People often ask the best way to encourage their children to begin reading the Bible independently. The first thing to do is to make sure your child has a Bible that is accurate, but still easy to understand. The best one I have found so far is the NIrV version. It’s written on a third grade reading level, but is a translation and not a paraphrase (which can be very inaccurate in my opinion). Until recently, it only came in covers appropriate for young children, but I noticed the last time I was in the bookstore it now comes in covers for adults and even has a student study version.
Once your child has a Bible he or she can read or understand, it is important to find a reading plan that will keep him or her engaged long enough to develop the habit of daily or at least regular Bible reading. I suggest first time Bible readers avoid starting in Genesis in an attempt to read straight through the Bible. They tend to get bogged down in the genealogies and laws and give up.
There are several books though that make great books to introduce a child to the Bible. I usually suggest one of the Gospels – usually Mark because it is the shortest, Acts, the book of James and Proverbs. All of those books are easy to understand and either have interesting historical stories or extremely practical godly advice. Proverbs is my favorite, because even reading just one verse can give your child important godly advice to practice all day.
My daughter tipped me off to the best part of Proverbs – it has thirty-one chapters. Your child can pick up Proverbs on any day of the month and read the chapter with the same number as the date of that day. The chapters in Proverbs don’t depend on one another and can stand on their own. It’s ideal for a beginning independent Bible reader. Most plans pressure you to read multiple chapters each day. Miss a day or two and you are so overwhelmed you just give up and stop reading. With this plan, skipping a day isn’t discouraging. The next day you pick up your Bible, just read the chapter for that day – no need to remember where you last stopped reading or to feel like you have to read eighteen chapters in one sitting.
If your child is beginning to read Proverbs for the first time, ask her to share what she read that day. What was her favorite Proverb in the chapter? Which Proverb in the chapter will be the toughest for him to put into practice in his life? Which Proverbs if followed by everyone on earth, would make life better for everyone? Have a child who loves history? Have them compare the sayings of Benjamin Franklin to the Proverbs in the Bible. Did Franklin use some Proverbs? Do people think they are quoting the Bible when they are really quoting Benjamin Franklin? What advantage do the Proverbs in the Bible have over the sayings of Benjamin Franklin?
You may want to turn your house into a “Proverbs Zone” for a month. Have everyone participate in the Proverbs reading plan. Write favorite or “much needed in your house” Proverbs on note cards and place them where people will see them. Which Proverbs make things more pleasant around your house? Which Proverbs are difficult for everyone in your home to put into practice consistently? Talk about them over dinner or dessert.
Most of the Proverbs are very easy to understand, but a few may not make sense to your children because of their lack of life experience. Take a few minutes to explain them to your child. Not only does it give you a chance to discuss God’s Words with your children, but you can also share how God’s wisdom is important for living a meaningful life. If you have personal experience with the Proverb, share those personal stories too – they help your children understand that following God makes a very real difference in life.
So pull out a Bible for everyone in the family and start the month of Proverbs around your house. Follow @tswinnett on Twitter and read the Proverb tweeted every morning Monday through Friday. You may even want to make it the Proverb your family discusses or uses for a challenge. Introducing God’s wisdom into the lives of your children will help them in ways you can only imagine at this point. It’s well worth the extra time and effort it may take.