Monday, April 23, 2018

Saints to Read Aloud: Holy Friends

Written by Diana M. Amadeo
Illustrated by Irina Lombardo with Augusto Curreli

In the early grades, Mater Amabilis™ has lots of recommended books for saint studies. For first grade (Level 1B), they recommend Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints. I wrote briefly about them after First Son's first grade year. After that, though, we started using them in our history studies so I have found other saint stories for first grade. Some people prefer to use alternate texts, too, because the stories aren't strictly biographical, instead including some inventive details.

First Daughter read Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn. We read it over two years. In kindergarten, I read aloud and she narrated. In first grade, she finished the book reading the stories independently before narrating them. I wrote about it here. Second Son might have been able to read the stories this year, but they were a little long overall and I wanted something that would last only one year.

Second Daughter read Saints Tell their Stories by Patricia Mitchell. I read the stories aloud and she narrated them. You can read about that book here.

Last year, in kindergarten, I read Saints and their Stories by Maria Loretta Giraldo to Second Son (which I wrote about here). These stories are longer than in the Mitchell book. Thinking long-term, the Mitchell book would work well in kindergarten and Saints and their Stories in first grade. Of course, as I'm writing this post in April 2018, Saints and their Stories is outrageously expensive at close to $50. So you shouldn't use it unless you or your library owns it. I was lucky enough to receive it as a review copy.

When I went looking through our first grade books, I decided to make another change. Instead of Saints Tell their Stories, which is lovely and would have worked perfectly, I decided to read Holy Friends. I bought this book used years and years ago when I cobbled together an American history study for First Son when he was in first or second grade. I just wanted a reason to read it aloud again.

In Holy Friends there are two and a half pages of text and a lovely full-page glossy illustration for each saint. There are thirty chapters, but actually more than thirty people because some chapters are about groups like the North American martyrs (St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, among others). With thirty chapters, it's easy to schedule off weeks for Advent and Holy Week and still finish in 36 weeks. Or, keep reading and finish early.

They are grouped by country and, of course, only include saints from North and South America. Many of the saints were missionaries from Europe, but a few were born in the Americas. The book was written in 2005, so some of those shown as blessed in the book are now saints.
  • St. Marie of the Incarnation Guyard (Canada)
  • St. Kateri Tekakwitha (Canada)
  • St. Andre Bessette (Canada)
  • St. Junipero Serra (US)
  • St. Theodore Guerin (US)
  • St. Damien Joseph de Veuster (US)
The saints are organized by country and include saints from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States. I appreciated a book focused on the saints of the Americas because we were able to learn about a few that are less well-known as well as some with closer connections to us in the United States. There are marvelous examples of sacrificial love for the indigenous people of the Americas (like St. Peter Claver and St. Katharine Drexel) and saints and blesseds of non-European ancestry are included like St. Martin de Porres (Spanish father and indigenous mother) and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Second Son is an older first grader; he turned seven before the school year began. He may have been able to read the stories independently, but I preferred to read aloud to him to help with pronounciation and understanding.

Regardless of the saint book you choose, consider adding in a calendar exercise. Second Son loved finding the month and day of the feast day so he could mark our calendar. At first, it was just a scribble; by the end of the year he would usually write the saint's first name. When the feast day came around, even if we couldn't remember the saint (remember the scribbles?), I would let the kids have a piece of candy for dessert. This addition took only a few moments, but helped us easily incorporate months into our first grade year.

I purchased this book used years ago. The opinions here are my own. The links above to Amazon are affiliate links.

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