It turns out that it’s really difficult to find good Bibles / Bible books / devotionals for toddlers, especially ones that are reformed! I just wanted to run through some of the ones we have found and are extremely happy with. Notably, most of these are by the same author/publisher, which I think is more a sad commentary on what other publishers are up to than anything else.
This is a catechism book for little ones, based on the Westminister Shorter Catechism but generalized enough on the baptism questions to work for Baptists too. Endorsed by R.C. Sproul, John and Noel Piper, and some other major people. It’s not a terribly pretty book, but it’s pocket-sized and in a kid-friendly type. This is one of a series–the others are books of memory verses, church information, etc. This one’s a real gem.
This is a series of board books exploring God’s attributes. I think these are my favorite little board books–they’re very simple and give concrete examples of how, for instance, God is everywhere. These are the only books on this list that aren’t strictly Bible stories, but I actually like them better for younger children because they’re very basic and simple to follow.
These are also board books. Each one very simply retells one of Jesus’s parables. They do leave out things, obviously for the sake of space (they are board books), but stay accurately to the text otherwise.
These are part of a series called “Biblewise.” The next three sections feature very similar books–they’re all the same size (which is kind of like a large, full-color booklet–they’re stapled instead of having a perfect-bound spine), all very inexpensive ($3 or less), all well-illustrated, all strictly Bible-based, and all avoid depicting Christ, which I find an interesting choice (and a fairly good one, considering that children tend to believe what they see exactly). These ones seem to be geared, very slightly, to the oldest audience. There is quite a bit of text on each page–although certainly not beyond the attention span of, say, a four-year-old. I expect that with all of these books, we would read them aloud to our children and then when they are older, have them read them by themselves, or even incorporate them into schoolwork.
These are a series called “Bibletime.” They are VERY similar to the “Biblewise” books, except perhaps geared to a slightly younger audience. But the difference is minute. They are very thorough–the “Ruth” book, for instance, pretty much goes through the entire book of Ruth.
And the last series we have is called “Bible Alive.” As far as I can tell, this series only covers Jesus, Moses, and David, with quite a few books devoted to each. I really like this configuration, though, because it breaks each story down into manageable segments that you can actually read in one sitting, but with all the books together they provide a fairly thorough outline of each life. All three of these Bible series seem to be geared to a similar-aged audience, but these ones seem to be slightly more appropriate for the little ones. The pictures are still full-color, but don’t stretch to the very edges of the page (less distracting) the way they do in the other two sets, the illustrations are a little more simplified, and there are fewer words to a page. I believe, though, that this is the only one of the sets that devotes more than one book to each person.
And at last we come to the book that we’ve settled on so far for our family reading time. This is a hardcover book with stories from all throughout the Bible–a very standard storybook in that respect. It tells the stories fairly simply and accurately, with an extra kind of “food for thought” question on almost every page (out from the main text). We’ve really been enjoying it. The biggest downside, in my opinion, is that the illustrations aren’t terribly good compared to many other Bible storybooks (or, indeed, the books by the same author that I’ve mentioned above). They’re very cartoony. One positive, though, is that there’s been a noticeable decrease in “What is that?” questions about the illustrations, because there aren’t very many extraneous, irrelevant things in the pictures. And that’s a very good thing if you have a two-year-old.
Finally, a different author! 😀 This book is also reformed, and its primary emphasis is to show how the entire Bible tells the story of Christ, so each story comes back to Christ whether in looking forward or in looking back. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the theology is sound. I think I first heard of this from Al Mohler, but it’s quite popular in general amongst the reformed crowd. It’s a beautiful, sound book. It just has way too much text per page to hold the attention of our toddler, and I actually appreciate the simplicity of Carine MacKenzie’s books a little bit more, although I know we’ll be reading this one too as our kids get older. I will say that E loved it when she was a newborn–the artwork really is amazing.
These CDs are fantastic. They’re just Bible verses. Nothing else. Just Scripture, and references, made into cheery kids music. Musically, they’re more along the lines of Sovereign Grace kids or Absolute Worship kids than, say, Maranatha Kids–they’re not annoying or embarrassing to listen to. They repeat a lot, obviously, because the whole point is to learn the verses and repetition goes along with that, but they’re really quite brilliantly done and fun to listen to. More importantly, though, they WILL change your day if you have them going in the background! It’s great to listen to worship music at all, but there’s really something significantly different about listening to straight Scripture and having the lyrics of the Word wind their way into your heart. The only negative thing I can think to say about this wonderful series is that it isn’t free, because I wish everyone could own a copy!