I grew up in a non-christian home and learned to love reading through comic books: Archie and the Marvel comics among them, especially the Fantastic Four. But mainly I was a DC fan, my favorites being The Justice League of America (Green Lantern was my hero) and The Legion of Super Heroes (go, Lightning Lad). From there I dove into science fiction and fantasy, spending my nights looking through my telescope, then coming to bed freezing and reading science fiction by flashlight under my covers, so Mom wouldn’t see the light on.
Much as I would have enjoyed video games and computers as a boy, I’m profoundly grateful they didn't exist then. If they would have, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have come to love reading as I did. (That creates a real challenge for today’s Christian parents, doesn’t it? How do you cultivate a love for reading in children, especially your boys, when there is so much in our culture working against it? And especially when we remember that those who are not readers will not be readers of God's Word.)
I think of how God had His hand on my life long before I was in high school, when I read for the first time a book that really captivated me...the Bible. That book came alive to me when I met the Author, who soon became my best friend.
That’s why my advice to parents is read to and with your children! A child who doesn’t learn to love to read will not love to read God's Word, and will be robbed of joy and perspective. The love of reading is a delight far more satisfying than the love of movies and video games, which is not inherently evil, but will generally not foster the spiritual life. A love for reading must be instilled early, as it seldom develops later. So read to your kids and give them great books to read! (And also model to them the importance of reading as an adult.)
I share some more thoughts on my childhood love of reading, and the importance of passing on that love to the next generation, in this video:
Here are some great books to consider sharing with your kids:
The Jesus Story Book is the best Bible storybook for kids I’ve seen. (I enjoyed reading it with my grandsons when they were younger.) Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is a children’s devotional also written by Sally Lloyd Jones. Stephanie Anderson, one of our staff members, writes, “I love the short and sweet little devotional thoughts in this book, with beautiful illustrations by Jago. I also love that Sally quotes from theologians and heroes of the faith. I’ve enjoyed starting my mornings with my girls using this book.”
Emblems of the Infinite King by J. Ryan Lister
This book introduces kids ages 10+ to God’s radiant beauty using the main categories of systematic theology. When sound systematic theology is conveyed to kids in a vibrant and accessible way, it is a victory to be celebrated. Emblems of the Infinite King does this!
My daughter Karina, mom to three boys, writes, “I’m reading Emblems of the Infinite King with my grade schooler and middle schooler. It's a beautiful book that unfolds systematic theology in a narrative form for kids. My boys, who love storytelling, are very engaged with both the text and the illustrations. We often make connections with Scripture and the Apostles’ Creed, so they can see how we evaluate beauty in light of revealed truth. I've found it to be an excellent next step after the Jesus Storybook Bible, as kids get older and are ready for more conceptual learning.”
Oh, the Treasures You'll Know! by Dan Olson and Lucy Olson
This Christian parody of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is a witty, wonderful, and beautifully illustrated book about following God’s narrow path and storing up treasures in Heaven that will never be lost. It’s a delightful book.
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
Both young and old will enjoy Kevin’s book. The Biggest Story is a small treatment of a huge theme—God’s drama of redemption, centered on Jesus Christ. Kevin’s words are fresh, engaging, playful, and biblical. Many Bible storybooks offer pearls without a string. This one puts the pearls on a string—the right one. The result is magnificent and memorable.
EPM staff member Stephanie Anderson writes: “Our girls, ages five and ten, have loved these devotionals. They’re well written and full of fascinating scientific facts, which Louie then masterfully ties in with themes from Scripture. Even my husband and I have learned many new things, and we like the emphasis on science not being at odds with our faith, but rather being a means of appreciating and learning about the Creator.”
The Action Bible, which my grandsons love, has sold over a million copies. It’s proven that the Bible in graphic novel form can be both engaging and Christ-honoring. Kids eight and older and many adults love it. I find it true to Scripture. (See also The Kingstone Bible¸ which my graphic novel The Apostle is a part of. It’s the longest single graphic novel ever published, as well as the most complete graphic novel adaptation of the Bible, and is available in three volumes.)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Through Lewis’s Narnia series, we and our children can learn to envision the promised Heaven on Earth in a biblical and compelling way. I encourage parents to read them aloud to their family or to listen to the complete books in radio theatre audio productions copublished by Tyndale and Focus on the Family.
More fiction recommendations: EPM staff member Amy Woodard shared that her young teen girl has liked the Christy Miller Series by Robin Jones Gunn. Her kids have also enjoyed the Cul-De-Sac Kids book series by Beverly Lewis.
Here are some book recommendations from The Gospel Coalition:
If you’d like to introduce your kids to a biblical view of Heaven, you can check out my books Heaven for Kids (a chapter book intended for ages 8 to 12, but would work well for a family to read through, and also available as an audio book), Tell Me About Heaven (readable by many eight year olds, but designed to be enjoyed by the whole family; it contains eleven fantastic paintings by my friend, artist Ron DiCianni), and Wait Until Then (a picture book that emphasizes, in story fashion, that according to God’s Word, the best is yet to be; it’s now of out print but used copies are available on Amazon). Older kids might also enjoy my graphic novel Eternity (based on Christ’s story of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16; the graphics were done by two artists who’ve worked with Marvel Comics).
Finally, you can find more recommendation and ideas in Trevin Wax’s book recommendations for preschoolers, and Justin Taylor’s article with a list of recommended reading for kids, grade by grade. And here’s a great article about pointing your kids to the gospel through good books.