The Pitfalls of Children’s Bibles (Rachel Wilkowski)

Why wasn’t I trained to read this way as a child?” —Rachel Wilkowski

Over the last several decades, the Christian world has eagerly produced a host of children’s Bibles—retellings of biblical stories in “kid-friendly” language, complete with cute, colorful illustrations. Many of these children’s Bibles, however, come laden with assumptions about the nature of childhood, which parts of Scripture are considered appropriate, and what “lesson” the stories teach. Rachel Wilkowski, a researcher in the area of children’s Bibles, joins Dru Johnson to discuss history and pitfalls of these books. They discuss the impacts of “pre-interpreting” the biblical texts for children, including the propensity toward moralism and sanitizing some of the difficult parts of Scripture. They also consider how religious beliefs and the publishing industry combine to shape what is presented in these retellings of Scripture.

Rachel Wilkowski is a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin and Family Ministries Director at St. Peter’s Fireside in Vancouver. She has particular research interest in how Genesis 1-3 (and other parts of the Hebrew Bible) are interpreted and retold in children’s Bibles from different Jewish and Christian traditions. She has 14 non-biological nieces and nephews and one biological nephew.

Show notes:

  • 0:00 Rachel’s interest in children’s Bibles
  • 4:18 The history of children’s Bibles
  • 8:38 Religious beliefs and retelling Scripture
  • 12:05 What is considered appropriate for kids?
  • 15:33 Examples of poor retellings
  • 19:57 Sales, illustrations, and entertainment
  • 24:14 A children’s Bible that gets it?
  • 26:42 Helping kids read Scripture
  • 29:41 Avoiding pre-interpreting Scripture and moralism

Show notes by Micah Long

Image created by Rubner Durais

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