Great Books for Teaching Little Ones About God

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. ― C.S. Lewis

I am rather persnickety in choosing Christian literature to share with my kids – a 4 year old, 3 year old, almost 2 year old, and a baby.  It is of utmost importance to me that the books are theologically sound according to our family’s understanding (we are Reformed Presbyterian) and contain the true gospel, not moralism.  I want Bible stories to be direct, either straight from the Scriptures or retold elegantly without embellishment.  It’s also important to me that such books respect children as intelligent human beings, handle the reality of sin honestly, and aren’t trite or cartoonish.  Needless to say, sometimes these kinds of books are hard to find.

So when I do find one, I’m thrilled and excited about it!  I love to share about resources I use, so here are some of my favorite books I’ve used for teaching my little ones about God.

ESV Illustrated Family Bible

I love this kids’ Bible because the stories are lifted straight from the ESV translation as short excerpts.  The illustrations are beautiful paintings instead of cartoonish ones, which is very important to me and gives kids something lovely to look at while you read actual Scripture to them.  My kids have all but destroyed our copy because they like to leaf through it on their own, even the littler babies and toddlers (who tend to tear pages)!

Possible negatives: it’s out of print and can be hard to find inexpensively.  As you can see from the cover, there are pictures of Jesus in the book, so this will make it unacceptable to families with a stricture view of the 2nd commandment.  Also, sometimes the illustration doesn’t quite tell the whole story – for example, we see Noah’s ark in the water but we aren’t shown the animals disembarking or Noah’s family offering sacrifices.  And of course there is the negative of it being actual Scripture…sometimes it is not very understandable to children even when the story is abridged.

Overall it’s a solid option if you want to read to your kids directly from Scripture, but want them to have nice pictures to look at while you do so.  I’m torn between buying another one to replace our shredded one, or upgrading to the ESV Children’s Bible, which is illustrated but includes the whole Bible.  (Also out of print – gah! Whyyyyyy?)

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

I can’t decide what is more awesome about this book – the fact that the illustrations are some of the most gorgeous, rich, mesmerizing Bible art I’ve ever seen…or the fact that this story summarizes the whole Bible in a short, 10-chapter book that can even be read in one (long) sitting if you want to!  It doesn’t stand alone as an introduction to the Bible, but as supplementary material to kids who already know the Gospel and many Bible stories, it’s fabulous.

It tells the story of man’s sin and Christ’s salvation, from Genesis to Revelation, with a strong emphasis on God’s relentless grace.  It was originally written as a Christmas Eve sermon, but translates perfectly to a story that can be appreciated for all ages.  See my Amazon review here.

The pictures are heavily symbolic, so if you avoid pictures of Jesus this may be a good fit for you.

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

We were given this book as a gift, and I wasn’t sure what to expect because I usually find these kinds of books shallow or contrived – but I was pleasantly surprised!  I very much enjoy reading this one to my children and knowing their minds are being sparked by it.

It’s a fictional story about a little boy who is having friend trouble.  His grandfather comforts him by telling him the story of Davey, a little donkey who was given a big task (carrying Jesus into Jerusalem).

The illustrations are lovely (Jesus is not shown), and although I’m not a huge fan of the on-the-nose application style, I do love the point of the book and the way it gives a new perspective on Christ’s death that children can relate to and ponder.  I definitely want to check out more of Dr. Sproul’s works of kids’ fiction!

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt

This is another one given to us as a gift.  My kids loved it.  They eagerly asked for it every morning at breakfast (when we do our devotions or Bible lesson every day).  The teaching is sound, and it’s rare to find a kids’ book that teaches from the Psalms.  There are 26 lessons, one Psalm verse featured for each letter of the alphabet.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the format – each lesson is a simple story about a group of kids who are learning to apply the verses to their lives, with lots of exposition from authority figures and some scenarios that seemed contrived to me.  But many kids truly benefit from these kinds of real-life applications they can relate to, and because my kids loved it so much it’s one of my favorites too.  I wish there were more story collections by the same authors, so I could get some more!

The Creation Story illustrated by Norman Messenger

I have to include this one, because it’s so drop-dead gorgeous.  These illustrations are rich and full of beauty, teeming with life.  The text is essentially taken straight from the Bible (I’m not sure what translation…it is very closely paraphrased).  It’s just the story of the seven days of creation, but it’s a beauty and definitely worth adding to your library.  Kids love to pore over these illustrations!

Note that the Amazon listing the photo links to is not the big hardcover version (which is what I have, and which seems like a better fit for enjoying the art).

Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N. Taylor

This is a good theology primer for very young toddlers or preschoolers who are very unfamiliar with Christian doctrine.  Each lesson is only a few sentences long, very simple, with a couple of application or comprehension questions or a prayer suggestion at the end.

The illustrations are rather cartoonish, but adorable and pleasant to look at (those who avoid illustrations of Jesus should not get this one).  I do wish that the book had been more direct about the gospel, sin, and judgement – too many kids’ books shy away from that hard content, and this one unfortunately tends to do that too.  But for what it contains, this is a good way to introduce your child to concepts like, “God is everywhere,” “Jesus loves you,” “What is the Bible?” and other basic introductions to the faith.  I liked it so much that I bought a couple of extra copies to give away to other families with toddlers.

Do you know of any excellent, Reformed resources for teaching children about God?  Please spill in the comment section!

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5 Comments

  1. meleah

     /  January 25, 2016

    What ages would you say, The Biggest Story is geared for? Love this list as I share many of your criteria, although mine are too old for most now. They are also great gift ideas!

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the list!

    What does “on-the-nose application style” mean?

    Reply
    • I hope to add “God and Me” to it when we’ve read through it, assuming I continue to like it as I already am! 🙂 It inspired the making of the list, but considering I haven’t read the whole thing I didn’t think I could recommend it yet. 🙂

      Sorry, that could have been clearer. I guess I was trying to find a polite, non-negative way to say it was preachy. The book wraps up with the little boy eagerly agreeing to do as his grandfather has taught him and be grateful he gets to play ball with his friends instead of being unhappy about not being picked until last for their teams. The application was very direct, and leaves little for children to work out for themselves and figure out the takeaway on their own. It wasn’t poorly done, just not my thing. 🙂

      Reply

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