From wood blocks to nursery rhymes and songs, children learn a lot of lessons along with the alphabet. Former Durango resident Kevin Graham has written a book designed to teach children the story of Christ in the time-honored tradition in a book called Jesus from A to Z.
Graham, whose family moved to Durango in 1971 when he was 12, grew up attending the First United Methodist Church of Durango. His parents, Reg and Beverly Graham, and his brother, former City Councilor Scott Graham, still live here.
"I started by putting together a list of words for each letter," he said in a phone interview from his home in the Denver area. "I was having lunch with a pastor from another denomination and showed her the list. She asked me what church I grew up in. I told her, and she said, 'It shows.'"
He describes the book as a first building block to teach simple stories about Jesus' life, teachings and miracles to children ages 5 to 10. The applicable range is probably more like 4 to 8 years. Small children will find the lessons easy and on their level. Graham says that they are also a great starting place for adults to tell some of their favorite stories from the New Testament. (He emphasizes the point by designating "N" for New Testament.)"I came to appreciate how Christ and God were presented in a kind and loving way," Graham said about the Methodist Church. "It can be kind of gentle."
Other reviewers have noted Graham's use of the letter "V" with Via Dolorosa, the Street of Sadness in Latin, the route Jesus followed as he carried the cross to Calvary for his crucifixion. I personally wanted to know what he came up with for "Q," "X" and "Z." He did not disappoint.
For "Q" he came up with something every child has experienced - "Quiet," for quiet time, with the explanation that it's a time to think about God and Jesus and to be thankful. It's a graceful way to teach a fundamental aspect of prayer. It's also the only place where the illustration has a modern feel.
"Explain" was Graham's clever way of finding a use for "X," talking about how Jesus used parables to explain many of his lessons. "It's the only place I cheated a bit," he said.
You'll have to read the book to find out the rest of the letters, but be sure to take time to look at the deceptively simple, rich illustrations by Jennifer Yoswa. While she appears to paint in broad strokes with simple drawing, the detail in shadings, colors and portrayal of the lesson at hand had me going back for second and third looks. I imagine children would have great fun looking for all those fine points in the art.
Graham, who has had 10 other books and a number of freelance articles and columns published, has achieved his goal. Parents, grandparents and even Sunday school teachers will find the book a valuable and enjoyable read and teaching tool.