Keys for Kids Ministries releases 'Seasons of Faith' children's book series based on past radio broadcasts
By Ann Byle | The Grand Rapids Press | December 26, 2009
GRAND RAPIDS — Keys for Kids Ministries brought history into the present recently with the release of four children’s picture books based on content written years ago for its popular “Children’s Bible Hour” radio program.
The program began in 1942 and has been heard worldwide for nearly 70 years.
Now those classic radio scripts are being taken out of storage, rewritten and repackaged to reach another generation of children. The first four books in the “Seasons of Faith” series, released mid-October, are a dream come true for Executive Director Terre Ritchie.
“I was saying to myself that there must be something we can do with all these old program scripts,” said Ritchie. “In September 2008, I got an e-mail from a constituent asking me what we were doing at CBH, and in my answer I mentioned, for the first time, my idea to turn the scripts into books.
“By the next morning, we had $10,000 to fund the project.”
CBH, which also produces the popular radio program “Down Gilead Lane,” gathered $54,000, an amount Ritchie thought would finance one book but instead paid for four and the accompanying CDs.
The books were printed at Grand Rapids-based RBC Ministries, which produces the devotional “Our Daily Bread” and also prints CBH’s devotional “Keys for Kids.”
It took nearly a year for Ritchie and CBH editor Kristen Tuinstra to search through the nearly 3,000 scripts to choose the first four, then update names, colloquialisms and references; hire two artists to illustrate two books each; and coordinate production of the CDs to accompany each book.
They didn’t look far for a narrator. “Uncle Charlie” VanderMeer, a Children’s Bible Hour narrator for years, was happy to do the job. He started at “Children’s Bible Hour” in 1943 at age 9 as a story boy, adding voices to the script. He came on full-time after finishing college, eventually becoming director. He stepped down in 1999, yet remains Ambassador-at-Large.
“My first reaction was to say, ‘Don’t you want someone with a younger voice?’ But I love the idea of kids reading these books rather than watching TV. It gives them something interesting to listen to and look at at the same time.”
The books are categorized according to a child’s level of faith development. Spring books are for children just learning about faith; summer for those developing faith; autumn and winter for children deepening their faith amid struggles, temptation, loss or even death.
Faith is not just about going to church, said Ritchie. “We want to help kids live their faith every day.”
Sales already are showing promise. About 1,300 books have been sold in the weeks since the books became available, with sales coming through bookstores, the CBH Web site and walk-ins. Each book costs $10 and includes the CD. The series also is available at Kregel Parable Christian Stores.
Ritchie and Tuinstra see no end to the number of book possibilities, and are planning to release four new titles a year. Two will come out in June 2010 and two in November.
“Kids today have so many hard things to deal with. These books teach them how to face those things. There is so much to learn in each book,” Ritchie said.