There are plenty of famous people in the Bible, and there are lots of resources dedicated to teaching kids about them. The Kingdom Files, which we have been reviewing over the last month, are a different way to look at the life and history of these people. These books are geared toward children ages 8 to 12, but I think they would be a good fit for a wider age group (mine are 7 and 5, for reference).
We received Who Was Jonah? as well as Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? These books are writen by Matt Koceich and put out by Barbour Publishing. Each book is a paperback of about 90 pages and has larger print, making it easier for young readers. There are also black and white illustrations throughout to help keep the interest of young ones, as well as to help make sense of some of the information given.
How We Used Kingdom Files
Since my kids are not reading well yet, I used Who Was Jonah? as a read aloud in the afternoons. It is written like a story and goes over the whole story of Jonah from the Bible, but it adds historical commentary and backstory so we (the kids and I) can understand the bigger picture of what was happening with him. The information is not too dense, overly detailed, or dry, so it makes for an easy read.
However, we did stop a lot to talk about what was going on. The book asks questions throughout to help the kids put themselves in the shoes of Jonah and help them understand how God was working in these passages. Here is an excerpt from the third chapter, right after Jonah ends up in the belly of the fish:
What would you do if you were Jonah? Panic? Sleep? Wonder? Maybe Jonah did all these things, but the Bible doesn’t tell us for certain. What it does tell us, though, is that Jonah prayed! We see that Jonah was finally in a place where he could no longer run. He couldn’t hide from God. The only thing he had left to do was pour out his heart to his Maker.
I like that the author has been sure to clarify when we do not know the facts due to something not directly being mentioned in the Bible. There are some things we cannot know because they are not written, but we can use historical context to make speculations. Some authors do this in such a way that it comes off as fact, which I don’t like, so I’m glad that Mr. Koceich has pointed out when we do not know something for certain.
There are “clue boxes” scattered throughout the book to help us relate all of what we’re learning to our daily lives. For example, one that I personally connected with was how people in the world look and behave differently from how believers look and behave. He gives the example of using foul language, and consuming inappropriate media. But that we can look at the example of Jonah and see how God wants us to treat these people, despite them being different, and trust in the power of God to change them.
Layout of Kingdom Files Books
The thing that is really unique is that these are presented like case files, which is a fun way to investigate and learn more about these people. The first “file” is a full two-page spread called a Fact File. This has the person’s name, occupation, home city, and years lived. It also contains a small headshot (a drawing, not intended to be accurate), map, mini timeline, and key stats (e.g., “called to share the gospel with his greatest enemy”). It also has a line detailing his “Kingdom Work,” which was preaching the Good News to the people of Nineveh.
The next file is the Action File. This is divided into chapters and tells the story and history of the person and the main Bible story surrounding him. This is where the clue boxes are found. Another clue box I liked is short and to the point:
Remember that God is gracious. He acts and blesses not because of what people do, but because of who He is.
The overarching message throughout is that God will never leave us no matter what we do, and that He loves us always, even when we do the wrong thing. What a great message for kids to hear. Mine are still a little bit young to fully understand that but the more we use books such as this (to explain it in a different way from Mom or the Bible), the more it drives the point home. They enjoyed the pictures and kept taking the books to their room at night to “read” them.
The last section is called the Power File. The first page of this section has a small recap of the story from the Action File and main takeaways, such as spreading the Gospel, God loving us as His children, and that He never leaves us. Then there are Power-Ups, ten of them in each book. These each have one main theme; the first one is “Obey God” and it gives a summary of how this theme relates to the life and times of Jonah, plus a takeaway that is applicable to life. There is then a memory verse at the bottom of each Power-Up (some from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament). I also like that he is not afraid to directly teach about the enemy.
As we are homeschoolers, you know I’m always interested in how to add further learning to any topic of study, and they have a page on their site dedicated to worksheets you can use to help reinforce what is being discussed in the book. We did not have time to do any of these but they look like a great touch, especially for kids who are a bit older and can read and write well.
I’m excited to start the book about Mary, as she’s someone I’ve always wanted to learn more about but haven’t so far! Just glancing through it, it starts with Gabriel announcing the pregnancy to Mary and ends with the resurrection of Jesus. I do think I will save this one for later in regard to reading it with my kids, as it does mention words such as “conceived” and they do not need to know about such things yet (perhaps that is the reason for the age recommendation).
There were over 60 of us on this review, so I hope you’ll find out more about the Kingdom Files by reading more from the Homeschool Review Crew! I would definitely recommend them as a fun (and affordable) way to talk to your kids about these biblical people and the lessons they can teach us.