Being a good preschool teacher is something akin to being a magician—you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep kids engaged, to present material in different ways,  and sometimes just to kill time until all the children are called for at the end of class.

Good picture books can be a very good ‘trick’ for your teachers. When you have some downtime, take a little time to research titles of books that could be helpful in the classroom. With just a little effort, you can be ready with a list or even a pile of books for teachers when the next school year starts.

The next time you are in a library or bookstore, look around at children’s books and ask staff members for suggestions. Be specific in what you are looking for, and they will most likely do their best to help.

If you have a budget for new books, go to a good children’s bookstore and look over their religious books section. There you will find picture bibles for preschoolers and individual stories from the bible. In a Catholic bookstore you will also find a selection of saint stories for children.

Look a book over by reading a few pages. Is the text short enough and the vocabulary correct for preschoolers? Are the pictures large enough for use in a group? Are the pictures pleasing? Book illustrations can have a big impact on children, so avoid dated artwork, too many dark colors, and frightening-looking characters. Some will have cartoon-like illustrations and others will be more artistic. Which you prefer is a matter of personal taste. Just be certain that the characters, particularly Jesus, look friendly and approachable.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to new books, many wonderful books can be obtained at used bookstores or online. Just keep in mind the above criteria for choosing books.

Don’t have any money for books, new or used? Check out libraries. There are selections of religious books at public libraries. Look them over and jot down titles.

In the church bulletin, ask if there are parish families whose children are older now who may be willing to donate or loan their books. If your parish has a school, look through the library there. Any retired educators in your parish? They may be interested in contributing to the education of the parish children through book giving.

As you look for books, keep in mind that stories teachers can use don’t always need to be obviously religious. Many children’s books deal with topics that are about Christ’s teachings in symbolic ways. Books about a parent’s unconditional love also teach God’s unconditional love. A classic on this theme for the very youngest children is The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. There are numerous books on sharing, which echo the early Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles.  The same is true with caring for others and accepting people. Books on nature can always be presented as talking about God’s creation.

And always look for the tried and true authors, such as Tomie de Paola. His books, many on religious subjects such as saints, Easter, bible stories, etc., are readily available at all the places mentioned above.

Then pour yourself a glass of iced tea or lemonade, sit down with a pile of books and read. Perhaps it will lead to your own prayerful meditations as you relax this summer.

Check out Anne's website at www.anneneuberger.com.