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“American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television, more than any activity except sleeping,” according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Recent studies also indicate a correlation between our growing TV habit and faltering reading scores.

Alarming though they may be, these statistics should not cause despair. When we introduce young children to books, we introduce them to an essential skill and a simple pleasure. As a children’s bookseller and as a parent, I offer the following tips on establishing this rewarding habit.

A child is never too young or too old to benefit from being read to. A routine that includes at least 20 minutes of reading each day will make a lasting difference for your child and will become a valued component of your family life.

When read to regularly, young children learn how to follow the words and pictures on the page. They begin to recognize that the symbols on the page represent letters, sounds, and words. Reading together also encourages analysis, inquiry, and development of values.

But reading aloud is not just about brain development or producing precocious children. More importantly, in reading to our children we uncover and nurture their God-given abilities. By holding them close and letting them hear our voices, we create a bond, a treasured family routine, and a lifelong love of reading.

In the early months, it is not so important what you read, but that you read. Select books with simple, repetitive text and bright, bold illustrations. Infants respond with pleasure to bouncy rhythm and rhyme. As your child’s attention span increases, add books with a simple story line and dialogue.

Don’t relinquish the read-aloud habit when your child is able to read independently. A child’s comprehension is often years ahead of his or her reading level, and this is a great time to sample new genres or tackle more challenging books.

When choosing books, you can consult your bookseller, librarian, or your child’s teacher for recommendations. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (Penguin Books) includes a list of books for every age and interest. For additional inspiration, check the links on the Banner website.

www.trelease on

Personal File American V: A Hundred Highways

by Johnny Cash
reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

Johnny Cash’s voice made any song sound both intimate and remote, a meditation on mortality. He loses none of that authority on American V (Lost Highway), which collects many of his final recordings, made even as his body and voice failed. And Personal File (Sony)—a collection of ’70s-era home recordings that add up to a Great Lost Cash Album—reminds us of how overwhelming that voice was in its prime. Both are essential testaments from one of America’s great artists. His greatness largely consisted of remembering he was only a sinner who, in his words, “came to believe.”

Life Short Call Now

by Bruce Cockburn
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

This latest release from the now 61-year-old Bruce Cockburn reveals a softer, more contemplative side of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame troubadour. A 27-piece string section beautifully haunts several of the songs, and wistful jazz horns punctuate a number of pieces. While his masterful guitar work takes a bit of a backseat, it shines brightly on three instrumentals. Cockburn’s introspective lyrics tackle personal, spiritual, and sociopolitical concerns reflecting pungent protest—“This Is Baghdad”—and poignant praise. In “Mystery” he croons, “this feast of beauty can intoxicate just like the finest wine.” (Rounder)

Serving with Eyes Wide Open

by David A. Livermore
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Convinced that short-term mission trips, both domestic and overseas, need to be “rethought and reworked,” David Livermore spells out how attaining cultural intelligence is “a way to get better at loving God and loving others.” Livermore unflinchingly looks at ways short-term mission trips have failed within a North American context. Yet he urges readers to learn from past mistakes, to embrace a comprehensive view of missions, and to take concrete steps to serve Christ in the world with eyes wide open. (Baker)

reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

It’s a struggle to stay informed. maintains massive, frequently-updated reports on issues ranging from global poverty to the arms trade to biodiversity, giving you what you need to develop a reasonably accurate picture of the world. It’s easy to read, easy to navigate, and tells you where the information is coming from so you can check its claims for yourself.

Bread and Roses, Too

by Katherine Paterson
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

The 1912 Bread and Roses mill workers’ strike in Lawrence, Mass., sweeps Rosa and Jake into its vortex. Rosa, devoutly Catholic, anxiously watches her mother and sister join the strikers. Jake—abused, irreverent, and swearing occasionally—fends for himself on the street. When Rosa and other children are sent to a safe haven, Jake clandestinely joins them, and Rosa pretends that Jake is her brother. With their host family, Rosa finds comfort, and Jake experiences unconditional love. Paterson’s hopeful young adult novel brings to life a period in which unjust business practices brought immeasurable cost to children. (Clarion)

The Lowdown
A New Perspective:

The Africa Bible Commentary (Zondervan), with contributions from 70 African Bible scholars, was written specifically for Africans but rewards any reader.

You CAN Take It with You:

The GoBible is an MP3 player containing the entire Bible, read in your choice of KJV or NKJV translations. Search by verse or listen to the whole Bible in a year’s worth of daily passages. (

See How It All Began:

Before Easter, there was Christmas. The Nativity Story (New Line) is now on DVD. For a full review, go to

This Just in from Middle-Earth:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s often–revised manuscript, The Children of Húrin, has been edited into final book form by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Due out this month from Houghton Mifflin.

Lost and Found?

The tomb of Jesus has been found, according to “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” a documentary that debuted on the Discovery Channel last month. Archaeologists have been critical of this “discovery” for more than 10 years, but producer James Cameron certainly knows how to get publicity.

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