The 13 best children's Bibles for use at home or in
"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
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
INFANTS TO AGE 3
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;
AGES 3 TO 5
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; www.zonderkidz.com; $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; www.grouppublishing.com; $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; www.zonderkidz.com; $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; www.standardpub.com; $12.88.
GRADES 1 & 2
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; www.tyndale.com;
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;
GRADES 3 TO 6
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 nelson.com; $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; www.tyndale.com; $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; www.zonderkidz.com; $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; www.zonderkidz.com; hardcover, $24.99;
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; www.dk.com; $22.95. cm
CHOOSING A BIBLE
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
--Simple vocabulary and short sentences with an average of 10 to
12 words each;
--Paragraphs, rather than verses, to help kids group thoughts
--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
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
Cathy Gould is the director of children's ministries at Covenant
Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
THE BIBLE COMES ALIVE
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
1. Put the Bible in a lined basket so it can be easily
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
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
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 www.grouppublishing.com.