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Bible Recommendations for Children and Sunday School
and Presenting Bibles to Children

Please offer your recommendation for Bibles for children. List title, publisher, age group, and WHY you think it is a good recommendation.

Please also share how you "present" Bibles to children.

See the "related links" below for "Storybook" Bible topics.

Weblinks tend to go out of date, as do some products, but many of the really good Bibles for children stick around. The Christian publishing world also comes up with new formats built around popular translations. The following discussion reflects both newer and older recommendations.

Point of view: 

While most churches have a "preferred" or "approved" version of scripture they want Sunday School to use, today's Sunday School teachers are taking advantage of a wide variety of published Bibles and Bible storybooks for younger AND older children. Most Sunday Schools end up creating a "library" of Bibles and storybooks to draw upon. And some are introducing digital Bibles in their lesson repertoire -- which in the "Age of the Smartphone" and web-based learning is a great idea.


"Storybook" Bibles for Older Children, for Younger Children

"Creative ways to read the Bible with children."

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Original Post

Wondering About Translation Choices?
Some thoughts from me...

My church is an NRSV church. But the NRSV isn't always the best choice for kids, and never was intended for their reading level. My third graders stumble through it, as do some of my older kids.

The popular CEV (Common English Version) is a simpler version, but there are still some passages that are just too difficult or long for kids without some editorial/paraphrasing. Others similar to the CEV are the Good News Bible and New Living Translation.  That said, I tend to prefer the Good News Translation for kids. It is modern English aimed about a sixth grade reading level, and it also tries to preserve key verses in their most memorable and or popular forms that the kids will hear them over the course of their lives.

These "modern English" translations, however, can sometimes be the wrong choices for certain passages. Some modern translations can lack the poetry of memorable passages, and others can be too different from what our kids will hear over the long haul.

Take Psalm 23 for example, ...a passage our kids will be hearing the rest of their lives. We want them to read, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (NRSV), not "The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need." (Good News), or "I have all that I need." (NLT)

The answer is to compare translations, and if you need a "better" one for your kids, find it at, copy and print it.

I think LONG stories especially need to be handled with "storybook" versions or translations that are easier to read. Children require a clearer more concise storyline than adults.

In Rotation we believe in Bible literacy. But if our kids can't understand the Bible story because the version is over their heads, why bother with Rotation at all?

One suggestion is to make sure we are using a variety of versions (both storybook versions and translations).  Online resources make this easy. Check out for example. You look up the passage, find the translation that works best for your situation, copy, and print.

<>< Neil

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Our new favorite Bible version for kids is "The NIV Adventure Bible" published by Zonderkids. The study notes are for 8-12 year olds. We used these for the first time this year to "gift" to our 4th/5th graders for their Bible commitment class. Not only does it have a cool cover that cries out to be picked up (purple with hologram pictures!) but almost every page has some type of note on it ... "words to treasure", "life in Bible times", "did you know?", "people in Bible times", and "let's live it!". It's VERY kid friendly, and yet is a "real Bible".

Like Neil, we use several storybook Bibles in our rotation. We have 4 workshops and I try to match up a different story version with 3 workshops and use 1 with the NIV version. That way the kids might hear a different twist each time.

We use "The Family Story Bible" by Ralph Milton/Westminster John Knox Press, "The Children's Bible in 365 Stories" (Lion Publishing), and then I try to find one other telling of the story, sometimes from the internet or the library. Next month we're doing Good Samaritan and I found a story you read while the kids make a certain sound effect for each character as they're mentioned in the story. I also found an OLD Arch Books (remember those?!) story of Good Sam when I was rummaging through our church library ... the copyright is 1964!!! But it tells the story in rhyme and we're going to use it for our puppet show script! You never know what might work! Ha ha!

First Pres., Napa, CA
Last edited by CreativeCarol

We recently ordered a case of softcover NIrV Bibles for Kids. The NIrV is a simplified NIV, written on a 3rd or 4th grade level. Similar in style and readability to the International Children's Bible.

Another very readable version is the New Living Translation (not to be confused with the Living Bible). It is a true translation, not a paraphrase, but reads very well. For a very earthy paraphrase of NT and some OT books, try The Message by Eugene Peterson.

First Presbyterian, Kannapolis, NC

link corrected by Exchange Volunteer and removed links that no longer work.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

For our older kids, we use the Children's illustrated NRSV (from Cokesbury).

For the younger children, we use the "Arch" Bible storybooks from Concordia Publishing.

Thee Arch stories are retellings for little kids in easy to understand language. They have good modern illustrations. "Each 16-page book retells part of Scripture in engaging rhyme, creating a memorable way to explore the Bible. The last page of every book is especially for parents with tips on how to talk to kids about the story’s meaning and how it connects to the Christian life."

