Scripture with Children 0 – 7 years old

Last week during our Christian Formation conference call, we talked about how we engage children and youth in our parishes in hearing, reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting Scripture.  Over the course of the next week, several posts will detail the specific resources we shared with one another.  The first part of our conversation focused on milestones:  what are our goals for engaging children in scripture?  This post sketches out our parts of our discussion relating to children under seven years old.

0-2 year olds will...

  • …experience the Church as a community in which they receive consistent love and care.  (Here, the nursery is a gateway into the larger parish.)
  • … participate in Holy Communion with their families; see, touch, taste, smell, hear our sacramental practice.
  • … find their parents invited into a life of discipleship.56yrgodlyplay600x450

2-7 year olds will…

  • … develop a vocabulary of faith by participation in the life of the parish (this includes a familiarity with scriptural symbols and metaphors, and related liturgical actions).
  • … voice existential questions and hear relevant scriptural stories in response.
  •  … learn and re-tell basic stories of faith.  (“Which basic stories?”  We talked briefly about which stories we would definitely include.  Godly Play offers a structure of sorts.  Rebecca Kirkpatrick, a Presbyterian pastor, offers this list of things she believes a child should know before confirmation and includes a list of scripture texts.)
  • … memorize scripture through music.
  • … articulate and practice self-giving, and refer to relevant scripture texts.

Some ideas for the parish…

  • Set an assortment of Bibles out in the narthex before Sunday worship, and encourage families to take a Bible to use during the liturgy and to use at home during the week.
  • Keep a children’s Bible in the pew.  At St. James in Bozeman, The Beginner’s Bible is in every pew.
  • Have the parish gift a storybook/picture Bible to a family at their child’s baptism.

What ideas can you add to this list?

Storybook or Picture Bibles:

Note:  All storybook Bibles are paraphrases (rather than translations) in which editors decide  which stories will be included.  Be aware of details that are left out of storybook/picture Bibles, or of theological biases that are central to specific picture Bibles.  

  • The Beginner’s Bible:  a basic storybook Bible for very young children.aslans-bookshop1
  • The Bible for Children:  a basic picture Bible that stays close to the words of scripture.  Includes more than 200 Bible stories.  Beautifully illustrated.
  • Children of God Storybook Bible:  55 Bible stories with a short prayer to accompany each story, written by The Rt. Rev. Desmond Tutu.   A different artist illustrates each story, so the artwork is presented in a variety of styles. (I appreciate that in this BIble, Jesus looks different in each gospel story.)
  • Jesus Storybook Bible and curriculum:  A beautiful, lyrical picture Bible which – through the stories that are chosen – tells the gospel story of Jesus’ “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”  (It is flexible, even midrashic, in its choice of stories and its narration of those stories.  Note, for example, that its retelling of Gen. 3 God says to Adam and Eve, “It will not always be so!  I will come to rescue you…”  The assurance of God’s commitment to bring God’s people to wholeness is in the spirit of the larger story of scripture, but not in any standard translation of Genesis 3.)
  • Children’s Illustrated Bible:  An encyclopedia-style picture Bible published by DK with maps and illustrations that attempt to accurately illustrate Ancient Near Eastern life and culture.  Notes in the text include specific historical suggestions, for example, that the “fish that swallowed Jonah may have been a sperm whale.”
  • Big Picture Story Bible:  Twenty-six Bible stories focused on conveying a particular reading of the larger message of Scripture.  Appropriate for primary school students.
  • Gospel Story Bible:  A reading of Scripture focused on telling stories of the Bible with an emphasis on gospel story.  Uses simple, engaging illustrations.  See a blog post which shows a story from it here.
  • Spark Storybook Bible:  150 Bible stories with accompany curriculum published by Augsburg Fortress.  A more comprehensive children’s Bible that employs cartoon-like illustrations.  See a sample story here.
  • The Brick Bible – a depiction of Bible stories using Lego pieces.  Definitely not the only storybook Bible to have in one’s collection, but a novel option for young kids who love Lego.   Church Publishing has a curriculum-based take on this.  And here, a blog post which discusses using Lego in Godly Play.
  • Read Aloud Bible Stories (Vol. 1-4):  Appropriate for young children, each volume includes five Bible stories and illustrations.  Note that the stories aren’t in the volumes in the same order as in our scripture text.  (For example, the creation story from Genesis 1 is in Vol. 3).
  • Walking with God Board Books:  Nursery-appropriate board books engaging very young children in scripture texts.  Published by Paulist Press, a Roman Catholic publisher.  Photos are somewhat dated, but still engaging for babies and toddlers who love to look at the faces of other
  • Psalms for Young Children:  Many people love this book, which has engaging illustrations, and paraphrases psalms with simple, culturally familiar language.  Our personal copy of this book hasn’t’ gotten much use:  many psalms are lyrical and concrete enough to  engage young children as written, and they are short enough to read before bedtime.

During our conversation, we talked quite a bit about how Godly Play, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and/or Young Children and Worship have former our habits of hearing, reading, and responding to scripture with children.

By the time children are six or seven years old, they may be hungry for a Bible translation of their own.  Stay tuned for our next post, a write-up of our conversation about milestones and resources for scripture study with elementary-aged children.  In the meantime, use the comments section to share what picture Bibles and Bible study resources you find valuable for use with young children.


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