Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tips for Reading the Bible to Small Children

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One of my key frustrations since becoming a mother is the lack of quality Bible books for children. Most of the ones I've come across take artistic liberties with Scripture that make me uncomfortable, or have ugly pictures, or just not enough substance. Also, I feel slightly uncomfortable with pictures of Jesus- the whole 2nd Commandment and all. I'm not sure exactly where I stand on the issue, they just make me uneasy.

At one point I was lamenting all of these things, and a friend pointed out that Bible storybooks are a relatively new phenomenon. Generations upon generations of believers managed to get by fine, probably even better, with just the Bible.

It was an "AHA!" moment for me. Since then I've made efforts to read plain old Scripture to my kiddos {ages 2 and 4}. I can't say it's been all smooth sailing, or that we have it entirely figured out... but here are a few ways I've made Bible reading work out in our family.



Timing is everything. My husband and I used to conduct family worship right before tucking the kids into bed each night. Unfortunately they were tired, had shorter attention spans, and we were just plain ready to be done for the day. We've chosen instead to read the Word together at dinner time, and I often will read a bit at breakfast as well. The kids are generally in better moods and happy to eat and listen. You know your kids best- what hours they are more focused or pleasant, how their schedule needs to flow. Pick the time that works best for your family!

Keep little hands and mouths busy. One of the biggest reasons meal times are good for reading is that eating can help to keep the children quiet and occupied. When my mom read afternoon stories to us as kids, we almost always colored pictures simultaneously. We kept our minds on the story and even drew pictures and of what we were hearing. While toddlers and preschoolers can and ought to be taught to sit still and quietly for periods of time, they are not grown-ups and are going to need to move and wiggle. Embrace this and try to work it to your advantage.

Reread key verses. We all learn by repetition, and kids especially are sponges that willingly soak up whatever they hear often enough. If you've finished your selected passage for the day and they are still quiet, go ahead and reread all of it, or at least a few highlights.

Don't be afraid to cut it short. Reading Scripture to the kids doesn't always go smoothly at our house. Some days there is so much squirming, and chatting, and bickering, that I admit defeat and cut things off early. I would rather cut our time short and patiently respond to my babes then get frustrated, speak harshly, and force them to sit through it. Or alternately, to yell over their noisiness.

Give them something specific to listen for. I'll tell them, "I want you to listen really good and tell me what this passage says about Jesus {or kids, or praise, or kindness, etc.} when we are done reading." Give them a word to listen for, or a question to answer.

Add novelty. During December we read an Advent passage each day leading up to Christmas. The Scripture references were written out on red and green popsicle sticks, which the kids loved to hold  and play with. Give them goldfish crackers when you read about Jonah, animal crackers for Noah's Ark, or resurrection rolls for Easter. Let them play with play-doh or print out a coloring page that accompanies your passage. The more variety and creativity you employ, the more your kids will enjoy and treasure your reading times.

Be patient. If your little people aren't used to you reading Scripture to them, they are going to be fidgety and maybe even noisy and disruptive. And even once your kids are used to it, there will be times that it is difficult to hold their attention and have a beneficial time together. Keep reading, keep training, keep practicing, and don't lose heart. You might be surprised at all they do retain, and it will be a joy to see the fruit that all of your faithful, consistent sowing bears.



If you'd like a simple resource for reading the Bible to your kids, you'll want to check out my new ebook! It's called Read the Bible to Your Kids: A Year of Simple Plans to get into the Word Together

I've created 13 topical, month long plans with passages from both the Old and New Testament. The passages are short {for short attention spans!}, and the PDF file can easily be printed off for you to check off boxes as you read.

It's a great, simple solution for families who want to build Word-centered solutions. You can find out what people are saying about it, the topics the plans cover, and more right here.

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