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
We have used the NIV Adventure Bible for Kids for several years, but recently have gone to the NIrV Adventure Bible for Young Readers (grades 3-6) and the Little Kids' Adventure Bible for our youngest students (grades 1-2) which is not a complete Bible, but a step above a story Bible. I love how the Little Kids' Bible is organized and has chapter introductions just like the older versions and both of these have the same features as the NIV version -- colorful, eye-catching pages and lots of interesting notes and facts, but in an easier to read (written on a 3rd grade level) version. Basically the sentences are just shorter with simple vocabulary. They're pricey, though.

Ok Jan, Kris, Jaymie and Dana....
I've seen those Bibles too. In fact, I compared them all side by side this past week while looking to buy my nine year old a new Bible. Personally, I think they each leave a lot to be desired. They are the entire text of the Bible with some pictures crammed in, and in one case, some extra kid notes.

"If I were the Bible Pope"... Here's what I'd create:
    -Major stories, not the entire Bible for my 9 year old.
    -Each story well illustrated, not just every tenth page.
    -Kid Study Notes for each story.
    -Includes Questions to Consider and fun facts.
    -And not the "exact" translation -but a "young readers" version of the translation (not a paraphrase)

So where do I find such a Bible?

I have copies of Lion Publishing's 365 Bible Stories and I like it. But sometimes it's too much of a paraphrase. And it has NO notes.
<>< Neil
Last edited by CreativeCarol
Well, Neil, maybe it's time to add "author" to your list of accomplishments!

No, seriously, I think you're right on. I too, would like to find Bibles as you describe. Have you written to publishers telling them about your ideas? (of course if I told our Children's council that we were going to change Bibles again, they'd probably shoot me!)


We "gift" the NIV Adventure Bible to our 4th graders as part of their Bible study commitment class each spring. At this age we want them to have a "real" Bible - with the full text to let them know that the stories we teach them do come from the Bible. We also teach them how to use it. This is not to say that there isn't a place for the storybook and paraphrased Bible stories still for this age, but we want to have them have a Bible to call their own, to start getting used to using (and in some families we don't know where the family as a whole is at in their faith, especially when we only see them on Sundays).

Generally, we do use storybook versions for rotation. But many are to "young" for our 5th/6th graders. Except for one that I forgot to mention in my previous post!

"The Children's Illustrated Bible" - stories retold by Selina Hastings, c 1994, Dorling Kindersley Ltd. ISBN 1-56458-472-0.  It has 76 OT and 62 NT stories. Most are contained on 2 pages. It has realistic (not cartoon-y) drawings on every page and has side notes with historical info on a variety of things and actual photos on every page. It also has the verse references listed and a key verse. The text is more geared toward upper elementary, we don't use it for 2nd grade & younger, sometimes not even 3rd & 4th.

Jan @ FPC Napa

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
More Bible recommendations moved here to consolidate the topic--

Posted by Leslee Kirkconnell on April 21, 2003

The Good News Bible (Today's English Version) is a good Bible for children.
Also there's a Children's NIV Bible -has a colorful cover, I think it's the NIrV, that's good.
NIV is also a good scholarly translation. NRSV is a scholarly translation, but difficult for children (good resource for teachers). I would also avoid King James and New King James. Language is a problem as well as the debate about corrupt texts from which it is translated in parts.

In our Bible skills and games workshops we try to have several different versions of the Bible available for times when it is appropriate for older elementary to read different translations and discuss. You'd still want to have a uniform 'class set' in any case.

Posted by Dian on April 21, 2003

Yes I agree with Leslee. The Childrens NIV is a great Bible for the kids to use. I teach 1st and 2nd graders and they do very well with a little coaching on finding the scripture.
We also give the same Bible to our 3rd graders every year.

Posted by Neil MacQueen on April 21, 2003

Tyndale's Kid Life Application Bible in the New Living Translation is the best I've seen. Last year I reviewed several for my church and didn't find anything approaching it in quality and content. We bought several cases.

More than just an adult level translation wrapped in a cute cover, Tyndale has made a real effort to include a LOT of kid oriented content and explanations.

The New Living Translation is a complete translation, not a paraphrase. It is very comparable to the Good News translation in ease of reading.

The NIV and NRSV are college level English and grammar. I only occasionally find them appropriate for use with younger children.
<>< NEIL

Posted by Jaymie Derden on April 22, 2003

We use the Zondervan Adventure Bible for Young Readers (a NIrV translation on a 3rd grade reading level) for our 3-6 graders. For our 1-2 graders we use the Little Kids' Adventure Bible (also by Zondervan). We had used the NIV Adventure Bibles for years, but these NIrV are newer and better translations for kids. We like them because of the extra features -- the Bible notes, quotations, charts, etc. We use these to supplement our lessons and encourage the kids to read their Bibles. The Little Kids' Bibles are NOT a complete Bible however. They are a good transition between a preschool story Bible and a complete Bible for 3rd graders. We like them because they are set up like the older version with the same notes, charts, etc. which makes the transition for our 3rd graders easier. The downside is that it is sometimes confusing to our kids when a story that we teach is not found in "their" Bibles.

You're really smart to check out your options thoroughly before you buy. Once you do decide, especially if you give Bibles to kids, it's harder to switch because all the kids will not have the same Bible. We've been gradually phasing out our old NIV Bibles. Two more years to go!

