Give them wings to fly

Give them wings to fly

Yesterday I was in Costco in the cheese section, snatching up a sample of hummus and naan, when I overhead a young father singing to his baby in the car seat. I couldn’t resist: I had to compliment him on helping his child develop preemergent literacy skills!

What are preemergent literacy skills? They are the skills a child develops before they learn to read or write. And a parent is the best person to help a child develop those critical abilities.

You might be wondering what the blue morpho butterfly has to do with preemergent literacy skills or Christmas gift suggestions, which is where I’m going with this post.

It has everything to do with it!

Morpho butterflies have the most scintillating blue wings, which you would never know when their wings are closed. From the outside, they are brown. It’s like a child: you don’t know what their mission on earth is from the start. You can’t see it from the outside. You just have to nourish them in faith, knowing that they have incredible potential–something that will eventually manifest itself and that is even more beautiful to accomplish in their life that the irridescent blue of a morpho butterfly’s wings.

Last month I wrote a post summarizing some of the points I was going to share in my presentation on preemergent literacy skill development. (See “The Rewards of Literacy Span Generations”). In my presentation, I showed a blue morpho butterfly to my listeners. I pointed out that butterflies develop all that they need to fly while in their chrysalis. We have children in our homes for roughly 18 years, and during that time, we have enormous influence in shaping their brains–particularly in the first 3-5 years of their lives, and then the remaining years as we provide ongoing nourishment for those developing brains.

What kind of wings?

What we feed their brains and bodies and spirits makes ALL the difference in the world! Consider the kinds of “wings” you are helping to build in your child: how will they be able to “fly” based on the knowledge you are feeding them?

Of course we want to feed our children’s brains, bodies, and spirits the best we can possible feed them. In Out of the Best Books, S. Michael Wilcox “recall[s] sitting in an English class at BYU with Dr. Arthur Henry King, one of the finest educators [Wilcox] studied under. He taught that if we teach a child to read and do not teach them also what is worth reading, we only arm the enemy. We want to arm the children!” King was of course referring to the daily battle between good and evil, the emancipation of the human mind and spirit from the fetters of ignorance and crippling spiritual degradation.

Walther Firle, “The Fairy Tale”

How do we teach our children what is worth reading? We find the best books ourselves and then share them with them, whether that means giving them as gifts, taking them to the library and checking them out, building an audio listening library (by purchasing books or paying for a subscription to an online service such as OR listening to books for free on Librivox or through your local library), or reading them online together. (You can read books online for free at, Libraries of Hope, and The Gutenberg Project.) As a grandmother, you might consider starting a family book club and sharing “books of the month” with each of your families.

I loved having a butterfly land on my finger at the Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.

It’s like seeing a butterfly and inviting your child to come see it with you!

So onto Christmas, because it’s that time of year!

Christmas gift book recommendations

Here are just a handful of books I recommend from my reading this year and some classics that our family has loved over the years:

Wings for infants and toddlers:

I love Lois Ehlert books! They are bright, simple, well-written, and help children connect with nature in happy ways. Connecting with nature is important to help children learn fundamental truths from their earliest days upward.
Be sure to check out how I read this book from my Instagram post on it. (Be sure to scroll through the pictures until you get to the video. Random note: I was wearing my running vest, having made that video just after a run, lol.) And get the BOARD BOOK edition for those little hands to hold it while they are having fun learning the alphabet.
I Love You As Much by Laura Melmed teaches children that their mother loves them just like mother animals love their babies. Such gentle illustrations. One of my favorites!
Planting a Rainbow teaches color, variety, and beauty all in the comfort of Mom’s lap! I love how you can read the names of the flowers printed in small print next to the bold illustrations of them. You might just be inspired to get some seeds and plant a flower together in the spring!
I give this to every new mother, because we used the scripture stories to teach our children to read and to help them feel the Spirit from their earlier days.

