Our daughter Lydia was able to follow along with Bible stories around the time she turned two. We owned several children’s bibles, but we quickly learned that not all children’s bibles are created equally. There are some great bibles available today for young children, but there are a lot more that are not worth your time. So how do you choose one? Here are four easy tests to help you choose a good children’s bible to read with your preschooler.
Test 1: Does Jesus Die?
You would be shocked by the number of children’s bibles in which the answer to this question is “no.” If Jesus is just a good man who helps and teaches people and then the bible ends, you don’t want it. You may not actually read the crucifixion story itself for a while—we jumped around and read stories from our toddler bible for months before we thought Lydia was old enough to read the crucifixion story (sometime when she was three). But whether or not a children’s bible includes Jesus’ death is a good litmus test for the book as a whole. The crucifixion is the climax and center of the entire story of redemption that God is working in the world. A children’s bible that is comfortable leaving out the death of Jesus cannot be trusted to handle any other story well either.
A children’s bible that is comfortable leaving out the death of Jesus cannot be trusted to handle any other story well either.Tweet
Test 2: Is God the main character?
God is the main character of the Bible. It’s all about Him. But in many children’s bibles, people are the main characters. A good test for this is the story of David and Goliath. Is the story told as if it were mainly about how brave David was? Or is it about how Goliath was ridiculing God himself and so God used David to put an end to it? Contrary to what many children’s bibles would have you believe, the message of the story of David and Goliath is not that you should “be brave like David when facing your own giants.” The message of the story is that God is so powerful that he can use an unarmored boy with a slingshot to defeat his enemies’ greatest warriors. That is the message of David and Goliath, and that is the lesson you want your kids to learn from a young age. Is God the main character of your child’s bible?
Test 3: Is Sin present and problematic?
The Bible teaches that Sin is the ultimate problem with our world. It is sin that separates us from God (Isa. 59:2), sin that corrupted God’s good creation (Rom. 8:22), sin that brought death into the world (Rom. 5:12), sin that Christ died for on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), sin that that he defeated in his resurrection (Rom. 6:6), and sin that Christians struggle with daily in this life (Rom. 7:19-20). Does your child’s bible take sin seriously?
A great litmus test for this is to look at the story of Noah. Is it presented as a story about how God was so sad over the sin and evil in the world that he decided to start over? Or is it a cute story about Noah bringing a bunch of animals onto his boat? If Sin is not present and problematic in a children’s bible, it is not a bible you want to use.
Test 4: Are the stories short enough to read?
The first three were theological tests. This one is a practical test. There are some fantastic children’s bibles out there that we would love to use in our home, but the stories are simply too long to hold the attention of our three year old daughter. At the moment we are using a toddler bible that I don’t love, rather than using one of a handful of children’s bibles that I think are really fantastic. But if the stories are too long then the lesson I’m teaching her will be that the Bible is long and boring but we have to read it anyway. I don’t believe that could be further from the truth, and I don’t want her to believe that either. Be sure to choose a children’s Bible that your child can actually read.
I hope you find these tests helpful in choosing a children’s bible! Based on all of these tests, here are the bibles that I would recommend for reading with your preschooler.
The Beginner’s Bible Bedtime Collection
This is the toddler bible we have used with our three year old. It doesn’t always pass tests #2 and #3 as well as I would like, but it’s better than most, and the stories are short enough to read during our family worship time. It also includes a very short prayer at the end of each story as application.
This is my favorite children’s bible on the market. It passes the first three tests with flying colors and unapologetically points to Jesus from cover to cover. We’ve found that the stories are usually a little too wordy for our three-year-old, but we still try to read from this bible whenever she’s able to focus long enough.
This isn’t technically a children’s bible. It’s a storybook that tells the entire story of the bible in about 30 minutes. It passes my three tests with even better marks than the Jesus Storybook Bible, but if you are looking for a true children’s bible where you can open to a specific story from Scripture, this isn’t it. But please don’t miss this fantastic resource! Lydia loves watching the animated version.
The Biggest Story: Storybook Bible
Kevin DeYoung, the author of The Biggest Story, recently announced that he will be releasing a children’s bible soon that is based on The Biggest Story. It will have 52 stories from the Old Testament and 52 from the New Testament. I am really excited for it to release and expect it to replace the Jesus Storybook Bible as our first choice for a children’s bible.