It can be difficult to shop for Christian reading materials for children and toddlers. In some cases the material is too watered down–being so subtle in its message that it’s hard to tell if it’s from a Christian or a secular worldview. In other cases the material can be too deep–there may be a time to expose children to esoteric theological material, but perhaps not as a baby or toddler.
Out of all the children’s books on the market, the one that jumped out at me as I tried to “judge a book by its cover” was Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers by Diane Storz (illustrated by Diane Le Feyer). The book itself is a beautiful, full-color book from cover to cover, with hardcover binding. The first page has an area where you can write your name, the child’s name, and the date if you give the book as a gift to a child, grandchild, nephew or niece, or friend.
The book is divided into 26 stories from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament. The stories are arranged by the order they’re presented in the Bible, started with the Creation and ending with an entry called “Forever with Jesus” based on Revelations. In the middle, of course, you’ll find stories you expect, such as Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Noah’s Ark, and many stories of Jesus from the Gospels.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is that the author didn’t see a need to embellish the stories. As I read through the stories, while the stories are of course rewritten in simple language for children, I don’t see anything that contradicts the original text of Scripture. To the contrary, the stories are very true to the stories of the Bible. For example, take this passage from the Parable of the Prodigal Son:
Here’s how the passage reads in this book:
“Here’s your food, piggies,” he said as he poured messy pig food into feeding troughs. He felt so hungry, though, that the messy pig food began to look good to him, and he thought about eating it himself.” Then he had an idea. “I’m a hired worker with nothing to eat,” he said, “But my father gives plenty of food to his hired workers!”
And here’s the source content:
So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!’
The illustration are also remarkably true to Scripture as well, as far as I can tell. In the Christmas story, you don’t see wintry scenes of snowfall. Illustrations of most characters throughout the book are of people with dark hair, darker skin, and beards of the kind you’d find in the Middle East, not to mention fairly accurate (for a kid’s book) depictions of the kinds of clothes, marketplaces, pottery, and animals. In the story of Jonah, you don’t see a picture of a smiling whale but rather an illustration of a tail of a “great fish”. The one exception, not all that surprisingly, are illustrations of Jesus, where He’s still depicted with white skin and brown hair; granted no one knows what He really looked like on Earth, so the illustrator probably figured it was better to stick with the typical images.
Something else I loved was that each story concludes with a short “Sleepy-Time Prayer” and “Bedtime Blessing”. If I had one wish it’s that the prayers were just a little longer than the 10-15 words and the blessings were a little longer than the 5-7 words. But then again, it might be for the best if you as a parent can come up with your own prayer to share with your little one.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with this book. The book itself is solid–the hard covers are thick and durable, and the pages inside are thick and in beautiful full color which will hold the attention of your little one. It is a great way to introduce your little one (and re-introduce yourself) to the stories of the Bible.