I walked into the Christian bookstore looking for a Bible for my son and was instantly handed the latest "IT" kids' Bible.
"It's our most popular. A real best-seller!" the sales clerk proclaimed as she pointed to an entire display shelf heavy-laden with copies of it.
But, as I peered down at the one she held, I knew this was not the Bible for my son. I had listened to a similar spiel and had unfortunately bought one of these same versions for my daughter six or so years ago. And while it was a good Bible because it was, after all, God's Word, (What could be wrong with that?!) I knew that this particular version was not what I was looking for. It was too...too...what's the word?
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To be honest, there was so much EXTRA on the margins. on the inserts. on the pages. that the message of the Word was lost.
I was there to buy a Bible. And this one with all its hype and noise was a bit too cluttered for me. When the text of a page screams so loudly that you can't hear the still small voice of God as you read it, the message gets lost in the mess.
That Bible was (and is) popular. There's no doubt about that. But, sought-after and soul-building are two completely different finish lines. I prefer the latter.
I've bought and read a lot...a loooooooooot...of kids' Bibles over the years. Here are my top picks for different seasons of learning and growing.
(I've designated each with "read aloud" or "read alone." Depending upon your child's specific need, one might be better than the other.)
Read Aloud Bible Stories- (Read aloud) This is a five volume set of Bible stories that uses simple story lines that are perfect for toddlers. So often, even board books have words that are too advanced for one and two-year-olds to completely understand. The stories in this set are the most developmentally appropriate for toddlers that I have ever found.
See With Me Bible- (Read alone) This is the Bible that my non-readers have used for their own personal morning devotions. I want to help each one of my children develop the habit of meeting with the Lord each day. Other than simple story titles, this Bible contains no words. It's filled with illustrations only. But never fear. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. My tots have each spent a few minutes each morning looking over one "story."
The Preschooler's Bible- (Read aloud) This Bible recounts all of the most recognizable Bible stories with beautiful and regionally accurate illustrations. In other words, the Israelites are NOT portrayed with white skin and blonde hair. The stories are told in narrative form with little to no application provided.
The Big Picture Story Bible- (Read aloud) This Bible is aptly named. While it only provides a handful of Bible stories, they are all purposefully chosen and reveal how God had a BIG picture in mind from the very beginning...a plan to redeem the world through His Son, Jesus.
The Jesus Storybook Bible- (Read aloud) Similar to the Big Picture Story Bible, this Bible weaves the common thread of Jesus into every page. A few of the words get a tad flowery and are not as easily understood by little ones. But, apart from that, it's an excellent read aloud Bible.
The Hear Me Read Bible- (Read alone) This Bible is a compilation of a few dozen paperback "readers" that were published in the early 90s. The stories are written with high frequency words making it easy for learning-to-read kiddos to read solo.
The Children's Illustrated Bible- (Read aloud) This is NOT a Bible. Truthfully, it is a Bible story book for older children who perhaps don't yet have the attention span to hear a chapter-and-verse Bible read out loud. In addition to a thorough synopsis of each story, the pages also provide photographs and historical/cultural background to help provide rich layers to the reading. This is a Bible that doesn't just tell. It teaches.
Egermeier's Bible Story Book- (Read aloud) A classic is a classic for a reason. Originally published in the early 1920s, this Bible story book is filled with meaty truths and details that most others leave out. It has been printed and reprinted for nearly 100 years because it's one of the best. I still own the copy my mother used when she was a little girl.
NIrV Discoverer's Bible- (Read alone) To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the NIV version as I feel like some of the richness and interpretation of the verses get lost in the paraphrasing and the intentional gender neutrality of the words. (Let me just duck for a moment to avoid all the hurling tomatoes.) I don't like the NIV. But, this Bible is the rare exception. The NIrV (New International Reader's Version) simplifies the language of the standard NIV to make it so that young readers can have success reading an actual chapter-and-verse Bible. I also appreciate the very simple "extras" within the pages. There are illustrations, application-style devotionals, and historical explanations. But, they are all tastefully and calmly presented. They add. They don't detract from the message.
The Book for Children- (Read aloud) This Bible paraphrase is perfect for daily family devotions. It breaks the chapters and verses down into thoughtful narrative chunks and then provides application commentary for each large section. So, while it is not an actual Bible, it is a very thorough recounting of each large passage of Scripture. It kind of reminds me of an application-heavy Egermeier's Bible Story Book.
The Seek-and-Find Bible- (Read alone) I'm an ESV girl. We're an ESV family. The ESV translation of Scripture recounts the Word in the most reliable, easy-to-understand way, in my humble opinion anyway. (But, I'm not alone.) Since it is not necessarily the most well-known translation, there are only a handful of ESV children's Bibles to choose from. Out of the five or six that I have come across over the years, this one is my favorite. It comes in hard or soft cover and includes several fruit-filled (but not flashy) extras including painted illustrations, Bible character profiles, detailed drawings of places and artifacts, and book introductions.
When I stepped into the bookstore that day, I was looking for the best. I wasn't looking for popular. I was looking for purposeful. I wanted a Bible that would highlight the Word of God, not the glitter of the page.
And so, I politely passed on the "best seller" the clerk shoved my way and opted for one of these instead.
Because while any Truth-giving Bible is a good Bible, I'd rather not settle for good. I prefer great.