With the holidays right around the corner, conversations with my wife tend to center around how we can make intentional efforts to tune our kids’ hearts to the true meaning of Christmas: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV). After coming up with a course of action, squaring away a family visitation schedule, and mapping out the holiday menu, we finally arrive at what can be the most contested—quite expensive—and yet seemingly least important part of Christmas planning: what should we get the kids for Christmas?
We’ve adopted a saying that is certainly not original to us that serves as a good rule of thumb. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I’ll leave it to your children to apprise you of their wants, your discretion to determine the need, the fashionistas to set the latest trends, but I have a few ideas on what they might read. Here are a few suggestions on books that will help you cultivate your children’s biblical imagination as they grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (Recommend Ages 0–10)
With over two million copies sold (for good reason!), it should come as no surprise that this book is a staple for us. We have read this with our kids no less than ten times, and it still moves me! The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the story beneath all the stories in the Bible from the Old Testament through the New where Jesus is the focus and purpose of God’s self-disclosure.
First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer (Recommended Ages: 1–5)
What better way to teach your little one to count to 10 than associating lynchpin theological truths to each number: “1 God,”“2 Natures of Jesus,” “3 Persons of the Trinity,” “4 Gospels,” “5 Books in the Pentateuch,””6 Days of Creation,” “7 ‘I AMs’ of Jesus,””8 Beatitudes,” “9 Fruits of the Spirit,” and “10 Commandments.” This simple, yet beautiful board book utilizes an essential primary skill like counting to communicate and instill foundational principles of biblical orthodoxy. In truth, I would commend the panoply of primer books for your little ones: Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer, Let There Be Light: An Opposites Primer, From Eden to Bethlehem: An Animals Primer.
God's Very Good Idea: A True Story of God's Delightfully Different Family (Recommended Ages: 3–8)
This book helps children understand how people from all ethnic and social backgrounds bear God’s image and are, therefore, precious in his sight. God's Very Good Idea depicts the gospel truth from Ephesians 2:14 that Jesus, our peace, through his work on the cross tore down the dividing walls of hostility and secured for himself a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
The Gospel In Color - For Kids: A Theology of Racial Reconciliation for Kids (Recommend Ages: 7–12)
Let me start by saying that I love this book. It was a timely God-send for my family. Knowing that we wanted to discuss the issue of racial reconciliation with our kids, we still weren’t quite sure where to start. Then, a friend recommended this gem to us! Through stunning illustration and quality writing, The Gospel in Color makes clear how “color-blindness” and false ideas of race brings about suffering and division, and how the good news of Jesus Christ brings about the reconciliation the world desperately needs.
What is God Like? (Recommend Ages: 5–10)
What is God like? To start, God is a se, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and infinite. The aforementioned designations are more than ivory-tower, theological terminus technicus. They are part and parcel of God’s incommunicable attributes, and concepts I desperately want my kids to grasp. William Lane Craig’s What is God Like? series is a great place to start in teaching your little ones to become great theologians.
Check out: God is All-Knowing, God is All-Good, God is All-Loving, God is All-Powerful, God is Forever, God is Everywhere, God is Spirit, God is Three Persons, God is Self-Sufficient, and The Greatness of God.
The Church History ABCs (Recommended Ages: 5–10)
Admittedly, on the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a must read. But when it comes to church history, we should, as Karl Barth once penned, “honor our father and mother.” The Church History ABCs helps us to recognize that Christ’s promise to build his church was instituted before us and will continue beyond us. It does so by highlighting men and women from the annals of history that God has used to enact and participate in the Great Commission. If you’re feeling especially nerdy, check out the follow up book, Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation.
One of the primary roles of the Christian parent is to—in the spirit of Archibald Alexander—place firewood on the hearth of our children’s hearts, so that when the Spirit of God strikes, their souls may be set ablaze. A sure way of doing this is to make certain that you’re continually stacking up logs of truth: through catechetical instruction, family worship, and equipping them with quality resources. That being said, Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!