Bibles and devotional type books for children abound, but I find that most are targeted for older kids or are so watered down as to be nearly useless for teaching kids about God. Here are a few exceptions that I’ve run across. I would love to hear what your favorites are, especially if I missed them on this list!
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name is the most excellent Bible for children I’ve seen yet. This story Bible works well for younger children without being too simple. Every story is theologically accurate and shows how that story points to Jesus, which I think is a great truth for kids to grasp. The pictures are interesting and detailed. I think this book would be appropriate for toddlers through early elementary school age.
The Big Picture Story Bible is another great story Bible for kids that illustrates the themes of Scripture and how God revealed His plan of redemption throughout the Bible. The stories are written in bigger text than the Jesus Storybook Bible, so it would be easier for early readers to use. The illustrations are engaging and make it easy for kids to see the connections in Biblical themes. The book is theologically accurate and a good teaching tool.
Right Choices is a book of short stories illustrating Biblical principles with a framework for making good choices. At times I think this book is a little simplistic, but that does make it handy for teaching very small children how to think through problems and make the right choices. I wrote a more in depth review of this book last year when the kids were 3, almost 2 and a small baby, and I do think the book is more useful with children in that age range than with older preschoolers. We don’t read it as much now that the kids are a little older.
Big Thoughts for Little People is written by the same man who wrote Right Choices, and it’s similarly structured around short vignettes and a Bible verse, but with the addition of the alphabet. Overall I feel like this book is more like a book on manners and behavior from a Christian perspective, rather than really a teaching book about the Bible. It’s worthwhile to teach manners and behavior, but I wanted to mention that because I don’t think this book stands on its own. We read it every now and then in addition to our regular Bible reading and memory verses and so forth.
My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts is similar to Right Choices in that it uses short stories and Bible verses to teach Biblical truths, but I think it’s a little stronger than Right Choices and could be well used with older toddlers and preschoolers. Hannah’s Sunday School class has been memorizing the verses this year. There is one verse and story for each letter of the alphabet, and while certainly every Scripture is useful, a few times I felt like the authors were stretching to find a verse to fit a particular letter. I’m not sure why they felt like they needed to add the alphabet to the framework, but it doesn’t detract significantly. I think the book would work well for early readers if you’re looking for a devotional type book young kids can read to themselves.
Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God is written by the same people who did ABC Bible Verses, and has similar short stories and Scripture but the book is structured around the Children’s Catechism (the simplest version). For every few catechism questions and answers, there is a story making an application, questions, a Bible verse and prayer. Our kids have been learning the Children’s Catechism, so I may use this book alongside our regular memory work. So what is a catechism and why do we catechize our kids? As the introduction to this book says, “A catechism is simply a series of questions and answers that systematically teach a body of information. Catechizing children is an effective way to teach them a framework of biblical knowledge that helps them develop a Christian worldview. It is amazing how quickly children grasp the truths set before them and how quickly they begin to understand that how we live is based on what we believe.” I think that is really true. My kids are young, but they remember the questions and answers and ask good follow-up questions about the material. You can teach the Children’s Catechism without this book – the questions are available in lots of little booklets, but it might be a helpful reference if you’re just getting started. I would recommend including some sort of Bible verse memory in addition to this book.
Training Hearts Teaching Minds is a more in-depth way to teach the catechism. This book uses the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is a little harder than the Children’s version. What I really like about this book is that for each question and answer there are six days of a short reading and looking at one of the Scripture proofs for that answer (in case you’re not familiar with catechisms, the Westminster version does have several Scripture references or “proofs” that the answer given is Biblical). As the author says, memorizing is more useful when it is accompanied by understanding: “Certainly we do a disservice to our children if we insist that they memorize words they do not understand, while we fail to take the time to discuss, teach, and explain the meanings to them. The solution, however, is not to discard memorization as a teaching method, but to faithfully supply meaning by discussing and explaining.” This book does a great job of helping parents with the teaching and explaining of foundational Biblical truths.
I think for most preschoolers the children’s catechism is more appropriate for memorizing, but I am planning to use this book this fall in our Bible time but use it with the simpler questions and answers. The book is organized as a way to do family devotions around the catechism, but I think it could be just as easily used by an older elementary or junior higher as a personal study.
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God is a narrative of theological truths for children based on the way the author taught his own children the things he was teaching seminary students. He used this with his youngest daughter when she was just two years old, but as I read through the book I wondered how we could use it with our preschoolers because the sections are quite long. I think this is a great book, and preschoolers could learn from it and digest it if you can find a way to break it up into MUCH smaller pieces. I’m thinking that with the ages of our kids this book will work better when they are a year or two older, but if your youngest child is 4 or so, this book would be a good way to teach your older and younger kids together.
I’ve heard really great things about Nancy Ganz’s series of commentaries/studies for children on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers – the series is called Herein Is Love – but I haven’t actually seen them myself. I can’t find any mention of an appropriate age range other than “children” and I’m tempted to contact the publisher to ask because the reviews for this series are so fantastic. At first I wondered about the choice to teach Leviticus to children, but I love the description of how the author uses the books of law to explain the significance and importance of the imagery in the New Testament and how the Old Testament teaches God’s redemptive love. If anyone has tried them or seen the books, would you let me know?
This list is by no means exhaustive – I’ve looked over a lot of other books that I didn’t like well enough to mention, but I’m sure I’ve overlooked some really great ones. If you have any resources or books for teaching the Bible to your children, would you share them with us in the comments?
This post will also be linked up at Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Check out other kids book recommendations there!