This fourth post in the Library Builders series looks at books that help us to understand the Bible. This is such a vast topic that I plan to cover it in two parts. This post addresses books to use in family devotions and storybooks for younger children. Part two of this post is about books for older children and adults.
Books for Family Devotions
There is nothing which we can read that is more pure, or of more value, than the Bible. Yet how many people read devotional after devotional without taking time to read through the Bible itself, cover to cover?
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb. Psalm 19: 7-10
Read the Bible!
So my first suggestion, if your family has not already done so, is to dedicate a year (or two!) to reading through the entire Bible together. Our family has seen so much fruit from our time spent systematically reading through the Word this year!
I have been amazed, time and again, at how the Lord brings the very Word we needed to hear, and often from a passage where we least expected to find it! I’ve been challenged this year to truly believe that His Word never returns void, and that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.
I have always believed this verse to be true, but I have come to appreciate it in a new way as I have seen the Lord minister encouragement to me in just the way I needed through books like Numbers and 1 Kings, and as He has touched our young children’s hearts through books like Ecclesiastes…books which we ordinarily would not have read in our family devotions, were we not systematically reading through the Bible.
Coordinate Bible Reading with History When Possible
My history curriculum, Tapestry of Grace: Year 1 (The Ancients) makes it easy for me to incorporate all this Bible reading into our history studies. The curriculum has reading suggestions for all grade levels. We have been using their Bible reading schedule for High School to make our Bible readings and history readings go together.
Sometimes my young children and I cannot get through enough chapters each week to stay on track with our history assignments, so there have been times where we have set our history curriculum aside for a week in order to catch up with our Bible reading. The benefits have far outweighed this inconvenience. In addition to the spiritual fruit I see in their lives, our understanding of the Bible has been greatly enhanced as we study the cultures of Bible times (like the Assyrians and Babylonians) at the same time we are reading about them in the Bible.
Resources for Bible Study with Kids
We have been using two resources to aid us in our Bible Study. Balancing the Sword is a comprehensive study guide to the Bible with over 7,000 questions covering every single chapter in the Bible. There are no interpretation or application questions, only questions (and answers) that check comprehension. This has been helpful in determining whether our children understand what we are reading, and it keeps them on their toes during the reading. This material also has much broader uses for an adult, with over 54,000 cross-references and a customizable reading schedule.
We are also learning a lot from the excellent books by Henrietta Mears, What the Bible is All About (my oldest son and I are reading this together) and What the Bible is All About for Young Explorers (for our elementary school-aged children).
A Family Favorite: Pilgrim’s Progress
In addition to reading the Bible together, we like to read books which communicate Bible truths to our children. Our family’s favorite book is Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor. I could write an entire post about this book. If you buy only one book mentioned in the entire Library Builders series, let it be this one!
Of course I am not suggesting that this be a replacement for the well-loved and irreplaceable original Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan! However, this version is more accessible to the youngest children, which will allow you to introduce it at an earlier age, and is,in and of itself, very much worth reading and discussing.
We have read this book through this book during family devotions twice so far. The chapters are only about 3 pages long, so you can easily read for 5 minutes and be done if your children are squirmy. Ours always begged for more, more, more!
What I love about Little Pilgrim’s Progress is that all of our children (even our older preschoolers) find it enthralling. We have seen more spiritual fruit born in their lives through this book than through any other devotional material we have used with them, aside from the Bible. Even my husband and I found ourselves convicted and encouraged, as well.
This book helped our children to have less fear about dying, and it provided much food for discussion at the close of each chapter. After reading through Little Pilgrim’s Progress as a family, our older children were able to listen to–and understand–unabridged recordings of Pilgrim’s Progress and of the sequel, Christiana.
If you have a Netflix subscription, you should take advantage of the opportunity to watch a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress called Dangerous Journey. Netflix subscribers can stream this video from their computer anytime. It isn’t as deep as Little Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is still excellent. The video isn’t really “animated”…a narrator reads the text and pictures from the book accompany.
Devotions with Preschoolers
A book I like for devotions with older preschoolers and elementary school-aged kids is Leading Little Ones to God by Marian M. Schooland. This book has simple devotional readings which teach children about the Nature of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, becoming a Christian, and growing in Christ.
A post about teaching theology would be incomplete without mentioning learning the Catechism. The catechism is a question and answer format designed to teach foundational biblical truths. Our youngest children use the Children’s catechism, while our older ones are working on The Westminster Shorter Catechism. I have several posts on my Counter-Cultural mom blog on this topic (do a search for “catechism” if you are interested). This post contains all the links for the books we have used as a family in our study of the catechism.
Storybooks Which Illuminate the Scriptures for Children
R. C. Sproul has several excellent Storybooks which communicate theological truths to children. The King Without a Shadow tells of a King who goes in search of another King who is so great that He has no Shadow. This book teaches children about why God is so great, and why they should search for Him, too. This book is available on MP3, narrated by Dr. Sproul, for just $2 if you prefer that format.
In The Prince’s Poison Cup Dr. Sproul tells a story about atonement. He describes his book this way: “When Ella gets sick and has to take yucky medicine, she wonders why something that will help her get well has to taste so bad. When she puts the question to Grandpa, he tells her the story of a great King and His subjects who enjoyed wonderful times together—until the people rebelled against the King and drank from a forbidden well. To their horror, they found that the beautiful water in the well made their hearts turn to stone. To reclaim His people, the King asks His Son, the Prince, to drink from a well of horrid poison. The poison will surely kill the Prince—but He is willing to drink it to please His Father and help His people.” You can stream this book for free from Ligonier’s site.
Dr. Sproul’s book The Priest with Dirty Clothes is an allegory which helps children understand the concept of Jesus atoning for our sin and clothing us in His robes of righteousness. This book is also available on MP3.
It is never too early to start teaching our children about the Lord! For toddlers, I like the books in the Born to Be King series by Catherine MacKenzie. Each book begins with the phrase, “If you were a king…” and tells something about what kings do, followed by the sentence, “But Jesus is a different King. He is a better King. He is the best King.” Each of these simple books tells part of the story of Jesus’ birth and ends with a simple call to faith and a suggested scripture verse. For example, the book Mary and Joseph Love Jesus ends with the words, “Jesus was punished even though he never sinned. He did this to save us. He is the only one who has ever done this. He can save you too.”
The next post in this series will be a continuation on this topic, covering theological books for the lay-person adult. Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single post in this Library Builders series. The next post after Whatever is Pure will be Whatever is Lovely: Books about Music, Art and Poetry.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8