This forum is collecting resource suggestions. Lesson plans and ideas for specific Bible stories are organized by story in the Lesson Forum. Post lesson and resource questions in the Teachers Lounge.

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Weblinks tend to go out of date, as do some products, but many of the really good Bibles for children stick around.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.



 RELATED TOPICS

"Storybook" Bibles for Older Children, for Younger Children

"Creative ways to read the Bible with children."

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 biblegateway.com, 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 Biblegateway.com for example. You look up the passage, find the translation that works best for your situation, copy, and print.

<>< Neil

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!

Jan
First Pres., Napa, CA

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.

Kris
First Presbyterian, Kannapolis, NC


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

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."

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.

Jaymie
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
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!)

Jaymie

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

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.
Dian

----------
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!
Jaymie

----------
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?

Update:
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.

Hi
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.

Blessings
Jan S
We are using the Edge Devotional Bible. It has several great devotionals in it. It also has special topics important to kids lives today related to scripture (i.e. drugs, parents and family, friends, etc.). We do use a children's illustrated bible at times for the 1st graders. Just depends on the story and scripture.


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.

We have been using the Contemporary English Version, Children's Illustrated Bible (American Bible Society), for the past 8 years.  It is easy to read, has footnotes and introductions to each book, large print, and really nice illustrations--someone else mentioned this one.  We have also just gotten the new Common English Bible--Deep Blue Kids Bible to give to our elementary students (we don't have as many children right now).  It has lots of application notes and other features, although the print is smaller than the Children's CEV and it is more limited in the age group it targets.  I even have had adults ask to borrow the CEV, children's illustrations not withstanding.

We, too, had been using the CEV for more than a decade and have recently gone to the Common English Bible -- Deep Blue. We made the change because Deep Blue has very few pages that are ALL print. There are lots of Call Outs, Questions, Comments, Special Icons for particular kinds of inquiries. We've only been using it this year so it's early days yet, but so far we're pleased with the change.

Update: The Deep Blue Bible (CEV) has come out in a couple of different formats. Try to avoid the one that used blue ink as it is harder for older eyes to read!  It's available thru Cokesbury.

We use "The Young Reader's Bible" which includes "70 easy-to-read Bible stories".  There are GREAT colour pictures, and easy-to-read text which covers the Bible stories very closely - often using the same words as the "real Bible" the older kids use.  We use this one for age 3 to grade 5 (age 10) and the students really like it. 

2017 Children's Bible Reviews

Viriginia Theological Seminary's Building for Faith Project has posted a great review of Bibles for Children at https://www.buildfaith.org/cho...g-a-childrens-bible/

They review 11 "storybook" Bibles, not translations. 

Excerpts from their Top Pick reviews....

The Lion Bible for Children

Murray Watts, Helen Cann (Lion Hudson, 2002, 2008, 2014). Available in the United States here. Target age: 9-12

Strengths: A very complete children's Bible, with about 250 stories. The writing is engaging and imaginative, yet quite faithful to the Scriptural outline of each Bible story. Includes Bible map and an index. Beautiful pen and ink (color) illustrations are richly detailed and not at all childish. The pictures are also full of movement and emotion. Gretchen Wolff Pritchard calls this "the best version of the Bible for confident readers, 9 and up." A Building Faith top pick.

Shine On: A Story Bible

(MennoMedia, 2014) Target age: 8-11

Strengths: This 320-page Bible includes a selected variety of stories from the Old and New Testaments. Each story has engaging sidebars called Explore, Connect, and Wonder, which invite deeper thought, additional facts, and suggestions for home. The illustrations are rich and eclectic

A Child’s First Bible

Kenneth N. Taylor (Tyndale, 2000) Target age: 2-4

Strengths: A very complete children's Bible for its compact size. Includes 125 stories, and the large print and simple text make for easy reading aloud. The engaging water-color illustrations are warm, joyful, and quite appropriate for young children.

If you have experience with these titles, post your own review.

—————————-

They didn’t review some older but still great children’s Bible storybooks, including one of my favorites, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor. Good for ages 4-8. 

PRESENTING BIBLES TO CHILDREN

Here's a collection of posts on this topic. Feel free to add your ideas.

Special wrapping for the Bible Gift

from member Julie Burton

There is a neat presentation in the book "Celebrate Special Days" by Judy Gattis Smith. It involves wrapping the Bible in several layers of paper (gold, newsprint, etc) and there is symbolism for each layer of paper. We did this last year. I had the parents do the reading for each layer and present the Bible to their own child. It was very moving.

Smith, Judy Gattis. Celebrating Special Days. Colorado Springs: Meriwether Publishing, 1981. ISBN 0-916260-14-3.



Plan for Giving Age-Appropriate Bibles

from member Janet S-H

Several years ago, our Pastor suggested expanding our Bible presentations to several grades, allowing us to provide age-appropriate bibles to each group.  We put nameplates in each book as well. The cost was prohibitive to our budget, so instead, we asked other members to become a child's "Bible Sponsor" throughout the years. (We are in discussion of what else these "sponsors" might do to connect with the child.)

On Bible Sunday in November, we now present books and Bibles to:

  • PreSchool - Small Bible picture storybook give to any child in their FIRST year of PreSchool (which covers ages 3-5)
  • 1st grade - "Beginner Bible" easy reading storybook
  • 3rd grade - First full-length children's bible
  • 6th grade - Junior High-level bible
  • 9th grade - Teen Bible
  • At High School graduation (June) - Adult Study Bible

    In addition, any NEW child receives the most recent book they would have received for their age group. For instance, a new 2nd grader would receive the book given to 1st graders.

    New Bible "products" come out quite often, and sometimes the new one's are better than what we have given -- so "WHICH BIBLE" we give will change. 

    We also look for case quantities and sales.


Giving Bibles the Kids Have Already Used

from member Barbara in Portland

I wrote a 3 session "Race Through the Bible Class" for 4th graders AND A PARENT or grandparent or older sibling. It involves reading and highlighting a verse from almost every book in the Bible (an idea I got from a great video called "Faith Stepping Stones"). We also had other "get to know your Bible" games and art activities.

When it came time for the Bible presentation ceremony, my emphasis was that we would not be giving the children a brand new, unused Bible, but that their Bibles had already been used and read!

Each child chose their favorite verse and read it during the presentation. I then used the baptism and confirmation rites from the New Century Hymnal (UCC) to create a dedication that involved the congregation recognizing the work of the children AND pledging to help them to use the Bible in their faith journey-sort; of half-way between baptism and confirmation.

I gave the students a rose corsage and a "Bible Bear," a small stuffed bear holding a bible, available from Oriental Trading. Cake and coffee followed. It was a great experience for all.

Bible bookmark made from papersRE: Judy Gattis Smith's Celebrate Special Days... We have used the Bible presentation idea in her book for years! It is gold!

We found that kids wanted to save all of the various layers (the Bibles are wrapped in 5 layers of different papers). Then we found out that they were going home and making a bookmark!

Attachments

Photos (1)

Add Reply

Likes and Bookmarks (1)
Houstonpam
Post Your Question, Comment, Idea, or Resource

Rotation.org Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. All content here is the copyrighted property of its listed author. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content here for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author is referenced. Posting here implies permission for others to use your content for non-commercial purposes. Rotation.org Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. Google Ad Note: Serving the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more!

Rotation.org is rated 5 stars on Google based on 55 reviews.
×
×
×
×
×