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Let the children sing

BOOKS | For young people, a book of hymns that isn’t simplistic


Let the children sing
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In 2014 David and Barbara Leeman self-published Hosanna, Loud Hosannas: Essential Hymns Every Child Should Sing, enhanced with full-color art reproductions. Today that first edition is as much a monetary treasure as a spiritual one: Used copies sell online for $200 and up. But happily for Christian families, Moody Publishers has reprinted the Leemans’ book under the title Our Hymns, Our Heritage: A Student Guide to the Songs of the Church (2022).

The beautiful paintings are casualties of high printing costs, but the text and hymn selection remain. A foreword by Keith and Kristyn Getty makes the point that even while children’s literature grows more complex and intellectually demanding, too much of children’s worship music has become simplistic and even shallow. They write, “It is refreshing to see a book of hymns selected for children to sing that tell the gospel and teach complex biblical truths in a timeless way.”

Older Christians who sang the words of Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, and Clement of Alexandria before they could understand them know how their hymns have gathered weight and meaning. A child will not grasp the full meaning of “Far as the curse is found” or “God, our help in ages past.” But as the years bring maturity, the words will continue to speak to deeper and deeper places. This “Student Guide” is targeted for ages 9 through 12, but as the authors note, “You should never stop being a student, especially about the truths and glory of God.”

Writers from the earliest days of the Church (Aurelius Prudentius) up to the present (Stuart Townend) contribute to this collection. The hymns are divided in three major sections. The first 37 take us through the traditional church year from Advent to Pentecost. The second section, titled “God Is,” explores the Trinitarian and sovereign nature of God, as well as attributes including love, hope, omnipresence, and more. “We Respond” encourages us in praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, testimony, and commitment. An additional section of spirituals reminds us that the gospel speaks to all races and times.

Hymns are printed with all verses and four-part harmony. On the facing page of each is an introduction to the lyricist and composer (or tune), followed by a meditation on the meaning of the hymn—all solid material for family devotionals. The authors include suggestions for teaching these hymns in a family setting. A spiral-bound book of piano accompaniments is available for the more musically inclined, but families who lack a pianist can sing along with music from a USB drive, ordered separately.

After decades of praise choruses and CCM, Christians are rediscovering the rich traditions of hymnody. Our Hymns, Our Heritage is a helpful resource to root those traditions in the next generation.

Janie B. Cheaney

Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD’s annual Children’s Books of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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