Selecting Children’s Bibles

At a recent gathering of the East region the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Elizabeth “Lib” Caldwell, retired professor of Christian Education at McCormick Seminary, led a discussion of things to consider when choosing a children’s Bible.

She offered a variety of criteria, or lenses, through which to examine children’s Bibles. First, consider the content and the length of the story.

  • What translation is it based on?
  • Is it faithful to the text or does it add material?
  • Does it cite the text?
  • How much of the story is told?
  • In its simplification or rephrasing is the main point of the story preserved?
  • Will it hold the reader’s (listener’s) attention till the end?
  • Are there too many or too few details?

Then, look at the illustrations.

  • What kind of illustrations are used?
  • Are they characters? Are they drawings? Are they artistic?
  • Are they multicultural?
  • Do they invite children into the story?
  • Do they make the story come alive?

Next consider the interpretation that is happening.

  • How do they title the story?
  • Does it really tell what the story is about or does it point to a particular ‘message’ to be conveyed?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • How is God presented?
  • Does it attempt to find Jesus in every story, from both testaments?
  • And finally, does it offer helps for parents? Does it give resources for parents to help engage the child? Does it invite both parent and child into the story? Does it offer ways to continue the conversation about the story, applying it life?

Lib cited several great resources for exploring this topic in greater depth. Her list included Text, Image, Otherness in Children’s Bibles, What is the Picture?, Caroline Vader Stichele and Hugh S. Pyper, eds, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012; Children’s’ Ministry in the Way of Jesus, Csinos, David M. and Ivy Beckwith, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013; “Reading the Bible with Children and Youth”, Elizabeth Caldwell in Currents in Theology and Mission, August 2013, Volume 40, Number 4; and “How to read the Bible with children”, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, in Christian Century, March 6, 2013.

Her top two favourite children’s Bibles are The Deep Blue Kids Bible, Nashville: Common English Bible, 2012 and Shine On: A Children’s Story Bible, Elgin, Il: Brethren Press, 2014. Both offer simple, faithful texts, engaging illustrations and offer ways to engage the story beyond the printed page.

Priscilla Andre-Colton, Director of Christian Education, Old Presbyterian Meeting House, Alexandria, Virginia

*Image above is from an early illustrated Bible by Jan Luyken in the seventeenth century and is in the public domain. Accessed through Wikimedia Commons, 5/13/15- KLD

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