Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scripture reading ideas for kids who can't read

I have fond memories of reading scriptures together as a family when I was growing up. Every morning before school we would gather in the family room and take turns reading verses. Even at a young age, we all participated in scripture reading. When I was little, we lived in a big, older house that was chilly in the mornings. After Dad gently shook me awake, I would bring my blanket out to the living room and sit on top of one of the vents to keep warm as we took turns reading scriptures. We had a set of cheap paperback versions of the Book of Mormon that Dad would hand out to us. Dad had a specific copy with a record in the back of which verse we had last finished reading, and would let us know where to begin. Then, in age order with our parents, we would each take a turn reading verses from the Book of Mormon for 15 minutes.

By the time I had gotten to high school, the family scripture reading had been ever constant. Every morning before school, without fail, we would read the scriptures. By this time I had come to see the importance of scripture reading. That's not to say I enjoyed every minute of it, or that our scripture reading sessions were perfect (they were far from that!). Nor can I say that I could recall what we had read later that day. But the only word I can think of to describe what family scripture reading meant to me is protection. I felt protected throughout the day because our family read scriptures together every morning. I want desperately for my children to experience that same peace that I felt because of family scripture reading.

As the eighth child in my family, I have no idea what scripture reading looked like when my parents started out. I have no idea when they decided to begin, or if it took a while before it became a consistent, 5-days-a-week thing. But we've been trying to add it to the routine of our day with our very young family.  Our oldest is only 5, and she can't really read, so we've had to be a little creative at the start of our family scripture reading.

Two ways to read scriptures when your kids can't read

We have two habits that have worked really well. Neither of these are earth-shattering. I think simple ideas are the things people actually end up doing over complicated ones. More than anything, I think, the key to successful family scripture reading has been to make it part of what we already do each day.

1. Read one verse per person, have them repeat the words. Each night before we go to bed, the kids each "read" one verse. Or in other words, we say a few words and they repeat it back, for the whole verse. This works for a lot of reasons: it's not super time-consuming, you can still do it if somebody's grouchy, and it's hard to not do it because it so easy.

-A lot of the times as part of the scripture reading, we then "define" one of the words for the kids. Since our kids are so little, a lot of the language is foreign to them. So after they've read the three verses (our 5, 4, and 2-year-olds all do the "repeat after me" thing), they're pretty good about asking, "So what's the word?" Then we'll explain to them what Atonement means or something like that. It quickly bumps up what would have just been a rote memorization into real study for the family.

-It's always coupled with our family prayer. Like I said, it's so easy and fast, it's hard to say, "The kids are going crazy, let's not do scriptures tonight." You know you're going to pray as a family, and it just adds three minutes to that.

-We don't do it in the morning. Mornings are stressful for me as the mom. Ben heads out the door sometimes before all of our kids are even awake, and I feel like there's too many other things that have to be done.

-I think this works because we have a "critical mass." Our 5 and 4-year-olds 90% of the time are willing to participate. Our two-year-old, it's a hit and miss as to if he will repeat everything you say or will focus enough to do it.

-Sometimes are kids are running around or being noisy during the whole thing. We still just do it.

2. Read the scripture stories while you wait for the bus. We've owned the Book of Mormon Stories for a long time and I've read it to them here and there, but I've never been very consistent with it. Now that Cheyenne has to go to school everyday, it's a lot easier to fit it in. I'll read the kids a story or a page while we wait for Cheyenne's bus. I've been amazed at how well they remember the stories, how enthralled they get with them, and how they love reading it.

-With this activity, I'll often tell them something I think they can learn from the story. One time I read the story of Enos and I told Cheyenne how she could pray if she ever got lonely at school or missed us or something. Several weeks later, she told me that she had, in fact, done that.  Another time, Cheyenne told me in great detail the story of Alma the Younger, just completely out of the blue. Sometimes when I read it's so chaotic with all the kids or the baby crying, or the stories/language are a lot different than a storybook and so I imagine a lot harder to follow, and I am amazed they can remember the stories from the Book of Mormon Reader! When they still remember the stories despite all of this, it reminds me that they are teaching me. Often when I'm reading to them, they are so attentive, eyes glued to the page and the story. It gives me the feeling that spirituality is natural to them, like it's woven into the fibers of their being. It reminds me of the scripture that talks about the day that the babes' "tongues shall be loosed" and they shall "utter marvelous things." They know and understand so much inherently, it's just their station in life that limits them from being completely understood by me.

We are certainly not a perfect family or even a model one. And we've failed a lot before we found something that works for us and is now something we do about 80% of time. But you've got to keep trying. As a parent, I believe this is my most important role, helping my children become familiar with and understand God's word. Don't give up. God wants them to learn too, He will help you.

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