith that we may not realize we are telling them?
7 – What besides books are/should/could we be creating? What other media might also provide entry points to faithful, imaginative, loving encounters with a child’s spirit?
Share your thoughts
My research is ongoing, and I value glimpses of as many perspectives as are offered to me. If you’d like to share yours, use the Contact form and get in touch!