Oct 23, 2008

Bibles for Children

I’m on the hunt for excellent resources for discipling children. I’ve enjoyed hunting around on the Internet and at Barnes & Noble looking for the best Children’s Bible. Today, I’d like to recommend two. The first is for younger children, and is aptly named The Beginners Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories. Published by Zondervan, it’s apparently pretty popular boasting, “The bestselling Bible Storybook of our time––over 5 million copies sold!” I like it because it is well illustrated. The graphics are colorful and consistent. There is plenty on each page to capture my 18 month old’s attention while she listens to the stories. The stories are fairly well written, with a young audience in mind (recommended for children Ages 6 & Under). My daughter has nearly destroyed her copy with lots of love. It’s probably her favorite book, which is remarkable, since she has lots of books. It contains over 90 stories from the Old and New Testaments.

Its weak points are consistent with most other Bibles for Children. Namely, the episodic nature of the stories lacks any cohesion to a larger plot structure. Now if your goal is simply to lay a foundation by getting these episodes into the consciousness of your child, than this criticism doesn’t matter that much. Which is why I’m still using this Bible, and am willing to recommend it as a good resource for the very young.

However, I will insist that you graduate your child to a better Bible as soon as you possibly can. In fact, we are already transitioning our 18-month-old to The Jesus Storybook Bible, which I whole-heartedly recommend. Also published by Zondervan, this Bible cares deeply about the larger narrative of the Scriptures (creation, rebellion, redemption, and re-creation). The illustrations are breathtaking. (In fact, my wife has stopped me twice from cutting the pages out and hanging them on the wall!) This Bible is still episodic, but it weaves the stories together with common phrases, foreshadowing, and summary. For example, after the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, the author (Sally Lloyd-Jones) writes, “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away. Who was he? God’s Son, his only Son––the Son he loved. The lamb of God.”

Obviously, the narrative of each story is a lot longer than that of Beginner’s. So, it will have to be reserved for children who can sit a bit longer (publishers recommend age 4 & Up). However, we’ve found that our 18 month old can already sit through these stories, because, I believe, for two reasons: First, the stories were obviously written to be read aloud, by an author who knows how to use language to communicate to children; Second, the illustrations hold attention. This Bible is superb. Understanding how the diverse stories of the Bible fit together in a larger plot structure came very late for me in my own walk. I think we can do a better job of showing our young Bible students how each story relates to the Gospel, and I’m thankful for this excellent resource


Pamela said...

Thanks for the info, Dan. We've been thinking about getting a new, more mature Bible for Anna. I just might make an Amazon order today!

Grant County Area said...

Hi Dan, Kim G. here. (I can't remember my password, and this account always shows up).

We also have spent a lot of time searching for children's bibles. My main complaint of them is that they tend to add random bits of info that aren't actually in the Bible like "Abraham was happy in his home at Ur..." That drives me nutty.

The Blossers said...

Pam, great choice. ;-)

Grant County area, why blow your cover? You sound so mysterious! :-) Anyway Kim, I share your frustration. I'll give the author plenty of leeway, but I want him/her to be a good interpreter.

One weakness of the Jesus Storybook Bible is that though it includes the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer, they decided to paraphrase these instead of using the text. I think it would be stronger if they used an easy modern translation (NIV, for example) of the actual verses. Kids can memorize stuff so fast, why use the paraphrase? Anyway, thanks for your comments.

Welcome to Our Nest of Three said...

Hi! Siegmanns here :) I have to wholeheartedly endorse our fave kids Bible: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1581342772?ie=UTF8&tag=thsifabl-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1581342772

We actually have both the Bibles you recommend, and always find ourselves defaulting to this one because the "stories" can come across as trite and disconnected sometimes. Promise me you'll check this one out! I'm only so enthusiastic about it b/c it does such an amazing job of connecting the overarching themes ... And frankly, it's theology is so spot on, we find it working on our hearts as we read it.

Also ... another set of books that we LOVE is called the "first virtues for toddlers" series (on amazon), each of which embrace a scripture, and explain not only HOW we can follow it, but also points out how God emulates that trait Himself in His holy nature (the best part of each book in my opinion). Anyway ... they're fun, and they're great resources to refer to and use as "reminders" in the heat of the moment :)
Anyway, let me know your take on the Bible! I think you'd love it.