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Children’s Bible Review

Cathy Gould

The 13 best children's Bibles for use at home or in the classroom.

"What Bible should I get for my son?" a mother asked me before class one Sunday.
"Umm, well, what grade is he in?"
"He's in the third grade, but he's not a very strong reader."

I recommended a Bible, but she deflected my answer by saying, "I want a translation instead of a paraphrase."
I was actually relieved when our conversation was drowned out by 30 5-year-olds singing "Jesus Loves Me" to start the class.

Have you ever been in this scenario -- either as the teacher or the parent? Choosing a children's Bible can be overwhelming these days because we have so many choices. We want kids to be steeped in the Word of God so that they might know and love the God of the Word, but which version and which style is best? To help answer this question, the staff of Children's Ministry Magazine requested children's Bibles from publishers and asked me to pour over them. I considered at least 10 books in each age category, and I compared the Bibles using the same passages from each one. I reviewed more than 50 children's Bibles in these categories:

  • Biblical content-Is the Bible true to the Scriptures?
  • Readability-Is the reading level appropriate for children? Does it use modern-day language? Is the type readable?
  • Ease of handling-Are the cover and paper durable? Is the size of the Bible comfortable for children?
  • Art-Is it colorful, realistic, and age appropriate? Are the maps simple and colorful?
  • Helps-Are there any life application helps that relate the Bible to kids' lives? Are there any Bible-knowledge tools to encourage kids as students of the Bible?
  • On the following pages, you'll find the best Bibles in each age group to recommend to parents and to use in the classroom. We listed only the companies' Web sites that have online ordering capabilities.

The Toddlers Bible
This small, sturdy hardcover Bible by V. Gilbert Beers has 101 short stories and simple, colorful illustrations. This is a great tool for introducing little ones to the main characters and events in Scripture. Chariot Victor, 800-437-4337, (719) 536-0100; $17.99.

The Beginners Bible
A favorite for many years now, this hardcover Bible has short sentences, easy words, and bright (though somewhat silly) illustrations. It also has an index of characters, topics, stories, and Scripture references for each story. This is a good basic story Bible with 95 stories. Zonderkidz, 800-727-3480, (616) 698-6900;; $14.99.

Pray & Play Bible for Young Children
This large hardcover book contains 14 Bible stories, each with a different style of colorful artwork. There are eight to 12 learning activities for each story that include prayer, music, memory helps, crafts, games, snacks, and service ideas. This is great for home or for a preschool class. Group Publishing, Inc., 800-447-1070, (970) 669-3836;; $16.99.

The Early Reader's Bible
This sturdy hardcover Bible is similar to The Beginners Bible in overall format. It includes vocabulary helps for children learning to read, and each story has review questions, thought questions, and life-application "To Do" sections. The 64 stories with short sentences and bright, cheery art make this Bible kid-friendly. Zonderkidz, 800-727-3480, (616) 698-6900;; $16.99, ISBN: 0-88070-706-2 (formerly Gold 'n' Honey Books).

The Young Reader's Bible
This hardcover Bible has 70 easy-to-read stories with colorful artwork kids will love. Bible helps include an index of characters, introductions to the Old and New Testaments, maps, a timeline, and a short dictionary of difficult words. Also a good choice for first graders. Standard Publishing, 800-543-1353, (513) 931-4050;; $12.88.

GRADES 1 & 2
God's Story
This paraphrased Bible for younger elementary students is written by Karen Henley. The text is presented as one story in short sections, each with a title and Scripture reference. The hardcover book is arranged chronologically so the Old Testament prophets appear among the historical books, and the Pauline letters appear in the midst of Paul's travels. Bible helps include a timeline and an index of stories. Tyndale, 800-323-9400, (630) 668-8300;; $19.99.

Gold & Honey Bible
This hardcover Bible has 116 short stories that are a good mix of lively, descriptive language and the actual text from Scripture. The sentences are a bit longer and some of the words harder than other story Bibles, but the illustrations are bright and whimsical. Includes a topical index. Zonderkidz, 800-727-3480, (616) 698-6900;; $17.99.

New Explorer's Study Bible for Kids
This New Living Translation Bible has Bible-knowledge and life-application tools. This hardcover, kid-friendly study Bible has key memory verses; good notes on theology, history, people, and practical Christian living; maps and illustrations; vocabulary pointers; and a dictionary/concordance. The reading level is appropriate for older elementary students. This is good for classroom and home use. Thomas Nelson, 800-933-9673, 800-663-3133 (Canada), (615) 889-9000; www.thomas; $24.99.

The One Year Bible for Kids
This softcover Bible uses the readable New Living Translation in the popular passage-a-day format. The daily readings move from Genesis to Revelation with January through May focusing on the Old Testament and June through December focusing on the New Testament. Each reading includes a life-application challenge and a supporting verse. A good devotional tool for home use in helping a child get into the habit of a daily quiet time with God. Tyndale, 800-323-9400, (630) 668-8300;; $12.99.

