Christ-centered Story Bibles are sometimes useful. But nothing beats reading straight out of Scripture. The Bible is great literature, and I don’t see any reason why we should withhold reading from the text itself when we read other more complex literature to children. Grab a Bible with a good translation and start reading.
How to Introduce Bible Reading
You may begin with Genesis or with the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are narratives, and they work like stories so they are easier to start with.
If you’re homeschooling, slowly introduce Bible reading during Morning Time or Basket Time before digging into more formal lessons. You could also make the Bible as one of your read alouds within the day. Perhaps include a chapter in your bedtime reading or introduce a verse in one of the children’s copy works. The important thing is to carve out time and include Bible reading in your daily routine. This is also one practical way for busy parents to make time to read and meditate on Scriptures.
How to Choose a Bible Translation
The aim of Literal/Formal (Word-for-Word) translations is to stick close to the original form of the language as possible. But readability suffers. The other end of the spectrum is the Paraphrase, which is akin to a “big idea” translation so it tends to miss some key aspects while trying to highlight another. This can be helpful when you want a summary of the text or if you want read a particular book of the Bible in one go. But just like summaries, you can’t possibly cover everything.
The Thought-for-Thought (Dynamic-Equivalent) translation, however, is the sweet center as it tries to balance faithful translation and readability. All translations have their specific purpose, and I think it is a matter of preference and usage. Having said that, I still would choose a translation that does the job of faithfully transmitting the original intent of the author. Sometimes the original form and intended meaning get lost in contextualization.
For starters, I would choose a basic Thought-for-thought (Dynamic-Equivalent) translation that uses easily understandable English like the New International Reader’s Version (NiRV). Other Dynamic-Equivalent or Word-for-Word (Formal/Literal) translations I prefer to use would be the New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV), respectively.
I personally try to hold off from other literal translations like the King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV) or New American Standard Bible (NASB). These translations are good to use for Bible exposition or Bible studies, but do not offer a smooth rendering of the original text. I would also suggest that you try to stay away from Paraphrase versions like The Message (MSG). This particular translation veers far from the original language and tends to be more of Eugene Peterson’s interpretation, who was the sole translator. It’s also packed with colloquialism that you’re better off with a well-written story Bible like The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos—being married to a remarkable Biblical theologian has its perks after all.
Why We Use the ESV
I grew up listening to and memorizing from the NIV. So most of the verses that I recall are from that translation. But now that our church uses the ESV, we also read to our children using that same version. In the same way, I would advise parents to use the very same translation being used in their church context or corporate worship to be used at home for personal Bible reading and family worship for consistency.
Charlotte Mason said it best when she wrote:
We are apt to believe that children cannot be interested in the Bible unless its pages be watered down—turned into the slipshod English we prefer to offer them. It is a mistake to use paraphrases of the text; the fine roll of Bible English appeals to children with a compelling music, and they will probably retain through life their first conception of the Bible scenes, and, also, the very words in which these scenes are portrayed. This is a great possession… Let their minds be nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion.
But far more than being great literature, the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. And just like Timothy, may these words also ring true for our children:
[H]ow from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.2 Timothy 3:15 ESV
Recommended Bible Study Resources for Families
- Reformation Study Bible
- Gospel Transformation Study Bible
- Family Worship Bible Guide by Joel Beeke
- Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray
- The Most Important Thing You’ll Every Study (5 Volumtes) by Starr Meade