Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible

©2017 Zondervan, Grand Rapids

A Study Bible. For Kids. What a neat idea! I know that my children, raised in a Christian home, coming to know Christ as Savior at an early age, and now growing up in a society that no longer values the Bible as much as it did, say 40 years ago when I was a kid, and I have been looking for something that might be a good study tool for them as they come to a place where learning more about the Bible, its lives and times. Perhaps this new offering from the Zondervan publishing group might fit the ticket.

As a book for reference and study use, I would give the publishers fairly high marks for the physical construction of this Bible. It is a hardcover with pretty sturdy binding that includes a built-in place ribbon for marking one’s place when he/she puts the volume down. I can also say that the cover and the contents (“over 700 images inside!” boasts a colorful sticker on the front cover) are vibrant and eye-catching. While the pages aren’t the delicate and precious onion-skin type pages you might find in a high-end, leather-bound copy of the Scriptures, they are thin enough to keep the nearly 2000-page book from being unwieldy.

I think that it would be good to look at what this Bible claims about itself to help in assessing its usability for kids.

First of all as a Bible for kids. The question that comes to mind is, what age and reading level constitutes a “kid”? I would want to settle into the 9 – 12 age range (give or take a year or two), which would place the reader in the 4th – 6th grade reading level. Going with the NIV for the text of the book could be argued as a less than stellar decision because of the eighth-grade (estimate) reading level of that version. When you want to reach kids with a study resource, it might be better to use a more readable translation (although going with the third-grade level NIrV might be going a bit too shallow) when Americans often tend to top-out at the sixth-grade level.

The book also says right up front that it is “visual” and announces (albeit with a sticker) the presence of “over 700 images”. I did not take the time to count the images, but the book is packed with them. Some are photographs that illustrate the portion of the Scripture that they accompany. Other images are artists’ renderings. All of these are okay, and seem to be of really good quality, but the images that caught my eye are the charts, graphs, and visuals that give a thumbprint explanation of such things as the difference between the Jewish months/calendar and our modern understanding of the year. From time to time a margin will be dedicated to the “Life Line” of one of the biblical characters (such as Jacob, Moses, or Herod the Great).

Apart from the pictures scattered throughout the pages, what makes this a “study Bible”? Nearly every margin contains some quick and simple commentary on the Scriptures of that page. These comments are rarely more than a simple paragraph, but help in the understanding of the ways and words of the Bible. Also, each book of the Bible is preceded by a full-page background of the book: Who wrote it? Why was it written? What are the major themes? And so on, to help the reader get a better understanding of the book they are reading. At the back of this volume are a table of weights and measures to aid in comparing biblical amounts to modern equivalents, some obligatory maps (the Exodus, Paul’s missionary journeys, and the like), and a couple of indices to help find the “infographics” and maps scattered throughout the text. What’s missing is even a simple concordance to aid the reader in finding the passage(s) he/she wants to study.

Overall, I think this is an excellent effort to put “dig deeper” Scriptures into the hands of boys and girls. I would recommend it for children ages 10-13 (around 4th – 6th grade). At a cover price of $32.99 (US) it would be a good investment in the Christian growth of your child or grandchild. I would give the book 4 out of 5 reading glasses for doing a good job of achieving the publisher’s goals.

—Benjamin Potter June 27, 2017

[This book was provided free of charge by the publisher for purposes of this review. The opinions are my own.]

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