Posted by Valerie on April 23, 2003

I agree 100% with Neil. We actually bought enough of the Kid's Life Application Bibles - New Living Translation to have at least 6 or 7 in each workshop room.
There are several web sites that sell Bibles by the case at excellent prices. And a few sites that sell individually at greatly reduced prices (something like Bibles For Less).
The children really seem to understand the lesson better from this translation...and to so do the adults that are teaching.

Posted by Robin on May 01, 2003

We give our kids the Contemporary English Version from the American Bible Society. It is a translation, not a paraphrase, and is intended to be easily understood, easily read aloud (avoiding tongue twisters and complicated sentence structure), and easily understood by the hearer. As far as I know it doesn’t come in a children’s edition. The books we give our kids have a plain maroon cover – probably not as appealing to a second-grader as a cute drawing, but on the other hand, the kids won’t be embarrassed to be seen with their Bibles a few years from now.

When I’m writing curriculum I always compare the CEV to the New Revised Standard Version, which our church uses in worship. Sometimes the differences in meaning or emphasis are fairly significant. Several people on our curriculum writing team prefer the NIV or another translation, so when we meet to study the scripture before writing our workshops, we usually end up comparing several translations and rely on the expertise and research of our study leader to help us with interpretation.

The CEV is readable and accessible to children and is a good choice for giving to chidren and for use in the workshops. That said, I’ll add that to my ear, some of the language of the CEV sounds flat. This is a problem to me when we’re choosing memory verses -- some of the CEV language to me is so ordinary that it just seems unmemorable. The difference is especially acute in the Psalms. Whereas the NRSV and some other translations update the language but retain much of the rhythm and beauty of the Psalms in the King James Version, the CEV renders them in mundane language that doesn’t even sound poetic to me. The other curriculum writers tell me that’s just because I was raised on older translations (mainly the Revised Standard Version), and our children will remember and love the Scriptures in whatever form they learn them. But really, do you think this passage from the CEV is likely to stick with our kids long enough to provide comfort and inspiration when they need it 20 years from now? “You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.” (When we wrote our curriculum for the 23rd Psalm, we were so torn over which translation to have the children memorize that we ended up mixing parts of several together. For a Psalm written by committee, see .)

Another thing to keep in mind is the influence of the King James Version on our culture at large. Countless commonly used words and phrases allude to the KJV. Consider “widow’s mite,” “prodigal son,” “the meek will inherit the earth,” “valley of the shadow of death,” “going the second mile,” “Thou shalt not…., to name a few.” When our children hear these phrases in secular contexts, I want them to recognize the biblical origin (even if the speaker doesn’t know he’s making a biblical allusion). When we teach a Bible story from a translation that does not use the traditional words, we make a point of telling the children the traditional terms as well, e.g., “When you hear somebody talk about a ‘widow’s mite,’ they’re referring to this story.”

I guess this is all a long way of saying give the kids a readable Bible, but don't make it your only resource.

Posted by Robin on May 08, 2003

Correction -- I just saw the Bibles we recently gave to our second graders. The CEV does now come in a children's illustrated edition. It's in large type and has lots of pictures.

Posted by Arlene on June 07, 2003

The Tyndale Kid's Life Application Bible in the New Living Translation does not have a concordance. Is it not important to teach a child 3rd grade or older how to use a concordance?

Tyndale House discontinued the popular Kids Life Application Bible, in favor of a Girls version and a Boys version. Apparently, they think these Bibles are mostly being given as gifts or going home. They have forgotten about the Sunday School crowd. 

They licensed the NLT to the Hand's On Bible (for kids) which is very similar to what the Kids Life Application Bible used to be.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
I think it depends on what your goal is.

The "approved" version for the PCUSA is the NRSV, which is what we give to our third graders.

If your church gives Bibles at Confirmation or another time, that should be taken into consideration.

I have really liked the New Adventure Bible for Kids to use for class rooms.

There is also a new version for children in the NRSV published by Abingdon- the NRSV Children's Bible.

I would recommend taking a trip to your local Christian book store and looking at several options- then you can see what seems like it would work best for your church.

Jan S

Our senior pastor approved the purchase of 50 Comic Book Bibles by Rob Suggs, Christopher Gray. It's definitely not a translation, but it goes through many stories in a format and language that's good for our older children.

As of 2018, it's available from a variety of Christian retailers, and on Amazon.

I genuinely want them to read these. It's a softcover, but very glossy and attractive. Adults that are new Christians have said, "Hey I want one of these too." We're going to reward kids who bring their "Bibles." with our "store bucks." Real Bibles are OK too. Actually, we might have a special ceremony for those who completely read the CB Bible, teaming with their parents to award them a Bible custom-fit for them for their next level (like a shoe salesman fits shoes).

That just might be something as simple as the Illustrated ICB Bible: The New Testament. (we might have to staple an Old Testament to it since half of our rotations includes the OT. Or it might be one of the more advanced Bibles mentioned in this posting.

Exchange Volunteer reformatted.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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