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How to Spot a Solid Children’s Bible

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Brittany Sky, senior editor of children’s resources for The United Methodist Publishing House, offers her insights on how to ensure a children’s Bible is sound and will meet children’s needs.

Check out Children’s Ministry Magazine’s 2016 Children’s Bible Review.

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CM: What do children’s ministers need to look for in children’s Bibles according to developmental needs?

BRITTANY: Different ages have different needs in a children’s Bible. By age group, here’s what you need to look for in children’s Bibles.

Preschoolers: The key characteristics of an excellent Bible storybook for preschoolers include age-appropriate retellings of Old and New Testament stories, bright images that show children what the people and land looked like, stories organized in Bible-book order, tips and information about the Bible and its stories for the adults reading these stories to their children, and suggested questions or prayers for the kids. Because the Bible is God’s living Word, it’s important for the stories to be told in a way that invites the reader into the experience so the reader longs to come back to these Bible stories again and again.

Elementary-Age Kids: For early readers, I recommend a Bible storybook similar to what you’d look for in a Bible storybook for preschoolers. When children begin third grade, I suggest a kids’ Bible. This should be a translation of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic that uses common, easy-to-read language and is written on a lower reading level. This Bible should highlight key verses for our Christian faith and should also include helpful background information about the books of the Bible, maps, questions that engage the reader in the passage, and theologically sound and age-appropriate call-outs that help children understand the passages better. Again, because the Bible is God’s living Word, I believe it’s important for the added information to be told in a way that invites the reader into the experience so the reader longs to come back to the Bible again and again.

Preteens: Depending on the child, you may choose to purchase a student Bible once kids begin middle school. This should be a translation of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic that uses common language. This Bible should also include helpful background information about the books of the Bible, maps, questions that engage the reader in the passage, and theologically sound and age-appropriate call-outs that help kids engage with the passages and their meanings for our world today. It should also be an invitation to explore deeper truths and help preteens make connections between faith and how to live.

CM: What’s important to include in a children’s Bible—and leave out?

BRITTANY: We want our children to hear the most important events in our faith so they have a strong foundation to build on as they grow. We don’t have to give them all the passages at the beginning; in fact, that can overwhelm and deter kids. Instead, editors and writers make choices about which stories are age-appropriate when choosing what to include in a Bible storybook. In making choices about what to include in the Deep Blue Bible Storybook, I chose stories of creation, our ancestors, our liberation, our salvation, and our church history. These stories highlight the women and men in our faith tradition who had deeply meaningful relationships with God, show God’s love for all of humanity throughout all time, and guide us as we learn to live as God’s people.

CM: What considerations do you keep in mind when editing a children’s Bible?

BRITTANY: When editing, I make choices about what’s age-appropriate for the child audience. I ask things like, “Is it appropriate to include the beheading of Goliath in the retelling for young children?” I don’t think it is, because the important part of the story is David’s faith. We can simply say David defeated Goliath, and allow the child to imagine what that means without adding more violence to their understanding of our world. I also believe that the Bible passages need to help a child create a relationship with God. The passages should make the child feel safe and loved. I often will help edit the tone of the passage to help children feel God’s big love as they read.

How to Spot a Solid Children’s Bible
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