Whether or not to use Bible storybooks during the early years in a Charlotte Mason home is a contested issue. Some of her passages seem to defend the idea that we should only read the actual Bible during the early years. But other passages seem to offer some flexibility on that when it comes to younger children. I want to offer you both sides of the story so you can make the best decision for your family.
*This post contains affiliate links.
To Read the Bible, or Bible Storybooks?
Charlotte Mason said that older children should not be exposed to “slipshod” versions of the Bible. Many take it to mean that we shouldn’t use Bible storybooks with younger children, too.
We are apt to believe that children cannot be interested in the Bible unless its pages be watered down- turned into the slipshod English we prefer to offer them. Here is a suggestive anecdote of the childhood of Mrs Harrison, one of the pair of little Quaker maidens introduced to us in the Autobiography of Mary Howitt, the better known of the sisters. “One day she found her way into a lumber room. There she caught sight of an old Bible and turning over its yellow leaves she came upon words that she had not heard at the usual morning readings, the opening chapters of St Luke- which her father objected to read aloud- and the closing chapter of Revelation. The exquisite picture of the Great Child’s birth in the one chapter and the beauty of the description of the New Jerusalem in the other, were seized upon by the eager little girl of six years old with a rapture which, she used to say, no novel in after years ever produced. And here is a mention of a child of five. “The little ones read every day the events of Holy Week with me. Z. is inexpressibly interesting in his deep, reverent interest, almost excitement.”
We are probably quite incapable of measuring the religious receptivity of children. Nevertheless, their fitness to apprehend the deep things of God is a fact with which we are called to ‘deal prudently,’ and to deal reverently. And that, because, as none can appreciate more fully than the ‘Darwinian,’ the attitude of thought and feeling in which you place a child is the vital factor in his education.” Home Education, pages 247-248
She mentions children of five and six enjoying and understanding the Bible as it is read to them. But she does not specifically say that children from zero to five should not be exposed to Bible storybooks.
Charlotte Mason states that children from 6-9 should become familiar with the Bible’s text through having it read aloud to them.
Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels.” Home Education, page 248
So What Comes Before 6?
Do we just skip Bible reading before the age of 6? And is reading from Bible storybooks acceptable, according to Charlotte Mason?
Some Things to Consider
- Bible storybooks have changed a lot! I’m not sure what the options were for Bible storybooks a hundred years ago, but the selection has undoubtedly increased and improved!
- Charlotte Mason preferred that children be told stories during the early years. A parent should have a stockpile of stories memorized to share with their little ones. Maybe this is what Charlotte Mason had in mind for teaching the Bible during the early years. You can read about the recommendation to tell stories rather than read them here.
- A PNEU article entitled “How to Teach the Bible to Our Children,” addresses Bible stories in the early years. (I couldn’t find this article anywhere, sorry!) The author discusses using paraphrases (or, storybooks) to teach the Bible to very young children.
- The NIV Bible is written at a 7th and 8th grade level. I read advanced books to Miss H (age four), but even then, she asks so many questions in order to understand. Knowing my children, they would not take much out of reading straight from the NIV Bible.
- In School Education, the volume dedicated to describing education for a child from the ages of 9-12, Charlotte Mason said, “The habit of hearing, and later, of reading the Bible, is one to establish at an early age. We are met with a difficulty––that the Bible is, in fact, a library containing passages and, indeed, whole books which are not for the edification of children; and many parents fall back upon little collections of texts for morning and evening use. But I doubt the wisdom of this plan. We may believe that the narrative teaching of the Scriptures is far more helpful to children, anyway, than the stimulating moral and spiritual texts picked out for them in little devotional books.” page 142
You know your child the best, so you decide what they would benefit from the most! For my children, I chose to read from four different Bibles during our morning time this year:
- The Jesus Storybook Bible
- Jesus Calling Bible Storybook
- Egermeier’s Bible Story Book
- The Message (paraphrase) and NIV Bibles
I put together a reading plan for the Old Testament, and I’ll share it with you soon! It uses the Bible storybooks that I mentioned above, as well as the actual Bible. I hope this is helpful!
What is your favorite Bible to share with your children?