BCM Spotlight Blog Christian Education

“For the Bible Tells Me So”- Selecting Children’s Bibles

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At a recent gathering of the East region the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Elizabeth “Lib” Caldwell, retired professor of Christian Education at McCormick Seminary, led a discussion of things to consider when choosing a children’s Bibles. She offered a variety of criteria, or lenses, through which to examine children’s Bibles.

First, consider the content and the length of the stories.

  • What translation is it based on?
  • Is it faithful to the text or does it add material?
  • Does it cite the text?
  • How much of the story is told?
  • In its simplification or rephrasing is the main point of the story preserved?
  • Will it hold the reader’s (listener’s) attention till the end?
  • Are there too many or too few details?

Children's Bibles

Then, look at the illustrations.

  • What kind of illustrations are used?
  • Are they characters? Are they drawings? Are they artistic?
  • Are they multicultural?
  • Do they invite children into the story?
  • Do they make the story come alive?

Next consider the interpretation that is happening.

  • How do they title the story?
  • Does it really tell what the story is about or does it point to a particular ‘message’ to be conveyed?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • How is God presented?
  • Does it attempt to find Jesus in every story, from both testaments?
  • And finally, does it offer helps for parents? Does it give resources for parents to help engage the child? Does it invite both parent and child into the story? Does it offer ways to continue the conversation about the story, applying it life?

Caldwell’s two favorite children’s Bibles are The Deep Blue Kids Bible and Shine On: A Children’s Story Bible. Both offer simple, faithful texts, engaging illustrations and offer ways to engage the story beyond the printed page.

Any material marked with an asterisk is Beth’s choice.

Recommended Bibles for Young Children below Kindergarten age

These are generally selected stories from the Bible told in appropriate age level characteristics.

  • The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Childrens Stories Gold N Honey Questar Publisher
  • The Children of God Storybook Bible. Desmond Tutu. Zondervan*
  • Frolic First Bible. Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress*
  • My First Bible: Wonderful Stories for Young Children Good Books
  • Pray and Play Bible For Young Children Group*
  • The Toddlers Bible Victor Books Scripture Press
  • Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories New International Version. G.F. Putnam Publishers*

Recommended Bibles for Children from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3

These are generally more than picture books and give some discovery questions to ponder. They are written in simpler language for this age level covering a variety of stories from the Bible. Several are associated with particular Sunday School curriculum so if you are using Deep Blue, Spark, Shine On, or Whirl, it would be best to choose one of those options.

  • The Bible for Children. Good Books
  • The Book of God for Children Walt Wangerin
  • Deep Blue Bible Storybook. Abingdon Press*
  • The Family Story Bible. Westminister John Knox Press
  • The Jesus Story Bible. Zonderkids
  • Lectionary Story Bible Year A, B, and C. Woodlake Books*
  • My First Message: A Devotional Bible for Kids. NavPress
  • The Pilgrim Book of Bible Stories. Pilgrim Press
  • Shine On: A Story Bible. Mennomedia
  • Spark Story Bible. Sparkhouse. Augsburg Fortress
  • Whirl Story Bible. Sparkhouse. Augsburg Fortress*

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Recommended Bibles for Grades 3 and Up

These options are laid out in the traditional Bible format and have sidebars with good reflection questions to consider. Again, some are associated with a particular curriculum so you should choose those if you are using that curriculum option.

  •  The CEB Student Bible. Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • Connect Bible NRSV Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress*
  • Deep Blue Kid’s Bible. Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • The Guidebook: Study it Connect It Pray it Live It, NRSV Student Bible.Harper Bibles*
  • Serendipity Student Bible New International Version Serendipity House
  • Spark Study Bible NRSV Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress
  • Whirl NRSV Study Bible Sparkhouse Augsburg Fortress

Recommended Bibles for High School Students

  • The CEB Student Bible Common English Bible Abingdon Press*
  • The Guidebook Harper Bibles*
  • Serendipity Student Bible Serendipity House

*indicates Beth Hayes’s choices

With these recommendations and if you have been at one of my presentations on my faith formation recently, you can see that Bibles have played an important part in my faith journey. My first Bible was given to me by my sister and is still used today. Reading the family Bible with my namesake grandmother who taught me the value of reading stories from the Bible at a young age. And my newest Bible acquisition: a journaling Bible where I can find my favorite verses and illustrate why they have so much meaning to me.

The different Bibles I have come across are important parts of my life and story and always will be. I hope that congregations will keep up the tradition of giving the right Bibles to children at the appropriate age and recognize the importance of these Bibles. Looking for the right Bible or for ideas on presenting Bibles as gifts? Come by the Resource Center and we will be happy to assist you!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible