Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: The Catholic Children's Bible

When you think of a children's bible the first thing that probably comes to mind is a picture bible that has selected bible stories.  I know that's been our experience with children's bibles.  And the few that are actual bibles are difficult for younger readers to use either because it's just not geared to helping a young child be able to read and understand the bible.  The Catholic Children's Bible from Saint Mary's Press bridges the gap and gives young readers in the second through fourth grade age range a bible that is accessible for them.

The Catholic Children's Bible is set up in such a way that children will be
able to read it, navigate through it and most importantly, understand it.  Reading this bible is easy for a young child because the print is large enough that they can follow along without getting lost in the text.  Vocabularly words are in bold and there's a column divider on the page that helps young readers learn how to read pages with a two-column format.  Finding a particular book in the bible is easy thanks to the color coding and labeled tabs.
Now maybe your wondering what this bible has to offer to a child to capture his or her attention.  Sure, large type, and color coded sections and tabs are nice, but is there anything else that makes this bible stand out?  Indeed, there is.  First, each of the books of the bible has a great child friendly explanation as an introduction.  And, then there's the featured stories.  If a particular book has a featured story, it is listed immediately following the introduction for the book along with the page number where you can find it.  These featured stories are told on a colorfully illustrated two page spread.  There's an illustration that gives you a feel for the story, followed by the scripture.  Within the scripture, key words are highlighted and are then defined after the passage.  A section called "Understand It!" gives an excellent explanation of the story.  The "Live It!" section gives children a practical life explanation that they can relate to for how to put the lesson they learn from this story into practice in their own lives.  Finally, the "Tell It!" section gives children the opportunity to tell the story in their own words using pictures from the story.  I like the layout of the story format because it encourages children to think and act on what they learn from the story.

To really see how accessible this bible is for an elementary school aged child, I asked my daughter who is in second grade to look a few things up.  She has some experience with looking up scripture in a First  Communion bible that is really laid out like most regular bibles with just a few full color inserts added in.  Typically, it takes her a while to find what she's looking for when she's looking up scripture in her bible.  With The Catholic Children's Bible, she was able to find the book she was looking for quite a bit faster, and she had an easier time navigating through the text to find the chapter and verse.  With her regular bible she typically has a lot of trouble when it comes to finding the verse numbers and then once she finds it she struggles to read the tiny type.

As a catechist, I like that this children's bible is so much more than just a bible.  There are some great teaching resources available to help children get even more out of this great bible.  The Catholic Children's Bible Leader Guide is a resource that teaches catechists how to effectively use this bible with Children.  The guide has activities, prayers and helps for guiding children as they navigate through the bible.  The Leader Guide is filled with plenty of valuable information.  There's also an activity booklet that contains two reproducible activity pages for each featured bible story.  For every story, there is an activity page geared to younger children and one that is for older children.  In most cases, children in the 1st-2nd grade age range will be best suited to the level one activities while the level 2 activity sheets would be best for 3rd and 4th graders.  Each activity page has a section entitled "Seek and Find" that encourages children to go back to the story and look for something found on the story pages.

The Catholic Children's Bible also boasts a great companion app that can be used in the classroom or at home to further involve children in the stories.  The app features several activities for each bible story to  engage children.  There's even an option to have the Read It!, Understand It! and Live It! passages read to you by the app.  This is great for younger children who aren't yet old enough to read independently, however, there are some activities that may be too challenging for very young children.  There are plenty of fun activities in this app that will challenge even some of the older children.  The Catholic Children's Bible App is available as four different downloads.  Each set has it's own set of bible stories.

I could see using this app with my kindergarten religious education class.  The children could listen to the story and it's explanation and then could retell the story in their own words.  I plan on incorporating some of the bible stories from this app into my lesson plans for the upcoming school year.  I think it will be a hit with the children.

I was provided with a review copy of The Catholic Children's Bible and it's companion resources by the publisher, Saint Mary Press in exchange for my honest review.

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