From StoryBook Bible To The Real Bible: When?

A frequently asked question that I have received in recent months is this:

How do I know when to transition my kids from their children’s storybook Bible to the actual Bible?

This is a great question so I thought it would be helpful to provide a few insights from my own personal experience. Before we get started, can we all just collectively agree to the fact that most children’s storybook Bibles are annoyingly cheesy and shockingly inaccurate? I mean, they are well intentioned but...more than likely it wasn’t an apple that Adam and Eve ate in the garden, it wasn’t necessarily a whale that swallowed up Jonah, and Noah wasn’t the lone good guy on the face of the earth who deserved God’s rescue.

All jokes aside (sort of), there are some really bad children’s storybook Bibles out there and there are excellent choices (I’ll review some of the better picks in the near future). But this isn’t really the point of our current conversation (although it mustn’t be overlooked). At what age do I know when to transition my children from the picture Bible to the real thing?

Consider these 4 thoughts:

  1. There needs to already be a familiarity. This is the most important tip. What I’m saying is that there doesn’t ever have to be talk of a transition because your kid should already be used to the actual Bible. Why? Because you are reading from it, to them (a lot!). Whether it’s before church on a Sunday (read through the passage that your pastor is preaching from), while you wait for your kids to finish dinner (you have all the time in the world, especially if you gave them vegetables), or advent season (reading through specific passages leading up to Christmas), there are so many opportunities to introduce your kids to the actual Bible. It should always be a part of your family routines and rhythms.

  2. There doesn’t need to be a desire (from them). Listen, you can’t make your kids love reading the Bible. But you can be faithful and consistent in making Bible-reading the key centerpiece to your family activities so that your kids will think it is normal.

  3. Reading comprehension is strongly encouraged (but not mandatory). As with most everything else in our kid’s lives, we tend to overthink the timing of when they should start something. When should we start feeding them with a bottle? When should we potty train? When should we graduate them to a big girl/boy bed? When should we start saving for college? And when will we know they are ready to read the actual Bible and understand it? Listen, the ability to read and comprehend fairly well is encouraged, but not mandatory. So please don’t gift them a ten-ton 1611 King James Version Bible the moment they can read Goodnight Moon all the way through. 

  4. A good age to begin is likely around age 7 or 8, when they can read and comprehend well enough. This is typically when your kids are at an age you can begin to work through some of the trickier items in Scripture (you know, the ones about sex, murder, and genocide - we’ll cover the “how-to” on these in a later post:).

With all this in mind, please remember that your kid is pretty smart. She learns quickly. He is like a sponge. Don’t be afraid to give him or her the challenge of opening up the Bible to navigate through the wonder of God’s inspired and perfect words. Why? So that your kid can begin to experience what Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”