As LeVar Burton would remind us, we can go anywhere and be anything if we, “take a look, it’s in a book.” From my days of watching Reading Rainbow, to that magical moment when I learned to read, to spending my evenings poring over picture books with my own kids—I’ve always loved picture books. The combination of the text and pictures brings the story alive in a way words alone cannot.
As I began teaching Dwell, I wanted to bring God’s Big Story alive in the same way, so I turned once again to my favorite books. Here are five picture books that can help you tell some of the Dwell stories:
- Jesus Calmed the Storm (in Play, Imagine and Wonder)—The Storm that Stopped from the Good Book Company’s Tales That Tell the Truth series. All the books in this series are fantastic, but this is my favorite. The art does a fantastic job of conveying the enormous storm overtaking the boat while Jesus slept and then the amazingly calm sea after Jesus commanded the waters. You can also purchase full-size images to display on a TV or screen so the children can easily see the pages as you read the story.
- The Good Samaritan (in Wonder and Marvel)—Who Is My Neighbor? In this fantastic retelling, the Samaritans and Jews are replaced by “Blues” and “Yellows.” This book echoes the Good Samaritan story completely, including the cultural sense Jewish people would have had about Samaritans, using colors instead of those unfamiliar names. You could have older kids act out the story while you read. Bring a few “blue” and “yellow” shirts and you have costumes.
- Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel (in Wonder)— “The Girl No One Wanted” in The Jesus Storybook Bible. This children’s Bible is a fantastic option for any of the stories it includes, but I especially love Sally Lloyd-Jones’ retelling of the story of Leah and Rachel. Here’s an excerpt:
“No one loves me,” Leah said. “I’m too ugly.”
But God didn’t think she was ugly. And when he saw that Leah was not loved and that no one wanted her, God chose her—to love her specially, to give her a very important job. One day, God was going to rescue the whole world—through Leah’s family.
What a beautiful reminder of how God cared for this unloved woman. And even though we’re reading a story from Genesis, we’re reminded that God was already planning for Jesus, one of Leah’s ancestors, to rescue the world.
- Advent and Christmas stories (in all levels)—Waiting Is Not Easy from Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series. This fun book does a fantastic job of illustrating just how hard it is to wait—whether for mom and dad to finish what they’re doing, for the fun event we know is coming up, or for Christ to return and restore creation. I love that this book allows you to talk with children about the difficulty of waiting, but also reminds you that in the end, it will be worth the wait.
- The Fall or The Prodigal Son (in all levels)—The Runaway Bunny. To be honest, when I first read this story to my kids, I found it completely annoying. Why does the bunny keep trying to run away? Then a friend pointed out that it’s the gospel. Because of sin, we keep running away from God, but no matter where we run to, in his great love for us, God follows. What a great way to remind children that even though we sin and even though Adam and Eve sinned, God still loves us and sent Jesus to rescue us.
As you share stories with your Dwell groups, here’s some food for thought from Edith Schaeffer, “A sermon is always improved with a story, but a story is never improved with a sermon.” Our instinct is to define and explain when we finish a book, but, as Scottie May reminds us in her book Children Matter, “Stories can stand on their own without interpretation. Meaning is embedded in the story itself.” When you finish reading, focus on wondering questions, encouraging your children to enter and experience the story, and leave the retelling to the kids.
Do you have favorite picture books you use to retell God’s Big Story? Share them in the comments below or in our Facebook group.
One picture book I keep buying as a gift for friends (should really buy my own copy) is Who Sang the First Song? by Ellie Holcomb. It's a heavy duty book (can't be ripped) with beautiful pictures and words written in a sing-song style, inviting kids to imagine and place themselves in God's story alongside all of creation.
We all have a song to sing, how cool is that?
Thanks for the ideas! I absolutely love the Jesus Storybook Bible!
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