Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Favorite Kids' Bible Books

     I am shamelessly obsessed with the Bible. I figure, as far as obsessions go, that isn't a bad one to have! Ever since I became a mother I have searched for ways to pass on that love of the Word, so I am always on the lookout for really amazing Bibles and Bible storybooks to share with my children. I am a little on the picky side: I'm kind of hard-nosed about accuracy and thoroughness. I feel like there are children's Bible storybooks that tell Bible stories in a manner children can understand and relate to, and then there are ones that are worse than Hollywood versions of your favorite book-so far removed from the original that the only thing that's the same is the title. You know what I mean?

   Anyway, I have had a number of people ask me what my favorite Bible books are for my kids, and I thought I would compile a list of some of our most beloved ones. I have ranked them in order of most simple, therefore appropriate for the youngest age, to the actual Bible versions I use with my own kids now that they are a little older. (I have included my personal suggestions for the age range on each one, which may vary from the publisher's recommendations.)

1. "The Beginner's Bible" from Zonderkidz  (3-6 years) We started using this Bible with our kids when they were about 3 years old. As a matter of fact, each of our kids have their own copy, and they are both so well-loved that the bindings are broken! This one is great because the stories perfectly fit the attention span, and understanding, of the average preschooler. Then, as your child begins to read, they can start to read this Bible to you! My son, who is 8, still sometimes reaches for this one because the stories are so familiar. This isn't the most thorough of versions, but it is a great place to start.

2. "The Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd-Jones (4-8 years) This is probably one of the most recommended kids' Bibles, and while my kids really enjoyed it, it isn't my personal top pick. It is even more of a "story" format than most kids' Bible books. It is written in an unusual style that uses many capitalized words that appeal to adults, but I think can be a little confusing for children to read on their own (Example: ..."God would love his children-with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love". pg. 36) I would have preferred that the pronoun "His" be capitalized and not necessarily all the adjectives for love-a little nit picky, I know, but I'm just being honest! My husband did not care to read out-loud from this one because of the writing style. However, I loved how it wove together the entire Bible as one cohesive story, and some of the phrasing brought tears to my eyes. The author does a great job of covering the Old Testament books of prophecy (Ezra, Malachi, etc.), but she completely skips the entire books of Ruth and Esther, which was disappointing to me. So, while this is a very lovely storybook, I wouldn't personally use it as our sole children's Bible.

3. "The Big Picture Interactive Storybook Bible" from BH Kids (5-10 years) This is a recent purchase, and it came highly recommended. I purchased it because our church is using "The Gospel Project" curriculum, and I *LOVE* it! The whole focus of the Gospel Project is to see the entire Bible interpreted through the lens of Christ's gift of salvation. Each story is a concise one page, and includes discussion question and how each story relates back to Christ. I love that it covers the fall of Israel in the Old Testament, often children's Bibles tend to gloss over that portion because it is so complicated, but this one is very thorough while remaining age-appropriate (It covers Hosea and Gomer very tactfully!). With cute illustrations, and meaningful text, this is quickly headed to the top of our list. Even if your church is not using "The Gospel Project" this is still a great addition to your kids' Bible library. Also, an added bonus: the book works with a free app that provides short summaries for each story, in addition to showing a "3D" version of the illustration. For key stories, there are adorable videos, narrated with all of the text, that you can view. My kids loved that part!

4. "The Children's Bible in 365 Stories" (6-10) I purchased this at a thrift store on a whim, and it was definitely worth it. It is very reminiscent of my childhood (although I didn't use it then) and before we purchased "The Big Picture" Bible, was the most complete children's Bible storybook I had ever seen. I love how it is divided into use for a year's reading. The language is a tiny bit complicated, not overly so, but enough that for younger readers it makes for a better read-aloud. There's no squirming here-even David and Bathsheba, Sisera and Jael are covered, so you may want to peruse each day's selection beforehand. I am of the mindset that if it made it into the Bible, then I probably shouldn't hide it from my kids', I just need to handle it in an age-appropriate manner. This Bible doesn't include very much from the Old Testament prophets, and skips over some stories (Achan's sin) while including other more unusual ones (the Gibeonites' deception). Overall, if you have to pick between this one and "The Big Picture" I'd choose "The Big Picture", but they are both good, and the old school style of "The Children's Bible" appealed to my kids, so you can't go wrong with both.

5. "The Action Bible" from David C. Cook (8-12). My kids are *obsessed* with this Bible! I was a little hesitant: it *is* the Bible in comic book format, but my husband really wanted to purchase it for our son. What surprised me is that our 10 year-old daughter is just as interested in it! I haven't read this in it's entirety, but it is a great supplement to other Bible tools. Due to how it is written, it would not make for a good read-aloud, so I only recommend this for kids that can read and comprehend independently and have a firm understanding that, unlike Spiderman and Batman, the Bible is real and this is just another way to gain insight. The illustrations are exciting without being irreverent. My kids and my 12 year-old brother couldn't get enough of the dragon from Revelation. I also noticed that it includes a little bit of what happened between the Old and New Testaments, and some historical background on the world during the early Church years. I really liked that, as it wasn't until I was an adult I was able to put those periods in context. This is definitely the most "fun" and least "devotional" of any of my recommendations. It reminds me of "The Book of God, the Bible as a Novel" by Walter Wangerin Jr. It is really a supplement to other Bible study, and I wouldn't recommend it as an independent Bible, but more as way to get kids interested in the Word.

6. "The Adventure Bible" from ZonderKidz (6 and up) This is an actual Bible, and is available in several translations. My kids both have the NIV version, and the reason I recommend this particular Bible (in any translation) is because it has so many great helps and is a good introduction to study Bibles. It includes footnotes, maps, a glossary, subject index and more. It also has suggestions for how kids can apply the Bible to their own lives. I used an older version of this Bible as a child and I loved it. It has so many practical, helpful additions, but the actual Bible text is definitely the star of the show, which is how a Bible should be! Also, this Bible is available in a version for younger independent readers, the NIrV.

7. "The Message" from NavPress (10 and up)  Paraphrased by Eugene Peterson from the original Greek and Hebrew, this is actually a really great translation. I know many people contest that it is a translation, but you must translate to paraphrase, right? This Bible is so accessible, and surprises me often with its fresh, straight-shooting interpretation of the Word. Why do I recommend it for kids? It gives a great perspective on the Bible, and when paired with another more literal translation, can really help kids to see that the Bible applies to *our* lives-it isn't just old (albeit cool) stories from another era, it is about us, here and now. Peterson doesn't pull any punches, and his wording for some of the more hard-hitting parts of the Bible can make you wince if you aren't watching out. (Jesus' words to the Pharisees, or parts of Isaiah for example). It eliminates some of the confusing Bible language (using "dollars" instead of things like "shekels" in the New Testament) so kids' can see the heart of the story. It isn't so "hip" though that the really meaning is overlooked. However, use with caution. Due to some of the more "modern" language, there are occasionally words that you may not be comfortable using with your children (The way "prostitute" is translated in Matthew 21 is a good example. ) I choose to read this version aloud, so I make adjustments with the words that I prefer not to introduce just yet, but that is definitely something of which you should be aware.

     With all that said, I highly recommend that you are thorough when choosing any type of Bible-related book for your family. I try to use recommendations as a jumping off point, since there are so many possibilities, rather than a checklist of must-haves. Check these books and versions out for yourself, and be sure and let me know if you have any that I didn't mention that your family adores!

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