A children's Bible, animated biblical stories, coloring books -- what should you choose to introduce children to Scripture?
The Bible isn’t easy to read, even for adults, primarily because of its writing styles. Depending on the translation used, the language is often archaic or contains old Hebrew idioms often incomprehensible in our time, for example, “kidney and heart” meaning “feelings and mind” (Psalms 26:2). Also, there are many parables that are allegorical in nature, and children will only learn to understand the symbolism of those stories during religion classes.
If we were to expect children to understand everything in the Bible on the first attempt, then we should wait for them to get a degree in theology.
Reading the Bible is a bit like learning to talk
When a child is born, everyone talks to him, regardless of the fact that a baby doesn’t understand. But we’re convinced that the more — and the more clearly — we speak to the baby,the sooner he’ll start to understand and talk.
A story from one of the training sessions for parents I lead comes to mind. A mother bought a couple of storybooks to read to a newborn baby at bedtime. The father, a journalist and a historian, laughed at that idea, since he thought it didn’t matter what they read to the child; he wouldn’t understand anything anyway. So, the father chose books he had to read for work, sat by the crib, and read them out loud. The books were mostly historical and political. He continued that habit, and after a good few years, the child, as a kindergartener, amazed others with his incredibly large vocabulary — much more extensive than many average adults use. Over the years, he had absorbed what he heard!
In the same way, we can start exposing children to the Bible right from birth. The easiest way is to start when the baby is so small he will not understand anything, knowing that every day he will understand more and more.
What about older children? Start as soon as possible. It doesn’t get easier as the kids grow. Now is the time!
The spiritual meaning of the Bible is difficult to understand, so pray for the grace of understanding of the Holy Scriptures for both you and your child. If you want your child to understand the Bible, you shouldn’t hide it from him, but rather make it more accessible.
Is a Bible written for children a good idea?
A picture book Bible can be used as a storybook — we buy those for preschoolers and read them at bedtime. But these versions of the Bible are often more like a fairytale books. They have pretty pictures, and the stories happened a long, long time ago, in a far-off land … These similarities worry me. It won’t be long before the child realizes that fairy tales are fictional and that Santa doesn’t exist. Then, they might make a connection to the Bible, and think that Jesus doesn’t exist either, and never has.
For these reasons, I think it’s better to introduce children to the real Word of God straight away. It is the words, not the pictures, that matter. It’s not the entertainment value of the story that matters, but the Word that the Lord speaks to all of us.