Soulful Summer Selections

Image credit: (2014), CC0/PD

Books and online resources for you and your students

By Carolyn Astfalk

Books for Catholic living

Prayer basics for little ones

33 Mass Lessons and Activities for Young Children by Patricia Mathson is a practical guide that connects what happens at Mass with daily life. Each short section includes teacher notes, a sharing question, a learning activity, and a short prayer. Reproducible pages include a family take-home page. Also includes special recommendations for families with children preparing for their first Eucharist. Available From Twenty-Third Publications.

The Mass for children

Slightly older students (kindergarten through second grade) will appreciate a walk through the Mass in I Pray the Mass by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP, and Mary Elizabeth Tebo, FSP. The universality of the Mass is stressed in this step-by-step guide to praying the Mass from beginning to end. Available from Pauline Books & Media.

I Pray Every Day, also by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP, and Mary Elizabeth Tebo, FSP, describes in a simple way children’s daily opportunities for prayer. The characters in this brightly illustrated book demonstrate a variety of times and places to talk to God, from morning to meals and even during sickness. Includes sample prayers. Ideal for preschoolers and available from Pauline Books & Media.

Soldier saint story

Children will be drawn into the swashbuckling story of St. Martin of Tours in The Sword and the Cape by Pamela Love. Illustrations help bring to life the Roman-soldier-turned-Christian whose cape was miraculously restored after he gave half of it away. Includes a short history of St. Martin and his cape, as well as a prayer. An ideal read-aloud story for children through first grade. Available from Pauline Books & Media.

Holiness is possible

Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly’s books and instructional videos are already familiar in many Catholic classrooms. In his latest book, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity: How Modern Culture Is Robbing Billions of People of Happiness, Kelly takes on the self-defeating notion that holiness is not possible. Published by Eucalyptus Media Group.

Living the Church year

The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life by Kendra Tierney is a valuable resource for Catholic families and schools. Organized around the liturgical year, entries relate the history of solemnities, feasts, and memorials with practical suggestions for incorporating liturgical life into your day in the home or classroom. Includes an index of feast days and quick-reference guides. Available from Ignatius Press.

Teaching tough topics

For those charged with sharing Church teaching on hot-button social issues such as transgender identity, same-sex marriage, and contraception, Made This Way: How to Prepare Kids to Face Today’s Tough Moral Issues is an invaluable resource. Using Leila Miller’s practical experience and Trent Horn’s research and debate experience, the authors address 10 timely topics and offer practical suggestions for speaking about the issues in age-appropriate ways — for young children and older students. Available from Catholic Answers Press.

Revisit the classics

Supplement both religion and literature classes with a novel that dips into classic mythology and ancient literature. The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld by J. Augustine Wetta, OSB, “delivers a unique, rollicking story combining the works of Dante, Homer, and other classics.” An entertaining spiritual odyssey and suitable companion to the works of Homer and Dante’s Inferno. Available from Ignatius Press.

God’s storyteller

I Am God’s Storyteller by Lisa M. Hendey is a vibrant, delightful picture book that will spur discussion and creativity in the classroom. The author traces salvation history from creation through the Old Testament and then Christianity, using the framework of stories and storytellers, including the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles. The relatable, simple text nourishes the divinely sparked creativity in each of us, but especially in children, who naturally gravitate to stories. A wonderful resource for inspiring creativity in the arts while emphasizing the artistry of God and those made in his image. Available from Paraclete Press.

Tuned in and online

Brother Francis

A new DVD is available in the Brother Francis video series: The Ten Commandments (Episode 16). The 30-minute video is designed with young children in mind.

Catholic Brain

This resource for religious education and formation includes more than “5,000 videos, songs, games, interactive songs, lesson plans, online curriculum … quizzes, competitions, and daily activities” designed to encourage children to pray and live their faith. For pricing and information, visit

Stations of the Cross VIDEO

The Stations of the Cross aren’t just for Lent. Here they are read by children, accompanied by sacred art. Follow along with prayers and responses at or be inspired to create your own classroom video.

Whiteboard app

The Explain Everything Whiteboard app works as a digital, interactive whiteboard. Teachers and students can collaborate in real time to manipulate documents and images with ease. For use with Android, iOS, and Google Chromebooks.

Fun Catholic podcast

The Catholic Talk Show Podcast (also on YouTube) may be too unstructured and irreverent for the classroom, but amidst the hosts’ laughter and camaraderie, teachers will find an entertaining, informative, personal resource for learning little-known and fascinating details about Catholic faith, culture, and practice. Available on iTunes.

Leadership profiles

Teachers and administrators can access Interactive Leadership Profiles and select from one of three emphases: professional practices, leadership requirements, or leadership emphasis. Download your leadership profile and then access recommendations for your professional growth:


Carolyn Astfalk is a contemporary Catholic novelist, blogger, contributor, and mother of four Catholic-school students ranging from kindergarten to high school.

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