For The Truth

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And For Older Children . . . Respect Their Desire to Read and to Learn

(This is the follow-up post from Dr. Mohler's Blog that I promised in the previous post. This blog was posted on Friday, November 16, 2007 at 2:42 am ET, and is reproduced in toto as an excellent resource for school-age children.)

Several readers of these articles and listeners to the radio program responded to the article on Bible story books for young children by asking about a book for older children as well. Thankfully, there is (as several readers pointed out) a wonderful resource in The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos.

The Child's Story Bible goes far beyond the picture book format and will appeal to school-age children. The book is older than virtually all of the parents who will be reading it to their children. The enduring popularity of the book is at least partly due to the fact that Vos did not write in a childish manner, but instead assumed that children will want to learn and that they can handle a substantial story from the Bible -- not just a story summary with pictures.

In other words, Vos had the ability to tell the story to children without writing in a condescending manner. The stories are wonderfully written and parents will enjoy reading them as much as children will enjoy hearing them.

Of course, many children will be able to read these stories for themselves -- or at least to try. Let your children cut their teeth on this collection of stories from the Bible.

Most children will hear these stories for the first time as a parent or other adult reads to them. This is a truly special time for both parent and child.

Here are a few suggestions for maximizing the reading experience for school-age children.

1. Read at a specific time set as part of the ritual of the child's life. Children thrive on structure and are motivated by anticipation. Make a special reading time part of the family's day. The obvious time for this is bedtime, and for good reason. The child senses the end of the day is near, knows sleep is coming, and is more likely to be both calm and attentive.

Furthermore, the child is more likely to anticipate a special time of closeness with Mom or Dad (or both) at bedtime, dressed for bed and gathered with parents to end the day. There is nothing wrong with reading to the child at any hour of the day, but bedtime is undeniably special.

2. Read in a clear voice and avoid both excessive drama and a lifeless reading. A listless and lazy reader will lose the child's attention, but an excessively dramatic reader will make the child grow accustomed to drama -- often at the expense of thoughtful content and retention. You want the child to be fully drawn into the story, but you also want the child to be thinking about the story and its meaning.

3. When reading a Bible story, help the child to find the actual text of the account in the pages of the Bible. The child needs to learn to read the Bible itself -- not just Bible story books, and to know that the Bible is God's perfect and sufficient Word.

4. Place the story in its context within God's plan and within the Bible. Help children to understand how every word of the Bible is fulfilled in Christ and finds its meaning within God's plan to redeem His people from sin.

5. Recognize that many of the stories of the Bible teach a clear moral lesson -- a lesson that children clearly need to learn and take to heart. At the same time, recognize that these accounts are never merely morality tales. Point your child to the big picture.

6. Never read down to your children, treating them as dull. Instead, give them a substantial story, lay out the narrative, and then trust that they will want to learn and to push themselves toward understanding. Then, be the human agent of that understanding by explaining the story with patience, creativity, and insight based in the fact that you know both the story and the child or children hearing it.

7. Be as honest as the Bible in revealing the strengths and weaknesses of God's people. Children need to know that God loves us in spite of who we are as sinners, not because of our supposed worth. Children need to learn moral honesty and to know that all (even you, dear parents) are sinners.

8. Ask your children questions about the story to measure understanding, and make sure to see if they have any questions. Ask questions the next morning, during the day, on the playground, in the car, and when the child is in the bathtub. Encourage conversation about the Bible and Bible stories.

9. Ask older children to help with the reading and to grow accustomed both to reading for themselves and to reading aloud. There is much too little reading of the Bible aloud to the congregation in many churches. Let the recovery of reading aloud the Word of God begin in your home.

10. Finally, teach them to pray the Scriptures, talking about the story just read and its biblical text as you pray. Pray that God will apply His Word to their hearts, thank God for His Word and for His love, remind them of Christ and His promises, and entrust them to God for the night and for eternity.

No moment invested in teaching your child the Bible and reading Bible stories is ever wasted time. If your reading of a story is interrupted by circumstances (or by a child who has lost the fight against sleep), just pick it up the next time and move on. Enjoy every moment while your children are at this precious and promising stage of life.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bible Story Books for Children

(This is a post from Dr. Mohler's Blog on Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 2:54 am ET, and is reproduced in toto as an excellent resource for parents and grandparents.)

On Wednesday's edition of "Ask Anything Wednesday" on The Albert Mohler Program I was asked about good Bible story books for children. I appreciated the question because I am concerned that many Bible story books treat the stories as nothing more than disconnected morality tales.

Children need to be told about the "big story" of the Bible -- of God's purpose to save His people from their sins through the atonement of Christ. They need to learn to understand the individual stories of the Bible within the big picture and to know that these stories are not disconnected, but part of a pattern of promise and fulfillment.

Two good resources for parents are The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The Jesus Storybook Bible is subtitled, 'Every Story Whispers His Name." As Zondervan describes the book, "The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David--every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle--the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation--and at the center of their Story too."

The Big Picture Story Bible also presents the Bible as a unified story -- and this is so important, even when children are quite young. Children have keen narrative minds and active imaginations. They need to have those capacities respected and developed through hearing the stories of the Bible over and over again. At the same time, parents who read and tell these stories should help children to connect the dots and to learn of God's love and saving purpose from one story to the next.

Children taught to see the big picture and to know the big story are in a good position to see that knowledge matured through deeper Bible study in years ahead. These books are great gifts for children and young families.

(A similar article by Dr. Mohler for older children will follow tomorrow--or so.)