My kids had Bibles — real, unillustrated ones with lots of small words on lots of thin pages — long before they learned to read. They were always the ICB translation, my favorite for young children, and they were pretty with sequins or glitter on the covers. We would sit down together in the evening or at bedtime, and I would read interesting passages to them, usually from Genesis or one of the gospels.
It can be hard for littles to engage with the actual Bible, especially when they’re used to fancy Bible storybooks with glossy pages and short, action-packed stories. The real Bible isn’t much like that at all.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism of Bible storybooks; I think they have a very valuable place in teaching our children about Biblical truths and people. But at some point, we have to turn our kids on to the real Word of God.
How does one do that in a modern, animated age when many of our kids are more used to seeing videos than books? It can be a real challenge.
9 Ways to Help Children Engage with the Bible
Read it to them.
I mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating. Find some juicy parts of the Bible, and read them aloud, cuddled together in a comfy chair or in bed. Read the Bible to them even if they can read by themselves, but don’t read too long if you’re concerned they’ll get bored.. I started my kids with one chapter, and we built up from there, sometimes going longer at their request. Good stories to start with are the same ones in their Bible storybooks: Jesus (pick anything!), Joseph, Jericho, Jonah, Daniel – or your daughters may be more drawn to their favorite female heroes of the Bible! If you don’t know where to find these in the real Bible, just Google them. The Psalms are also a great place to start. I’ve shared a list of my 10 favorite Psalms for kids here.
Read with feeling.
Maybe this goes without saying, but the way we read makes a huge difference. We can make the Bible exciting! Read with lots of feeling and emotion. After all, this is the Word of God. It’s big and important and every word is true!
Discuss as you read.
We can also ask thoughtful questions like what do you think he looked like? and how would you have felt if that was you? and what would you have done in his position? Help your children to understand what’s happening in the story.
Connect it to real life.
Sometimes kids get the idea that the Bible happened so long ago that it’s no longer relevant to today. Bible storybooks can give our kids the idea that it’s a fictional story, something from imagination. We can dispel these myths by relating our discussions to her life with questions like what does this story mean to us today? what would this situation look like in our lives? and do our best to come up with analogies that relate it back. Some stories are easier to imagine today than others, but what about Joseph? He was sold as a slave (still happens), put in jail (lots of jails today), and ended up being the ruler of a country during a time of famine (lots of famines in the world).
Without all the glossy pictures of her Bible storybook, your child may have trouble with mental pictures of the stories. Discussing it will go a long way, but coming up with experiential lessons will also help. You can recreate the stories with puppets, act them out with handmade costumes, and even try your hand in the kitchen to taste foods mentioned in the Bible! Need more inspiration? I have written a guide to your own Passover meal to help teach children about the Last Supper.
Let them read from their own Bible.
As I mentioned, my girls had real, unillustrated Bibles from the time they were small. It’s important for your children to get excited about carrying their own “big boy” or “big girl” Bible with them to church, and to be excited about reading from it. There are many full-text Bibles with fun covers and engaging elements available. My daughter absolutely loves the new NKJV Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible! The sequins on the cover are a fun element on an otherwise grown-up Bible.
Memorize short verses together.
My family has a memorization habit that I welcome you to check out. Basically, we memorize verses, very short ones at first, every night at the dinner table. It’s a low-key practice; we just repeat a few verses together, from memory if we can or by reading if we can’t. If you pick verses from the stories you’re reading to your kids at night, they will be tickled when you get to them in the story. Memorizing will bring it all together. Also check out our free printable: 52 verses every child should know from the I Can Learn the Bible book by Holly Hawkins Shrivers.
Let her see you reading & studying the Bible.
This is so important. We may cherish our quiet time when the kids aren’t around, and that is perfectly understandable, but we parents need to make sure to let our kids see us reading as well. Setting a good example may well be the best thing we can do to encourage them to read it on their own.
By using these simple strategies, you will have our children reading (or at least listening) to the Bible in no time!
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Have a different strategy? Tell us about below in the comments!