30 March 2014
Friends, I’m always pleased to be asked for recommendations about reading the Bible with children, since Psalm 78:4 encourages believers this way:
…we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
What follows is just our wisdom, such as it is, accumulated over the years, from our own experience and the good advice of others. But the main piece of advice is just to do it!
Read to your kids regularly, daily if possible. And make sure one of the books you read is the Bible. Start from as young an age as possible. (If you’re a grandparent or aunt or uncle or godparent, delight in reading to the younger children in your life as often as you can. Read what they enjoy. And unless banned by the parents, read from the Bible, explaining it’s a book important to you.) Here are a few tips…
- Read at a specific time each day, as part of the rhythm of your kids’ life. For some families it seems to work best together with all ages at breakfast or dinner. For others, it seems to work best to have 1-1 reading time with each child. Both are good options.
- Remember that they don’t need to understand all the words or at first. Very young children will grasp parts before the whole. They can enjoy the narratives and grow into the details and depths of meaning as you read and re-read.
- Of course, many Bible stories teach a clear moral lesson. Children need to take these to heart. But the Bible is never just morality tales. You must work at pointing your child to the Bible’s big picture: of God’s plan to rescue us from sin through his Son, Jesus.
- Ask questions to measure your children’s understanding, and see if they have their own. Do your best to answer honestly and explain with patience. But just accept that some days, there will be no questions or answers from them. Don’t give up.
- Use variety. And you need to invest in a different Bible at each of the following stages: to read to children, to read with children, for them to start reading for themselves. Make sure you get hardbacks (or leather bound with older kids), not paperback! Suggestions below, extra comments on the discussion and devotional aids on the website version.
- It works well to get each kid to bring their own copy of the Bible to the table. We would all take turns reading a section aloud. The kids seemed to love ticking off each book of the Bible we completed in the contents page of their own Bible.
- Finally, teach them to pray the Scriptures. Model not just talking about the story, but allowing the biblical text to shape your prayers.
To read to Children (simplified and illustrated Bible stories)
- Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers (ages 1.5-3),
- Beginner’s Bible (ages 2-6).
To read with Children (both these titles integrate individual episodes with God’s overall plans in Christ):
- Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (ages 4-8);
- Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (ages 4-8).
- International Children’s Bible and New International Reader’s Version (from ages 7-12, short sentences, easy vocab).
- Contemporary English Version (written for adults with basic literacy skills) often works better for reading aloud with kids because it’s not so wedded to very short sentences.
- For children from 11 or 12, we recommend the New International Version (NIV).
Additional discussion and devotional aids
- Bible Bites (365 devotions, from Youthworks, best for families new to the Bible).
- Table Talk (family Bible reading notes, undated 3 month blocks, ages 7-10 from the Good Book Company via the Reformers.com.au website).
- Short Steps for Long Gains (26 topics of the Bible, one for each letter of the alphabet, spring-boarding off just 1-2 verses, Family & Youth Editions, Matthias Media).
For a change of pace, for a few weeks, each day we read aloud a couple of pages of Bruce Ware’s book Big Truths for Young Hearts and with teenagers, the Matthias Media Little Black Book series.
The Matthias Media resources mentioned above can be downloaded electronically for free, if you have a GoThereFor subscription, which we are making available to all members of our church prayer and Bible ‘growth groups’. Inquire with your group leader.
Warmly in Christ,