The Amazing Treasure Bible Storybook
This fun, creative hardcover Bible is in comic book format. It follows the Delves family on an archaeological expedition in an ancient castle complete with secret passages. A treasure map leads them to discover the truth of God's Word and how it applies to their lives. Each section of the 90 age-appropriate Bible stories has a Bible-knowledge or life-application note and a memory verse. It also includes an index/dictionary and a personal commitment page. Zonderkidz, 800-727-3480, (616) 698-6900;; $19.99.

The New Adventure Bible-NIV
This classic Bible is written at a junior high reading level, but many older elementary students can handle that with no problem. The excellent book introductions, memory verses, Bible and life-application helps throughout the text, maps, and a dictionary/concordance make this a good basic Bible for any use. Zonderkidz, 800-727-3480, (616) 698-6900;; hardcover, $24.99; softcover, $19.99.

The Child's Story Bible
Catherine Vos' story Bible is written to be read aloud, and it has been a family favorite for generations. The language is old-fashioned but not stuffy. The pictures are bright and realistic, and the reading is definitely on an older-elementary level. The particular strength of this hardcover Bible is the clear emphasis on God's redemptive purposes throughout Scripture and history. Eerdmans, 800-253-7521, (616) 459-4591; $25.

The Children's Illustrated Bible
This Bible storybook is written on an older-elementary level, but its strength is as a reference work. Photos, drawings, maps, timelines, and charts fill the pages. It's a treasury of historical, cultural, geographical, and archaeological information. Biblical people, places, events, buildings, clothing, worship, food, and travel all come alive in this fascinating book. This large, beautifully illustrated hardcover book would be a terrific addition to any home or classroom. DK Publishing, 888-342-5357, (212) 213-4800;; $22.95. cm

The challenge in choosing the right children's Bible is to pick one that communicates God's message in a way children can read and understand. Remember that each situation is unique. First consider the child, the setting, and the purpose for which the Bible is intended. A children's Bible should meet kids at their level.

When considering readability in a children's Bible, look for these features:
--Simple vocabulary and short sentences with an average of 10 to 12 words each;
--Paragraphs, rather than verses, to help kids group thoughts together;
--Few idiomatic expressions (for example, what will a child understand from "The Lord's hand was against them"?);
--Modern equivalents (for example, a cubit=18 inches); and
--Subheads that divide the text into units.

The reading level of the translation is also an important consideration. Many children's Bibles are camouflaged adult Bibles-hard-to-read Bibles with kidlike covers. Use these translations and reading levels as a guide:

--King James Version (KJV)-Grade 12
--Living Bible (LB)-Grade 8
--New Living Translation (NLT)-Grade 6
--New American Standard Bible (NASB)-Grade 11
--New Century Version (NCV)-Grade 3
--New International Version (NIV)-Grade 7
--New International Readers Version (NIRV)-Grade 3

Calculate the grade level of any Bible with Gunning's Fog Index. Follow these five easy steps:

1. Count the words and sentences in a passage of 100 or more words.
2. Divide the number of words by the number of sentences to get an average sentence length.
3. Count the number of words with three or more syllables, excluding proper names, combinations of easy words, and words that contain three or more syllables because of suffixes such as "-ed," "-es," and "-ing."
4. Add the average sentence length from step 2 and the number of difficult words from step 3.
5. Multiply the sum from step 4 by 0.4 to determine the grade level.

Cathy Gould is the director of children's ministries at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here are nine ways you can help children understand that the Bible is different from any other book and belongs not on a shelf, but in our hearts.

1. Put the Bible in a lined basket so it can be easily carried.
2. Put the Bible in a small suitcase or cosmetic bag to emphasize that the Bible is to take with us wherever we go.
3. Find a special drawer or shelf where the Bible can stay open instead of shelved as other books are.
4. Put a new Bible or Bible storybook in a gift-wrapped box, and let children open it. Talk about how the Bible is a special gift, not just for one of us, but for all of us. Spark interest in an old Bible or Bible storybook by wrapping a pretty ribbon and bow around it.
5. Have children build a Bible bookstand from blocks. Because the Bible is special, leave the bookstand up.
6. Make a treasure chest out of a foam ice chest. Spray paint it gold, add jewels, and then put the Bible inside because the Bible is a great treasure.
7. Use a map as a table cover. Put the Bible on top of it, and talk about how the Bible gives us directions for our lives.
8. Put the Bible in the center of a bowl filled with real or plastic fruit. Talk about how the Bible gives us healthy fuel for our spiritual lives just as fruit gives our bodies healthy fuel to move and grow.
9. Have kids make their own special boxes to keep their Bibles in at home.
Adapted from The Ultimate Bible Guide for Children's Ministry from Group Publishing, Inc. To order for $14.99, call 800-447-1070 or (970) 669-3836. Or order online at

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