Children and Teen Bible Recommendations

“When children begin to read, let them read the Holy Scriptures.” — William Gouge, 1622

So, you want to get your child his very own Bible. Good! Since our mission as parents is to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, a copy of the Word of God is one of the most valuable possessions you can give them. But which edition? Which translation? What size? What color?

It’s common for parents to give their children Bible storybooks as their first “Bible.” In my opinion, this is, generally, unwise. For an example of why, read this helpful review of one of the most popular Bible storybooks—the Jesus Storybook Bible. This doesn't mean all paraphrased Bible stories or picture books are bad—not at all. But don't mistake it for providing your children with Scripture itself. And discernment is certainly needed.

I do, however, recommend the Golden Children’s Bible. It’s a simplified KJV text, so the wording is beautiful and beneficial as well, along with beautiful illustrations.

My conviction is that the wisest thing to do is put an actual translation of the Word of God into the hands of a child as soon as he can read. There are things to take into consideration, of course, such as readability. But we must be cautious not to sacrifice accuracy for readability. Avoid translations of the Bible that are specifically aimed at young readers. This pretty much always leads to periphrastic renderings or inaccuracy-for-the-sake-of-simplicity. A child needs a Bible they can read, but that doesn’t mean they need a dumbed-down Bible. Remember that early American families taught their children how to read with the Geneva Bible. The Word of God is something worth getting right, even if it’s difficult, right?

Read with your child; and encourage them to come ask for help anytime they don’t understand a word. But give them the actual Word of God. I would recommend the Berean Standard Bible for young readers. The BSB has attained what I think the NIV84 was after. It’s a highly readable translation, without sacrificing accuracy. My main praises for the BSB are that it utilized a more dignified English, as opposed to dumbing it down (while still being very readable); it retains familiar wording in many well-known passages; and it includes many Majority Text readings, with helpful textual notes.

The HCSB is also pretty good for young readers, and you can try a large print, compact Bible such as this or this.

I generally recommend getting an edition that is not thumb-indexed, as I think it actually aids in memorizing the order of the canon to have to find a book or be reminded of its location every time. But, of course, some prefer indexed Bibles, and it may be helpful for your kid. The best Bible for your child (assuming the accuracy of translation) is the one he will actually use.

My personal translation preferences are LSB, NKJV, BSB, and ESV—in that order. The problem is that the NKJV and BSB don't really have good children’s editions that I know of (other than perhaps this NKJV, if you like kitsch 😁).

So then, if you’re set on finding an actual children’s edition, with pictures and applications directed toward younger readers, what should you get?

Comparing children’s editions (of actual Bible translations), it basically came down to two that I would probably suggest—but that comes with the disclaimer that I haven’t actually looked at them in depth: The “ESV Children’s Bible,” and the “HCSB Illustrated Study Bible for Kids.”

The ESV Children’s Bible has better pictures, illustrations, and other features for kids, but the translation is definitely a higher reading level. The HCSB has fewer illustrations and resources, but it’s a very readable translation—recommended for ages 6–12.  

Now, for your teens, I’d encourage you to avoid the “teen edition” Bibles. Get them a solid translation, such as the BSB, NKJV, ESV, or LSB, and urge them to read the text.
- For a solid study Bible, try the NKJV Study Bible, the HCSB Study Bible, or the Jeremiah Study Bible.
- If you're looking for a visually beautiful Bible, try out the Illuminated ESV.  
- And for the note-takers out there, I personally love this NKJV, and this ESV.

I hope that helps!

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education." — Theodore Roosevelt

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