You’re a new parent. You’ve got the baby crib with a fancy name, the swing, the bouncer, the burping pads. Now it’s time to choose your baby’s first Bible. And how hard could that be? It’s got to be easier than putting that crib together, right?
The first time around, I just took my friends’ word for it and bought what they recommended. By the time my second child appeared, I felt optimistic enough to make a trip to the nearby book store. But I soon found myself lost amid what seemed like an ocean of kids’ Bibles—each with a different slant, a different tone and illustration style. So, since I’m a former editor and just love analyzing books, I put in a little time and effort to slog through a few of them. If you’re not inclined to do that yourself, here are a few lessons I came away with.
- Pictures: In some ways, the illustrations are the most important consideration for any picture book. If for no other reason, your baby or toddler won’t be able to read for quite a while. Thus, he’ll probably spend a lot of time looking at the book without you. In all honesty, I tend to embellish the text—that’s something I can change as I read, and I can even supplement with real Biblical text. But the pictures on the other hand don’t change, so my advice is to choose your illustrations carefully. Interested in some guidelines for choosing “good” art? Check back soon. Hopefully I’ll have a post with some suggestions before too long.
- Size: The second round of story bibles I bought for my kids were smaller and as it turns out much easier to fit into my purse on Sunday morning. Think about the use: do you want something small and portable, something they can easily handle in their beds at night? Or do you want a big shelf reference that’s less portable but more impressive?
- Text: Obviously, the text is important. It’s God’s Word, after all. Yet it’s simply not possible to read the text of all the Bibles you’ll find on the shelf–and unless you just love camping out in the kids’ section of Barnes and Noble, you probably won’t read half of the one you buy. So, ask people you trust for recommendations. (I do hope to post some reviews before long!) Once you’ve narrowed the field, flip through the text and answer these three short questions: 1) what does the book say happened in the fall? (In other words, what did man fall from and to?) 2) what did Jesus accomplish on the cross? And 3) what are we restored to in the end? You’ll be surprised how revealing these three basic questions can be. They tend to get you to the worldview of the writer, and they form the arc for the rest of the story in your “story” bible. I’ll just add that you should be on the lookout for books that minimize man’s sin, God’s anger at that sin, and the atoning work of the cross. Also, I look for a book that points my kids to a real restored heaven and earth—not just an ephemeral someday when we’ll all love each other. But more on that later.
- Price: What’s a fair price for a Story Bible these days? You can pay as much as you like. But I’ll tell you that the small, hardcover story bibles I bought cost less than $3. Which leads me to my other recommendation…
- How Many: I recommend buying cheap so that you can have several copies: one for you and one or two for your kids. But of course, that’s totally just my preference, and I think ideally you’d have several versions available, not only to give them a broader number of stories (not all bibles cover the same characters) but also to reinforce that the illustrations are simply one person’s ideas of what the Biblical characters looked like. I read somewhere early in my parenting that a few destroyed books was a cheap price to pay for a kid who knows the Lord and loves His word. Thus, my suggestion is to keep one pristine copy for yourself to read from at the breakfast table, and then get a few of the same issue for your child to read on his own. Because the pictures are the same, the visual cues will help him remember the stories you’ve told him.
So, I hope that’s given you a little food for fodder, and before too long, I’ll try to build on this foundation. But for now, what do you think? Any other suggestions on how to choose a story bible that’s right for your family?