We are blessed to have access to tens of choices of Bibles in all kinds of sizes, translations and notes. If you don’t know about the struggle to get a vernacular translation, you should read about the life of John Wycliffe or William Tyndale and the history of the English Bible. You can teach your kids about Tyndale’s work through this animated movie. The blessing of a wide selection of texts is no different for children’s Bibles on the market, so it’s challenging to know which to use. Here are some recommendations based on age:
Ages 3-4: At this early age, you just need something that introduces your children to the basic narratives in God’s word. 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs keeps the stories short and has engaging illustrations. It has the added bonus of including a CD with a song for each story. The Early Readers Bible (see below) can also be used for this age.
Ages 4-6: My favorite for this age is the The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook. It summarizes the key stories well into a one page daily story and ends each lesson with a catechistic question and answer to reinforce the main point. Alternatively The Jesus Storybook Bible is unique in that it shows how every story in the Bible points to Jesus. The stories are short and the book has bright vibrant, playful illustrations that engage young children. If you are teaching your child to read, The Early Readers Bible is a great option. It uses very simple, high frequency words and repeats them often. It also adds new words with each story that then are built upon in future stories.
Ages 6-8: The ESV Illustrated Family Bible offers 270 selections from the actual text of the ESV. It includes full page illustrations that capture the key element of each story. The Bible is a nice bridge between those without illustrations and the complete text. The Golden Children’s Bible is a good option as well, but tends to use a little older language and a different style of illustrations. The text is also a little smoother because it’s not drawn directly from a Bible translation. It appears to be out of print, so you’ll need to find it used
Ages 9-11: At this age, children should be reading larger sections of text to learn about God beyond the action narratives (e.g., David and Goliath). The New Living Translation can help them ease into the complete text with its more readable translation. This Student Life Application Bible is one option in this category. The Children’s Illustrated Bible is a good supplement to the full text. It provides details about history, geography and culture that enhance and explain the background of key events, which aid in understanding the world of 2,000-4,000 years ago. Note that in some cases it tried to apply a naturalistic explanation to miracles, so you’ll need to read it critically.
Ages 12+: When a child is 12, s/he should be able to use the same version as you and your church. For many churches this is the ESV, but it may also be the NIV or NASB. If you’re doing memory work with your kids, the version that they memorize should be the ultimate destination for the translation they use at this point so that it reinforces the effort they’ve put into hiding God’s word in their hearts
As you read the Bible with your kids, consider a schedule that has you reading the stories six days during the week and then spending the seventh day reviewing what you covered during this time. You may also want to start each of the six days by taking a minute asking questions about yesterday’s text before moving to today’s. This encourages children to listen and articulate what they learned, so you can reread if they missed the key events or message. Spending this extra time reinforces the previous lessons, which is more important than racing forward.