Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Big-Question Poems to Grow Young Spirits

By Christy Olson

Olson's book gets the Story Monsters seal

The judges include two kinds of children's literature experts: professionals in the field and a team of youth readers. In April 2017, Growing Young Spirits became a Story Monsters Approved selection.

Explore activity books for UU children

How do we help young children grow in faith? The answer can be curriculum, a discussion, or an experience. Whatever conduit we use will only help children grow in spirituality if it engages the heart of the family.

Book cover illustration by Melissa Marroquin for "Growing Young Spirits" by Christy Olson

Growing Young Spirits is a new book that offers a way for families to think about faith together. Growing Young Spirits has 11 poems written with rhyming words on child-related themes. Each poem is based on a GREAT BIG QUESTION. Poems don’t answer the questions; they provide a palette for children to explore. The topics include community, neighbors, loving our elders, water resources, and others. The illustrations are inclusive, colorful, fun, and realistic.

Theologically, the book is eclectic and engages important messages from many faith and cultural systems, including:
- Native American ideas about connectedness to the natural world
- Lutheran ideas about forgiveness and grace
- Unitarian Universalism’s sense of wonder and mystery of the natural world
- Asian cultures' respect for elders
- Buddhist expressions of living in harmony with water

The book conveys a deep sense of what is holy. While not specifying any sacred texts, it embodies the message that to spend time spent reading and learning in our families is a holy act.

There are many ways Growing Young Spirits can be used within the family circle. Imagine coming home with tired kids from a busy day. Getting dinner on is the first agenda item. No matter how organized, it takes dedicated time. With Growing Young Spirits, you pick a poem and read it. You ask the child processing questions (I wonder, why, how, what amazed you). If the child can read, they may read the poem themselves. Ask your child to read while you are putting dinner together. Then, turn the page and the kids have two pages to do “heart art.” These pages work best with broken crayons and open conversation!

When you begin using Growing Young Spirits, it is a faith journal for each child. When your child has completed the book, it becomes a keepsake for the family. The best coffee table book ever! Have fun exploring faith together.

Next Steps!

InSpirit, the UUA Book and Gift Shop, offers Growing Young Spirits online.

At any age, sharing our experiences with others can amplify and strengthen our faith development. If you are using Growing Young Spirits, consider helping children share their “heart art” online. Photograph or scan your child’s “heart art” to display on the website Christy Olson Books.

Are you a UU parent looking for more home-based faith development? Every quarter, the Families section in the centerfold pages of UU World magazine offers stories, activities, and conversation-starters for parents and caregivers—a child's primary religious educators—to use at home. Find archived theme-based Families sections since 2009 online (PDF).

About the Author

Christy Olson

Christy Olson has served Christian denominations as an education director and a children and family parish minister for 30 years. Her most recently written curricula are story-centered, workshop rotation model programs for ecumenical Christian religious education....


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