I spoke today at MOPS about the books I’ve used to teach my kids about God and the Bible. As a mom, it is sometimes hard to find the time to do a devotional. So reading Scripture, Bible stories or other devotional materials with my kids has often been a way to help my own spiritual growth too. What has worked for me is to have a “three book” rule. Before my kids went down to sleep for either a nap or night time, we would read 3 books (when we went into chapter books, we would read about 15-30 minutes). Once the kids get into that routine, they won’t let you get out of it (believe me–there are lots of days I’d be ready to skip reading!). That kept me accountable and has set up a pattern of regular reading. Then into this schedule, I would put some of the books below. It made it easy for me. With my 5 kids, I have two reading times–one for the three littlest, and one for the 11 and 13 year old. Now my older kids could ready anything I can read to them, but these read-aloud times are different because they are a shared experience which we can talk about. In addition to that, my kids always know there will be one time during the day that I will sit down and be focused on them. That is when they often come to ask me questions or tell me problems. After reading, we pray and then they go to sleep.
There are some wonderful books available, but they are not generally available in bookstores.
You can find many of them on Amazon.com, but I often use CBD (Christian book distributors)–here’s the link:
Here are some of my books (I’ll look around and post others later). I’d love to have other people post favorites in the comments section!)
For preschoolers, just about any of the toddler Bibles can be good and we have several. I would just pick one and then read 1-2 stories a night until we’d finished the book. I’m always careful to tell the kids that children’s Bibles don’t tell everything in the “Big Bible.” Here are some I like (with publisher in parenthesis):
The Children’s Discovery Bible (Chariot Publishing)
The Beginner’s Bible(Zondervan)
The Young Reader’s Bible (Standard Publishing)
After I’d read the children’s Bibles through a few times. I read through a theology for kids (my Catholic friends do this much better than we do in Protestent churches). Here is the one I found, but I would LOVE to hear of other books like this one:
Leading Little Ones to Godby Marian Schoolland (Eerdmans)
One type of Bible I have appreciated a lot is the comic book Bibles. I read these to the kids but they actually read them on their own a lot more. Here are some I’ve liked:
The Comic Book Bible(Barbor)
The Picture Bible(Cook Commnications Ministry)
The Manga Bible (Doubleday–edgier for older kids)
When I was ready to read the “Big Bible” to my kids I started with a good regular NIV translation, but then I found this one which is a chronological Bible written in very kid-friendly language by Karen Henley. Some of the language was too imprecise for me and so I’d substitute the real Bible language, but this is set up so you can get through the Bible in a year. I’d often read along in my Bible as my devotion too.
Day by Day Kid’s Bibleby Kareyn Henley (Tyndale)
I’ve also enjoyed the Bible stories by Arch Books–they are usually on a topic and are inexpensive paperbacks. I found many of mine at garage sales. They are also usually available at Christian bookstores.
As I’ve read to the kids as they’ve gotten older, I ‘ve tried to get books and book series that enabled us to talk about spiritual things. Here are some we’ve liked:
Fifty Seven Saintsby Eileen Heffernan (Pauline Books and Media) Maggie loved this one and read it over and over. Maybe too much since one day she asked, “Do all Christians die for their faith?” It is a great book to give perspective and a sense of church history.
American Adventure Series(Barbour publishing). This wonderful series is out of print but can be found for local friends at the Hoover Library. They can be found online and on Ebay. There are 50 books that cover American history from the Mayflower until the 1950s. I learned a lot! The stories follow Christian families and faith is woven into their lives in a natural way. I’m looking forward to reading this series again with my little ones. Because many of the books do deal with historical situations like war and slavery, I’d recommend reading them at about 3rd grade or later.
Heroes of the Faith (Barbour) This is a series of biographies of missionaries and other Christians. They are written by various authors and not all of them are equally good. However, I’ve really appreciated getting the chance to introduce my kids to people who sacrificed their own ambitions for God. Gladys Aylward and Corrie Ten Boom are particularly good ones.
One of the best investments I’ve ever made is when I bought the Seeds Family Worship CD tapes at my mom’s church in California (Seeds of Faith, Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Worship, Seeds of Encouragement). I just saw that they’ve published another one. I’ve found a few at Christian bookstores but bought most online. These tapes were written to encourage families to listen together and memorize Scripture. The songs are very well written and produced. They are great worship songs and after you’ve listened a few times the Scriptures are in your head for life. Great, great tapes (and a huge improvement over most kid’s worship CD tapes). Here is the website (with samples):
Here is the link for ordering at CBD
Finally–my kids have enjoyed getting their own Christian magazines to read. We keep these and the next group of kids gets to read them too. I’ve also found some of these at garage sales. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. from Focus on the Family:
Pockets from The Upper Room:
My cousin Jeannie, who is a kindergarten teacher and also worked with autistic children for many years, sent me a very interesting article about children and play. I’m including a short section of the article and the link below. My mom (also a kindergarten teacher) and Jeannie often have conversations about the importance of play in child development. I guess I absorbed that since I’ve spent a lot of years fostering my own children’s play (as well as doing that for my classes when I was a teacher. Moreover, everything I’m reading in the Schaeffer book supports this idea of play as the best tool for learning.
However, I don’t think I’d ever read this research on self-talk and self-regulation. All of my kids have engaged in lots of self-talk during play (although generally Sophie and Mollie talk to one another and have done so since they were very little, but I think in their case that amounts to a kind of self-talk). The connection with self-regulation explains something I was quite astonished about when Brendan went to school. He was such an active and difficult toddler, but when he went to pre-school I was amazed to see that he was one of the best in the class at sitting still and listening. Even when all of the other students were out of control, he would sit staring at something, thinking. Considering this evidence about the importance of self-talk, I’d now have to conclude it was because he had spent so much time in imaginative play. As a preschooler, he constantly told stories to himself about Thomas the train, Rescue Heroes and then Legos In fact, he still tells Lego stories and has moved into making Lego movies, which are basically just filmed versions of his stories.
Here is a small part of the article with the link at the end:
“Encourage Children to Talk to Themselves: “Like adults, children spontaneously speak to themselves to guide and manage their own behavior,” Berk says. “In fact, children often use self-guiding comments recently picked up from their interactions with adults, signaling that they are beginning to apply those strategies to themselves.
“Permitting and encouraging children to be verbally active — to speak to themselves while engaged in challenging tasks — fosters concentration, effort, problem-solving, and task success.” — Alix Spiegel
….According to Berk, one reason make-believe is such a powerful tool for building self-discipline is because during make-believe, children engage in what’s called private speech: They talk to themselves about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
“In fact, if we compare preschoolers’ activities and the amount of private speech that occurs across them, we find that this self-regulating language is highest during make-believe play,” Berk says. “And this type of self-regulating language… has been shown in many studies to be predictive of executive functions.”
And it’s not just children who use private speech to control themselves. If we look at adult use of private speech, Berk says, “we’re often using it to surmount obstacles, to master cognitive and social skills, and to manage our emotions.”
Unfortunately, the more structured the play, the more children’s private speech declines. Essentially, because children’s play is so focused on lessons and leagues, and because kids’ toys increasingly inhibit imaginative play, kids aren’t getting a chance to practice policing themselves. When they have that opportunity, says Berk, the results are clear: Self-regulation improves.”