Friday, January 31, 2014

The Best Bibles for Early Readers

It's never too early to instill the habit of daily Bible reading in your child. That's why, as soon as my daughter could read even a little bit, I was eager to find her a Bible she could read on her own. Yes, I still read both a "real" Bible and a good storybook Bible to her, but she has always taken delight and pride in having a Bible she can read herself.

Sadly, though, it isn't all that easy to find Bibles designed for young children or early readers. I've looked at all of them that are currently in print - and this post will, I hope, help you wade through them much more easily, discovering which one is right for your child.

NOTE: The term "early reader" is vaguely applied in the publishing industry, but for our purposes, it means any book designed for children who are still learning to read independently. Often, such books are labeled "I Can Read" with the level of difficulty (1, 2, and 3) suggested on the cover. In this post, I am not referring to NIrV Bibles, which are often marketed as "early reader" Bibles, but which require a greater level of proficiency to read than leveled readers.

The Hear-Me-Read Bible by Dr. Mary Manz Simon

I believe this is currently the best Bible storybook for children who are just beginning to learn to read. The stories are short, there are only a few sentences per page; and the illustrations are vivid and interesting. If your child can't yet read level 1 early readers without help, The Hear-Me-Read Bible is an excellent choice. (Read our complete review here.)

My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook by Crystal Bowman and Cindy Kenney

This is a rhyming storybook Bible. Each chapter begins with a word list, and after each story, there's another short list of words, plus a list of rhyming words. This is followed by questions for discussion. There are many things to love about this Bible. The writing is very good and the illustrations are cute. (In fact, this is my non-reading son's favorite Bible.) But I don't find it a very good early reader's Bible. I'd say it's about a low level 3 in it's reading difficulty - and by the time children are reading that well, they may object to the word lists and can probably read a more challenging Bible. (Read our complete review here.)

The Young Reader's Bible by Bonnie Bruno and Carol Reinsma

My daughter, who is just barely reading at Level 2, reads this Bible storybook daily. She needs some help with it, but not so much she becomes frustrated.  The stories are in big type, are short, and have attractive illustrations. Sadly, I was recently informed this book is going out of print - but you can still find copies at Amazon.

The Early Reader's Bible by V. Gilbert Beers

This one is very similar to The Young Reader's Bible. The stories are short, told in larger-than-average type, and accompanied by attractive illustrations. My daughter thinks this book is slightly harder to read than The Young Reader's Bible, but if it is, it's only slightly so. Each story ends with "Something to Ask" (questions to ask yourself) and "Something to Do" (which are sometimes just more questions, but sometimes also encourage action). If I had to choose between The Early Reader's Bible and The Young Reader's Bible, I personally would choose the latter.

My Learn to Read Bible by Tracy Harrast

If you like rebus books - that is, books that replace certain words with pictures so kids can "read" - this title may be a good choice for you. This is a large book with lots of colorful illustrations, targeted toward very young children. To use it, though, children will have to memorize what many of the pictures mean. For example, they have to understand that one image of a man is Jesus, another is a shepherd, and another just means "man." I am not a huge fan of rebus books - although they can be handy for children who are eager to read, but can't yet.

And a few Bible storybooks that look like they are for beginning readers, but are not:


The Beginner's Bible by Kelly Pulley: This is more of a read-to-me storybook Bible than a book beginning readers can read to themselves. (See our full review here.) 
The Beginning Reader's Bible with illustrations by Marijke ten Cate: Of all the Bibles I've seen marketed toward early readers, this one fails the test most miserably. The reading level is pretty high; it's excerpts from the International Children's Bible, and suitable only for children who are passed (or nearly passed) level 3 readers. In addition, some parents may object to the mature nature of some of the content. (For more information, read our complete review, here.) If your child can read this Bible storybook, I think you're better off giving him or her a complete International Children's Bible.

Read with Me Bible by Dennis G. Jones: This book isn't for early readers. It's designed to be read to toddlers. (Read our full review here.) There is also the NIrV Read with Me Bible, but again, why give your child a collection of excepts when he or she can read a complete NIrB Bible?

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