Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Big Truths for Little Kids

Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God

"...that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine...” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV).

One of our favorite and most utilized family resources is Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt. Consequently, I was delighted when Crossway requested that I share my thoughts with you all.

Susan and Richie have done parents a great service by dividing the First Catechism (a simplification of the Westminster Shorter Catechism) into smaller portions and suggesting a helpful procedure by which to memorize it with one’s children. Big Truths for Little Kids is comprised of 36 short stories. Each story is preceded by an average of five catechism questions and followed by several comprehension questions, a memory verse, and prayer suggestion. My children (ages 2-9.5) all eagerly anticipate reading the next installment of “Caleb and Cassie”, as they have come to affectionately call it.

Along with Caleb, Cassie, their parents, neighbors, and friends, children and parents alike can see how Biblical truth significantly and practically affects day-to-day life. One of the major strengths of Big Truths for Little Kids is how Susan and Richie utilize interesting stories to portray the sin and shortcomings of the characters and point them (and the reader) to the cross. For example, in story 18, Caleb is feeling grumpy because he is being mistreated by a non-Christian on a camping trip. As a result, he was mean to his sister, snapped at her, and hurt her feelings. When his dad spoke to him about his ungodly attitude, Caleb responded that he would try to do better. His dad's response is full of Biblical truth:
"I'm glad you want to do better, Caleb, but let me explain something to you," said his dad. "We can't do better. We are all sinful. We are ignorant of God's law, we break His law, and we are too weak to obey His law. We are no better than Scotty [the non-Christian kid]. But there is a huge difference between Scotty and us. We have the Lord Jesus living in our hearts. He is our prophet, our priest, and our king. He teaches us His law, He prays for us, and He gives us the power to glorify Him. We can't just try to act better. We must ask God to change our hearts" (pg. 80).

I don't know about you, but this response has much more depth than my typical response would have had prior to reading this book and is instructive for my parenting. Additionally, story 21 deals with Cassie allowing the desire for a new doll to become an idol. Her mother gently helped her to see her sinful heart attitude and the importance of not elevating things above people and, most of all, God. There are also stories in which the parents make bad decisions or have ungodly attitudes and apologize to the family (number 20 is a good example of this).

Sadly, growing up in church, I never knew about catechism (other than occasional references to Catholic catechism classes). I suppose the term “catechism” could be a bit intimidating. However, John Piper has written a short, thought-provoking article explaining the origin and importance of catechism. Simply put, to “catechize”: “means to teach biblical truth in an orderly way” (John Piper). He continues: “Generally this is done with questions and answers accompanied by biblical support and explanation.” Some would contend that it is better to simply memorize Scripture. However, Piper offers a number of reasons why a catechism is helpful. I’d encourage you to read his short article on the subject.

In short, a catechism is much like studying an organized systematic theology or Bible doctrine. Most would agree that there are many benefits to this type of study. Catechism is merely an introduction to the basic Biblical truths and is helpful for introducing all to the faith. Susan and Richie Hunt have made it easier for parents to do this with their children and have helped reveal how Biblical truths apply to day-to-day life through their engaging story format. I would highly recommend this for all families who are blessed with young children.

*One thing worth noting is that Big Truths for Little Kids is written from a Reformed, Presbyterian background so some may notice doctrinal differences. However, the format is such that it is very easy to either (a) skip those portions with which your family has significant differences or (b) use those portions as a discussion starter to explain differing beliefs in an age-appropriate manner. We have chosen to do the latter and have had fruitful discussions about what the Bible says about baptism and how different denominations interpret those Scriptures which pertain to it.

(Also, although I have linked to Westminster Books due to their lower purchase price, has a longer book preview for you to sample, if you are interested in learning more about this excellent, Gospel-centered resource.)

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

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