Wings for pre-K through 8 years:

This slightly larger board book, produced by the BYU Museum of Art, is a beautiful introduction to sacred art with prose that is at once accessible and inspiring to the youngest reader: “He gives you the gift of sight so that you can see the yellow flecks on a caterpillar, the crinkle of Grandpa’s smiling eyes, or someone who is sitting alone or simply needs a hug. What gift can you give the Savior in return?
My Father’s Dragon was hands down the father read aloud of our young family. It was one of the first books our children wanted to read on their own. There is a TRILOGY as well, so if you’re looking for more than one book, look for the trilogy!
Do you have a young musician in your home? I love the spirit of this book about how a little girl wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and make music on her violin, despite the discouragement from her mocking brothers. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Cheiri Uegaki and Qin Leng.
The Land of the Blue Flower is hard to find in print! I listened to it on Audible and loved it! You know Frances Hodgson Burnett as the author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, two other books that I highly recommend if your child hasn’t read them (ages 8-12), but you can be younger and love this story as well! Someone needs to illustrate this book and reprint it.
How DOES a child get her parents to EVER go to bed? This clever story about bedtime routines will put a smile on both parent AND child’s faces! Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. (Daddy is also included in this story!)
Every child is their OWN person, and this book reminds us of that in hilarious rhyme! Another favorite from our children’s younger years. Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.

Wings for 8-12 years:

Punctuation errors pop up all over the place! This is such a fun book–you wouldn’t expect that from a book on punctation–to prove the point of the importance of the placement of commas! This book is needed more than ever!
Have a child who is ambitious but maybe struggling with health issues? Read this true story to them to inspire them to not let obstacles hold them back! To Dare Mighty Things by Doreen Rappaport.
I love the rich, colorful illustrations that illuminate the lives of women who have impacted the world through the centuries. Acquaint your children with these noble women in McArthur Krishna and Bethany Spalding’s Girls Who Choose God.
Have a child who loves writing code? Or a daughter who loves math? Here’s the cool story of a woman who helped develop computer programming in our country during her entire lifetime! I especially love the part in this book that a moth caught in the computer is why we call computer “glitches” “bugs.”
Here’s another great story chronicaling the life of a quirky yet loveable and impactful mathematician named Paul Edrös. I like this story for how it explains that he had his weaknesses but his love for others helped people accept him, despite his personal quirks.
What child hasn’t ever thought of running away from home, even just for the day? AND TO A MUSEUM TO BOOT? This was one of my favorite books as a child! I loved reading it again with my children and listening to it on Audible. Such a classic!
This historical fiction is based on a true story about a 10-year old boy who helped save his family and friends during a malarial epidemic, and can inspire your child to be brave in the face of great challenges! The Boy Who Saved Cleveland by James Cross Giblin.
The illustrations (by N.C. Wyeth) in this version of Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson) certainly capture the spirit of this classic pirate adventure! Highly recommend this as a read-aloud!
Pearl Buck wrote this timeless story that many of you will recognize from a little video made years ago called “The Gift.” Reading this book made me cry. Another story to inspire your child to give, serve, and make sacrifices for those they love.

A littel girl whose Ukranian grandparents live with her help her learn how to serve and care for neighbors who are sick over Christmas with scarlet fever. Timeless lessons of religious tolerance, service, love, and friendship. The audio version The Trees of the Dancing Goats is also wonderful because it is read by the author, Patricia Polacco, and just gives you the feel of her grandmother (it is a true, autobiographical story!)
Sometimes parents can be on their cell phones or computers a little too long. This adorable and hilarious story reminds parents as well as children the value of hanging up! 😉 One of my favorites!
I can’t even remember how many times we read this version of The Swiss Family Robinson over and over and over! The Great Illustrated Classics version makes this adventure super accesible to young readers, who will want to read the unabridged version when they are ready! All the Great Illustrated Classics were terrific “bridge books” for early readers who needed more good books to read but for whom the original stories may be just a little too advanced lexically speaking.
The Famous Five is a long series of adventures by British author Enid Blyton featuring four cousins and their dog, Timmy. Like the Chronicles of Narnia (and so many other children’s stories), these adventures take place without parental involvement: the children must solve the mysteries or find the treasure on their own!
Like Old Yeller or Big Red, this is a dog book that will get your heart. If your child hasn’t read this (or one of those others named)–or you haven’t read this aloud to your children–jump right in! It is such a beautiful story of love, dedication, sorrow, friendship, and how much a boy can love a dog!

Wings for 12 years and up:

Speaking of butterflies, this story is AMAZING! It tells the true story of how a 13-year old girl, through her gifts and determination, defied the norms of her day and changed the world’s understanding of insects forever.
We listened to this wonderful story (based on a part of history that I didn’t know) on fall break. I love the way Jennifer Nielsen captures the fire that this young woman discovers in her soul as she faces daily perils when trying to save her national language, heritage, and family. Even though the protagonist of this story is a girl, it is not just a “girl” book! The young man who assists her is also a hero! (P.S. We REALLY have enjoyed this author!)

