Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Caldwell taught “Reading the Bible with Children” (affectionately called “Bibles and Babies”) at McCormick Seminary for many years. Our alums remember it being one of their favorite and most challenging classes! Lib’s passion for children’s faith development and religious literacy informs her recommendations for beginning Bible study with kids (from the Journal of Religious Education).
Children of God, Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This beginning Bible introduces children to Christian stories through a multicultural perspective. “The fifty-six stories are chosen to show the ways that God works through history and how God wants all people to love each other. In their commitment to designing a global children’s Bible, the stories are illustrated by artists from around the world. Each story is on two pages and ends with a prayer.”
This Bible includes 208 “bite-size stories,” including some that are often omitted from children’s Bible storybooks: Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah. “Each story includes the biblical citation and a comment or a question for the child to consider. The illustrations are bright and colorfully drawn in a character (cartoon style) that works well with young children.”
This Bible has over 200 stories retold for children, and reminds the reader that the Bible is a collection of different kinds of writings. Murray Watts, the author, says, “I have tried to reflect the magnificent breadth of this material, expressed in a rich variety of history, story and song. In my view, there is no need to limit younger readers to a cautiously edited and sentimental version. They will bring their own insights, questions and responses to these narratives.” There is also additional information about nomads, Egyptians, the tent of worship in the Old Testament and the land of Jesus, the Jewish faith in the time of Jesus in the New Testament. For the child who is curious about more background information, this Bible gives more information to help her or him grow in understanding about the Biblical world.
Author Ellen Frankel provides 53 stories for children, and illustrator Avi Katz invites the reader into the drama and feelings of the stories. Frankel says, “My chief aim in writing this book has been to introduce American children to the language and rhythms of the Hebrew Bible.” She includes a section on Gender and reminds the reader of the cultural context in which the Bible was written and yet “we cannot simply sweep aside the contradictions between the Bible’s world and our own.” Frankel addresses this issue by using gender-neutral language for God.
Each story in this book is illustrated by a variety of artists and includes questions that invite children and other readers to explore the story, connect with it, and wonder about it. “The selection of stories are a good representation of both testaments and the variety of kinds of writing: stories, poetry, laws, and instructions and history. The introduction invites the adult who will read these stories with children to use this as a spiritual practice. And it reminds the reader of the purpose of the Bible, ‘a rare and precious treasure, an inspiration and guide for our lives. It is a place where we come to listen to God’.”
Elementary Children (8 – 12)
Three children, Asia, Edgar, and Kat act as guides to help children dive into the Bible. Each book has an accompanying introduction and there are in-text notes that help children understand and connect with challenging texts. Other features include maps, Bible exploration tools and facts, challenges for reading and remembering, and ways to connect the Bible and life. The Common English Bible was written for an eighth-grade reading level, and so is very accessible to this group of readers.
This Bible combines several resources into one volume, including: an introduction to the Bible; overviews of particular time periods; maps and a listing of people named in the stories. Each story also includes side bar information that provides historic and cultural information. The kind of information that adults have to find with a concordance, Bible dictionary, or atlas are included here in a condensed version for children. This is a great resource for fledgling Bible Nerds!
McCormick Theological Seminary is currently raising funds to endow a scholarship in Lib Caldwell’s name to continue her legacy of Christian education, arts & ministry, and mentorship. The Lib Caldwell Scholarship will fund theological education for women and students of color. To donate, please visit McCormick’s gift page and designate the Lib Caldwell Scholarship.