One of the things we emphasize in our family is the “power of shared experiences.” One of the richest times I share with my son is reading together in the evening. We’ve read all sorts of material over the last few years: novels, short stories, classics, fantasy, Christian literature, Bibles. At age six, John Isaac sat through all 423 pages of the first book in The Lord of the Rings series.
Why is reading with your children so valuable? Because the activity accomplishes a number of important things:
- Reading gives us quality time together.
- Reading creates shared memories using shared stories, resulting in a common language.
- Reading slows us down from the hectic pace of life.
- Reading gives me, as a father, an opportunity to expose my children to good literature, which will hopefully increase their desire for better books, rather than the common dribble pushed upon kids today.
- Reading gives me tremendous opportunities for discussions about a wide range of topics (morality, wisdom, religion, life, death, war, peace, romance, you name it!)
I try to make sure that, even when reading novels and literature, we’re also reading good story Bibles or other Christian literature. Having the Bible in mind provides a basis for discussion for other books, and the connection between the two is often striking. For example, if we read about the evil leader in the Lord of the Rings books (Sauron, who desires the “one ring” in order to dominate the world), the catechism question for the day may also deal with the fallen state of human nature, and I want to draw out those connections whenever possible.
Here are a few Bibles and works of Christian literature that my family enjoys reading together:
The Big Picture Story Bible. Many children’s Bibles are simply collections of popular stories from Scripture. However, this Bible weaves together stories from the Old and New Testament to show how all the promises of the Bible point toward and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In many ways it is a theology text disguised by great pictures (shhhh … don’t tell your kids!) We often pass along copies to families with newborns as a baby gift. You can start reading this to your child at a very young age. Many of the parents find themselves learning from the message of this book as well along the way. Read an excerpt here and here.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This Bible is similar to The Big Picture Story Bible in that it shows how Jesus is the primary plot of the Bible. However, this version is likely a better choice for a little older child (ages 4-8 and older), as there is significantly more writing on the pages. See sample pages, listen to audio, and view animations on the website: www.jesusstorybookbible.com.
Big Truths for Little Kids, by Susan and Richie Hunt. My wife and I like this because it takes the Westminster catechism (a catechism is just a question/answer format used to teach theology), divides it into groups of 2-4 questions, and uses a story to illustrate and explain the questions. All of the stories relate to the main characters in the book—a family and others in their neighborhood. Some of the stories feel a bit forced, but the kids seem to enjoy them and they help illustrate the principles of the catechism with real life action. Designed for children between 3-8 years old. You can read a sample here, and listen to an interview with the author on FamilyLife Today here.
The Church History ABC's. Of course the church history lover in me salivated over this one, especially when I opened it to find the puritanical Jonathan Edwards portrayed in an Indian headdress with a Hershey bar hanging from his mouth! It's a great introductory book for young and old, giving one page and letter of the alphabet for each of the 26 church history figures highlighted in the book (i.e. "E is for Edwards", etc.). Many interesting facts are revealed about the various figures, and more information is offered in the back for those who want to go deeper. If you only know St. Augustine as a city in Florida, John Edwards as former VP candidate, and suppose John Newton is the brilliant mind who turned figs into fruit bars, then pick up this book and learn more about Christian heritage in a fun format.
The Pilgrim’s Progress. This 300-year-old classic work has dropped out of use with modern Christians, but is as ever helpful as any book you can find today. Crossway has published a new edition, with 30 high-quality illustrations spread throughout the 200 pages. The pictures look like many paintings you would expect to see hanging in an art gallery. They are pleasant on the eyes and keep my son's attention enough to last through 10-15 pages of text, which is quite surprising, since the language of the book is only “lightly edited” from the original. There are long sections of theological discussion, most of which I read word for word, and yet he keeps asking for more. You can read a sample chapter as well.
Try grabbing one of the above books this week, and then set aside just 10 minutes a night to read with your kids. You won’t be disappointed!
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