My sister gave me this book after our father died. It was absolutely wonderful. I laughed, and at the end, I cried. Kind of like Pippi Longstocking, but for me, even more fun. Like authors Kate DiCamillo and Deborah Wiles, Maria Parr knows how to play your heart strings in a way that is healing and comforting. Enjoy Astrid the Unstoppable‘s unmatchable personality and love!
Boys in the Boat (Young Adult Edition) is the true story of one young man whose tragic life turns victorious as he discovers the will to win and an unmatchable team unity on the 1936 USA Olympic rowing team. I was literally cheering outloud as I listened to this story! This is a GREAT book for the WHOLE family!
The movie is coming out this Christmas, and my girls and I can’t wait! But as with any classic, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie (although the 1985 Anne of Green Gables movie series really did a phenomenal close second!) So if you or your daughter hasn’t read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott yet, you have to give her the opportunity! It is such a phenomenal work. “Jo had learned that hearts, like flowers, cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally.”

We love to listen to Jennifer Nielsen books on fall break each year. This was our first introduction to her, and we loved it! We couldn’t wait for the sequel to come out! This is quite a romp of an adventure with lots of fun twists and turns and a character who, although slippery at times, really demonstrates compassion and integrity. And it’s the first in a delightful trilogy!
Has your child read The Hobbit yet? Such a classic adventure! (This particular hardback edition is a good price on amazon–much less than I paid for it in a bookstore recently!) Join Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, Gandalf, the infamous wizard, dwarves and others as they seek to recapture treasure kept by Smaug, a terrible dragon!
Gary Schmidt kept us all laughing reading The Wednesday Wars. Set in the late 1960’s, Holling Hoodhood is a junior high student who has to hang out after school on Wednesdays with his English teacher, who makes him read Shakespeare. This book will keep you laughing as you remember just how it feels to be a teenager all over again–until the end, when you will wish the book could just keep going!

Wings for adults:

Definitely the most inspiring and motivating book I read in 2019. HIGHLY recommend this book! Such an incredible man! It is a great read aloud for the whole family, easily read or shared in snippets at the dinner table.
In The Spark, I felt validated in reading about how one mother listened to her “gut” and did what she and her husband felt would best help their child with special needs. SUCH an inspiring story. A definite gift to inspire a young or older mother alike!

You can read A Christmas Carol on line for free. Here is one website where it is available: You can also listen to a dramatized version of it here. (It’s less than 25 minutes long–short enough for a family night or dinner listening!). I love this printed version (shown above) with pictures illustrated by P.J. Lynch.

Need a shot of positivity? This might just do it for you! Shawn Achor enlarges our vision of how we can accomplish better goals TOGETHER.
The original version of this book and the young adult version were life-changing for me. This book is a real-life To Kill a Mockingbird. I was astonished to learn that these problems were happening in OUR era, in the United States of America! Highly recommend!
The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain: I haven’t yet finished this book, but it is so inspiring! It isn’t a book you read in an hour (at least not for me), but one that is read in a quiet space and savored. Joan of Arc is truly inspiriing, and this is a Mark Twain that I haven’t read before but sense a reverence in while I read.
I read some of the poems in this book recently, on the topics of teens and motherhood and temple service. They inspired me and made me laugh–a welcome reprieve from my day.

For more recommendations of books we’ve loved, go here.

If you are looking for a specific recommendation for a child’s particular interest or age, message me on Instagram (@RACFLP or @raisingamazingchildren), Facebook, or comment below. I’d love to try to help you find a book that your child might enjoy!

Want to donate to the Orem City/United Way of Utah County/Just Serve’s Book Drive? All money collected will be used to purchase books for children in Orem who are in need. (Please type “2019 Christmas Book Drive” in the “Comments” section. Thanks!)

You are the parent: choose well

I think the most important thing to remember when choosing books for your child is that God chose YOU to be the parent. He is giving you a chance to nurture your child, and He wants you to be wise, careful and loving about what you feed that child, giving them the best nourishment you can so they can flourish mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Choose well! Listen to your heart. I believe in you.

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite impressionist artists. “Nurse Reading to a Little Girl” (1895)

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