Hopefully, one of your top priorities as a Christian parent is getting your kids to not only read the Bible independently, but to enjoy and value it, too. In the past, this was so difficult to do. Most of us found the vocabulary in the Bible challenging to understand. Many of us had started reading from the Bible in Genesis, only to lose interest and quit around Numbers. How can we encourage our kids to do something we struggled with ourselves?
First the good news. The reason you probably struggled (and may still struggle) with your Bible reading is that the adults who introduced you to the concept of independent Bible reading, probably made a few common mistakes. Which meant reading the Bible independently when you were younger probably felt like you were reading something written in another language. It was really difficult to understand and was too hard to be enjoyable. You learned to dread reading it and probably have depended on teachers, preachers and Christian authors to point out what you hoped were important verses.
Sadly, this means you have probably missed out on the entire richness and fullness a more intimate and personal reading of the entire Bible can give your spiritual life. You may have missed out on important truths God wanted you to know. You may have even believed false teachings, because your unfamiliarity with scripture allowed you to accept anything taught as truth. You can change that for yourself though and make sure your kids start out with a different attitude about independent Bible reading.
Try these tips and see what happens:
- Get an NIrV version of the Bible. (Note: The “r” is crucial in getting the correct version.) Not to get too technical, but most common versions of the Bible are written on a 7th to 12th grade reading level. Pair that with the fact that the Bible has been translated from other languages (which means awkward phrasings at times) and involves unfamiliar cultures and it’s a formula for disaster. The NIrV Bible helps, because it is written on a third grade level. It’s a translation, which means you don’t have the problem of lost accuracy found in paraphrase Bibles. For those of you raised on King James, Revised Standard or American Standard versions, this can really be life changing for you. I have found paperback versions online for about $3 each.
- Don’t encourage anyone to attempt to read the Bible through as one would another book. If you have ever tried this way of Bible reading, you realize Numbers can really stop most people from continuing. It’s just filled with too many names to engage most readers – especially young ones. Instead, think of the Bible as a library filled with 66 books. Encourage your kids to start by reading the Gospel of Mark or Proverbs. You can take a look at our free printable parenting Bible bookmark, for ideas of other great first Bible books to read for newly independent Bible readers.
- Continue reading passages out loud and asking your kids what they mean in their own words. Hopefully, you are already doing this regularly. If not, you may want to do this before really encouraging them in independent Bible reading. At the very least, do it in conjunction with their attempts at independent Bible study. The Bible has some awkward phrasing because it was translated from other languages. It also contains cultural information and concepts that may be unfamiliar to your kids. Reading a Bible story to your kids from an NIrV Bible and stopping every few sentences to explain something or to ask your kids to explain it to you, will help their Bible reading comprehension. Kids who have a stronger academic background won’t need this help as long as kids who struggle academically.
- Ask touchpoint questions. As your children begin reading the Bible on their own, periodically asking them some open ended questions is important. The answers will help you know whether they are really understanding what they are reading, encourage them to share questions the reading brought to their minds and let you know if they need more encouragement from you. Try to ask questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”, but require longer answers and more thought. This worksheet we share with teaching volunteers on Asking Better Questions In Bible Classes, can give you great ideas for your own questions.
- Make it fun. Often people think the Bible is boring to read because people have told them it is old-fashioned and boring or because they were never encouraged to read the interesting parts. Think about your child’s secular reading progression. Did their early reading teachers give them dry textbooks on boring topics to encourage them to read more? No, they probably found books that appealed to the interests of your children or included humor or other elements to encourage your kids to read more. The good news is the Bible is absolutely packed with every kind of great literature imaginable. Want adventure stories? How about Paul’s shipwreck or Jonah? Romance? Ruth and Esther have enough for any child who loved Cinderella. Comedy? Granted, this is a bit more subjective, but God has a great sense of humor that shows up unexpectedly in stories like Peter and Rhoda. Military battles? Gross stories? Poetry? Proverbs? They can all be found in the Bible. Getting your kids hooked on reading the Bible may take a tiny bit of research on your part, but point them to stories that will interest them first. Or make it a family challenge with rewards. Get your kids to create Bible reading challenges for you. Try some of the fun things your kids teachers did to get them hooked on secular reading – most will work for Bible reading, too.
Helping your children establish strong Bible reading skills and habits will take some work on your part. It is worth every minute though, if you help your kids learn to love reading God’s Word. They really need to be reading it regularly to reach their godly potential and the motivation will come in part from helping them develop important skill sets now.