Thursday, June 28, 2012

His first "real" Bible

We gave my son his first "real" Bible two weeks ago as a present for successfully finishing the third grade. By "real", I mean an actual translation of the Bible, not a paraphrase or the typical children's Bible with selected stories. This one is the NIrV, the New International Reader's Version, which is on a 2nd-4th grade reading level. Since our son is bilingual, we waited until he was reading freely (and enjoying reading!) in both languages to give him a real Bible.

His first "real" Bible complete
with a lizard on the cover
I've been a little shocked, not to mention pleased, at his reaction. I always knew that this Godly Play kid loved stories, but I did not anticipate his utter joy at discovering even more stories than the ones he already knew in the Bible. After laying on his desk for a few days, I decided that he really didn't know what to do with it yet and suggested that we start reading it together. He wanted to start reading in Genesis.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Sure. Don't you think the beginning is a good place to start?" he replied and then proceeded to sing: Let's start at the very beginning / A very good place to start / When you read, you begin with ABC / When you sing, you begin with do-re-mi. (Wouldn't Julie Andrews be proud?)

Anyway, he's been reading through Genesis since. Even the genealogical tables. I kid you not.

"Mom, do you know that Adam lived to be 930?!!!!!!!!!!!"

There are, however, a few interesting things about giving a child the "real" Bible. For one, it's not really a kid's book. Genesis 4:1 says, "And Adam made love to his wife Eve." Good thing we've already talked about the birds and the bees. I'm not entirely sure how we'll respond when he gets to the story about Lot's daughters, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

But on that note, as Markus at Gott im Spiel recently wrote, we don't have to worry so much about presenting some of the more troubling aspects of biblical stories to children, because children usually take things at face value and imagine things in their own way. They don't yet have all the nagging why's that we as adults ask. (That's also why they can hear gruesome fairy tales like "Hansel and Gretel" and not bat an eye.) And we adults have to be super careful not to project our adults questions, struggles and doubts on the children. So, my son will read about Pharoah's first born dying, the story of Abraham and Isaac, and many other perplexing things. And if he asks, we'll talk about them. But on his 8-year-old terms and understanding . . .

How did we get to this point where an eight- year-old is thrilled to be reading Scripture? Well, even though my spiritual style (for more on this topic, see this post) is not a "Word-based" one, growing up in evangelical circles did give me a respect and value for the Bible. And since the time both children were babies, we have been reading various children's Bibles to them.

We started with this series of toddler Bibles called "The Baby Bible Storybook" by Robin Currie. This author very much understands child development and these "stories" are very short summaries of selected stories with hand and body movements to explain the basic points of a biblical account. And the illustrations are exactly the kind of thing toddlers love. By the time my kids were three, they both knew all about Moses, Abraham, Sarah and a host of other biblical figures.

We also read (and still read!) a ton of Arch Books, a series of Bible story paperbacks put out by a Lutheran publishing company, like this one to the right. The wonderful thing about these books is that they often cover biblical stories that children's bibles don't include. Stories about Deborah or Zerubbabel.

We also read The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor when the children were around 4 or 5 years of age. This one is a classic. The stories are short and have intelligent questions to help the children "wonder". Taylor was definitely ahead of his time in the Wondering department. My mother-in-law read this to her kids and still gives it as a gift at baby showers.

Another important stepping stone to developing a love of Scripture was the excellent Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. To date, it is my favorite children's Bible ever, in English or German. My kids can quote passages from it. If you get ahold of a copy, it might well end up on your nightstand before your kids ever see it.: )

We have also memorized important significant passages like the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and Psalm 23 using movement and hand motions. (Remember, kids often learn best when they're in motion!) Our next big project will probably be learning the Books of the Bible. 

Well, that's our journey and hopefully it will be helpful to some of you in mentoring your own children. I hope that sometime between the 2nd and 4th grade, that my daughter will be ready for her Adventure Bible as well!

How have you encouraged a love for God's Word in your own children?

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