Books have been a source of comfort to me for many years. Whether I’m turning to fiction to escape, biographies to learn, or non-fiction for self-help, I’ve usually got several books on the go at once. Mothering by the Book: The Power of Reading Aloud to Overcome Fear and Recapture Joy by Jennifer Pepito caught my eye because, well, I do mother by the book. Like Jennifer, I’ve learned as much from fictional mothers in novels as I have from parenting books themselves.
I received this book for review courtesy of the publicist; all opinions expressed remain my own. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Mothering by the Book overview
In the first chapter, Jennifer explains, “I was a Charlotte Mason method homeschool mom, so even though I was caught up in a swirl of fears that led me into depression, I was diligently reading aloud to my children. I’d sit with these children’s classics, my own babies tucked in close, and as I read, these books saved my life. … I recaptured the magic of motherhood by fighting fear with stories and letting the truth of Scripture hammer it home.”
Through the pages of Mothering by the Book, Jennifer walks us through the seasons of fear in her life. She talks of being a missionary in Mexico with young children; of her daughter’s depression and eating disorder; of moves and mistakes and marriage problems; of illnesses and special needs and so many other mom fears. Jennifer is honest about the ups and downs that she’s lived through, and yet through it all shines hope. She isn’t negative or complaining about all the hardship she’s faced. She simply shares what she went through and what helped her get through it: books.
Each chapter focuses on a specific type of fear and recommends a literature companion. For example, chapter 7 is on the fear of failing our children. Jennifer speaks about living for a greater purpose, as Mother does in The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. This is a delightful novel about five children’s adventures after their father is unexpectedly taken from them and they move to the countryside. As Mother adapts to being a single mom in a new home, she shares lessons for all of us moms. Although the story is written from the kids’ point of view about their adventures, the glimpses we catch of Mother through the story are encouraging and inspiring.
… as I read about how Mother in The Railway Children lived according to her lights, lived into purpose despite their difficult circumstances, I was lifted, and strength returned for the journey. You see, Mother wasn’t sitting there writing her hands and blaming her husband’s absence for her lack of action. She didn’t throw in the towel on doing good because she was doing it alone.
At the end of each chapter, Jennifer includes a study guide, which includes journal / discussion questions, a Bible verse to memorize or reflect on, and more books on the topic covered in the chapter (both for read-aloud and just for mom). While each chapter focuses on a specific classic novel that can be read aloud to kids, she also mentions non-fiction books that tie into the topic and have helped her in her journey.
Mothering by the Book is an absolutely beautiful book that would be wonderful to work through with a mom’s group or homeschool group. Jennifer packs so much into each chapter, and I’d really like to read (or re-read) her literature companion (and other recommended books) along with the chapter. I read this book from front to back, but if there is a particular fear that you are struggling with at a specific season of life, you could flip to that chapter for Jennifer’s insight.
Fear is something all of us face. We may not all suffer from the same fears, and those fears may change as our seasons of life change, but fear is there. Over and over again in Scripture, we hear, “Do not be afraid.” And yet the struggle is real. Fear is real. It is something we must continually fight and resist. Mothering by the Book gives us the tool to do so by looking at other moms who’ve faced huge fear and walked through it bravely and faithfully.
In the last chapter, sharing how the pandemic reawakened her fears, Jennifer says, “Overcoming fear is a journey, not a destination, and as with all good journeys, pitfalls and roadblocks will occur. They don’t have to be the end of us. We can brush ourselves off and keep moving forward.” Even this gives me hope.
So often I’ve thought that if only a specific circumstance would change, then I wouldn’t be scared. And yet as Jennifer shows us, circumstances can and do change—sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad—and we rarely have control over those. We don’t need to let those circumstances control our actions and reactions, however. We can resist the fear no matter where we live—whether we’re in a one-room log cabin in the woods or a leaky trailer in Mexico.
More about Jennifer Pepito
Jennifer Pepito is the mother of seven children and has been homeschooling for twenty-five years. Five of her children have graduated from her homeschool program; two earned honors degrees from their preferred university and one is pursuing a J.D. When she discovered that her second daughter had learning disabilities, Jennifer became an avid student of child development. Jennifer is a Simplicity Parenting Coach, and a Certified Life Coach. She’s been published in several online journals and print articles. She lives with her husband and children in the mountains of Northern California.