Christian Liberty Press' Stories from God’s Word Series, written and edited by Amber Bennett, begins with Bible Nuggets from A to Z for preschoolers, then transitions to Bible Treasures, a series of three courses that follow the outline of the Bible. The first three courses for preschool through first grade are available as I write this review, and the last course in the series is in the works. Also, you can easily use these courses a year later because of the level of work involved.
Each course is designed to take one school year to complete with daily lessons. All courses include memory verses taken from the NKJV.
Bible Nuggets from A to Z
Bible Nuggets from A to Z is a collection of Bible stories presented in a sort of alphabetical order with a key word selected to reflect the letters "a" through "z." A few additional, "non-alphabetical" lessons are included to cover the Easter story and topics such as obedience to God and obedience to parents. The Christmas story appears earlier in the book (representing the letter "i"), so plan ahead to use it and the Easter story at the appropriate times.
Bible Nuggets is a much smaller book than are the Bible Treasures books. However, there is a separate activity book for this preschool course. Each week’s lesson is presented on only two pages in the textbook. On one page is the lesson material, and on the facing page is a full-color illustration. The lessons include a Bible story retold in language easily understood by preschoolers. The story is followed by a memory verse; these are often partial verses of a length appropriate for young children to memorize. Next are three comprehension questions. At the bottom of the page is a box with a note to the teacher pointing out a key idea from the lesson to emphasize.
The teacher should read the weekly Bible story aloud every day, perhaps adding hand motions or body movements. Children should practice the memory verse every day. After a few days of reading, the children should be ready to answer the comprehension questions. While the activity book isn’t essential, most children will enjoy the coloring and cut-and-paste activities. Other activities direct students to circle items, trace letters, and memorize the names of the twelve apostles. Near the end of the book, one activity has parents create a treasure hunt for their child.
While the “A to Z” theme is almost irrelevant, the selection of stories and the format of the lessons are great for young children. The stories and the topics emphasized include those that are most important for understanding the message of salvation. The style of the stories and the excellent artwork should both be appealing to children.
Since some preschoolers might not yet have the coordination for the cut-and-paste activities or tracing, you might find Bible Nuggets even more appropriate for some kindergartners. But you can always skip the activity book with preschoolers.
Both the text and activity book are available in either print or PDF formats. While the text includes full-color pages, the activity book is black-and-white. Consequently, printing activity book pages from the PDF version is economical, and even more so if you want to teach more than one child.
Bible Treasures: Genesis to Ruth and Bible Treasures: 1 Samuel to Malachi are the first two of the three courses planned for this series. The third course is due in 2015. The publisher recommends using these two courses for kindergarten and first grade respectively, but they might work even better for first and second grade. The books are each about 250 pages in length with one or more pages for each daily lesson.
Lessons are presented in weekly units, each with a theme such as “Jacob, the Early Years” and “Jacob and Esau.” There is one full-color illustration for each unit with occasional black-and-white illustrations within unit. Full-color illustrations in the first book have a cartoon look while those in the second book are more realistic and more detailed.
For Monday through Thursday, each day’s lesson begins with a retelling of a Bible story based on The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. Bible stories are simplified in some ways, and expanded upon in others. The story line is often abbreviated and disturbing details are sometimes skipped over. On the other hand, stories are often expanded to clarify the message. For example, the story of Jacob’s dream from Genesis 28: 10-22 ends with, “Jacob did not turn into a perfect man after this dream and vow. But he did promise to serve God. And he knew without a doubt that God was with him, watching over, leading, and protecting him on his journey” (p. 60).
Two or three comprehension questions for each lesson are each followed by lines for a written response—usually one or two words. In Bible Treasures: Genesis to Ruth the beginning letter or letters of the missing words are already on the lines, and these include arrows showing the directions for letter formation. Note that students are expected to print their answers beginning with the first lesson. Since many kindergartners do not yet know how to write (much less spell), parents might take dictation if that seems appropriate. Or you might also use Bible Treasures: Genesis to Ruth at first grade level rather than for kindergarten.
After the comprehension questions is a “thought question” to be used for discussion. This is followed by a catechism question and answer to learn, taken from the First Catechism from Great Commission Publications (available from Christian Liberty Press for $1.50). The same catechism question might be repeated up to four times in one week. Often the same question appears twice.
The week’s memory verse is repeated at the end of each lesson.
Friday’s lesson is for review of memory verses and catechism questions. Students should have mastered the memory verse by now, so this is the day to recite it without assistance. Friday’s review includes the new catechism questions as well as a few from previous lessons. The Friday review lesson shows only the catechism questions, so parents will either need to have memorized the answers themselves, or else they’ll need to look them up. 1 Samuel to Malachi has an appendix with the catechism questions and answers for easy reference, but this is missing from Genesis to Ruth. That means parents might need to go back through the lessons to find the correct responses, or you might purchase the First Catechism.
In Genesis to Ruth, each weekly unit concludes with an activity such as completing a dot-to-dot, acting out a story, drawing, or creating a craft. End-of-unit activities in 1 Samuel to Malachi are workbook activities such as true/false questions, matching columns, solving a maze, or completing a dot-to-dot.
For Bible Treasures: Genesis to Ruth, t he last five lessons serve as cumulative review (and/or assessment) for the entire course. However, Bible Treasures: 1 Samuel to Malachi has 16 cumulative reviews plus a final review. Cumulative reviews in the second course replace a regular lesson for a Thursday. There are answer keys at the back of the books for lesson questions as well as all of the reviews.
No separate teacher’s guides or answer keys are needed for Bible Treasures courses. Each course is available in either softcover book or PDF format. I would generally recommend the printed books for these courses for a number of reasons. You probably want to have printed pages for children to fill in their answers (although they could write answers in a separate notebook). Printing out most lesson pages in black and white is fine, but the color illustrations should be viewed or printed in color, and printing in color gets expensive. Finally, parents will probably want to reference the answer key frequently. Answer keys can be printed out and stapled together or placed in a binder, but the book is just more convenient.
While Bible Nuggets sticks fairly close to the Bible stories themselves, the Bible Treasures courses have more life application and doctrine because of the discussion and catechism questions. The doctrinal approach in the series is fundamentalist including a young-earth viewpoint. Bible Nuggets provides a good framework for beginning Bible study. Bible Treasures courses build familiarity with Scripture and a deeper understanding of the stories and themes in the Bible. The retold stories are a good length for the attention spans of most young children, and they should be more easily understood than stories read directly from Scripture. The series clearly tells the message of the gospel, including the topic of sin that is so often avoided in courses for young children. While the preschool course has hands-on activities that might be optional, the Bible Treasures books are almost exclusively focused on solid, serious content.