The importance of reading the word of God is something many Christian faiths will agree upon. It is through the scriptures that one can learn of Jesus Christ and find a way to attain eternal life (John 5:39).
Now try telling that to a 4-year-old. Your same conviction may be there, but it may not translate. Is there anything in the scriptures that kids can understand?
Reading the scriptures can be difficult and discouraging for families with young kids, but the messages found in the scriptures are relevant for all ages. Jan Pinborough, editor of The Friend magazine, explained that many scripture stories are interesting and exciting — the key is how the story is told.
"Scripture reading needs to happen in the home," Pinborough said. "But it needs to be adapted to the appropriate age."
The Friend magazine has incorporated scriptures throughout the magazine. Each article is based on a scripture, includes different stories about Jesus and a poster is found each month titled "Bright Ideas" that has an easy scripture for children to memorize.
Shannon Foster, a seminary teacher of 13 years and writer of The Red Headed Hostess blog, talked about when to start scripture reading with your children.
"It is never too early," Foster said. "I read to my daughter as she is falling asleep in her crib. There are age-appropriate activities and ideas for every child."
Foster has created several helps for others to study the scriptures and has listed them on her blog. In order for children to easily follow the different stories in the Book of Mormon, Foster created a guide that lists a one-sentence summary for each page in the Book of Mormon. A .pdf version can be found on her website under scripture study tips.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve also explained the importance of including small children when reading scriptures. He described a young family's experience:
"Two out of their four children are not old enough to read," he said in a general conference talk in April (“In Tune with the Music of Faith”). "For the 5-year-old, they have five finger signals to which he responds in order for him to participate fully in the family scripture reading. The signal for finger 1 is for him to repeat, 'And it came to pass' whenever it appears in the Book of Mormon."
In this month's issue of The Friend, Elder Kent F. Richards shared a similar experience his family had with reading the scriptures. Because the children were allowed to participate, Elder Richards explained things took a little longer: "It took us five years to read the Book of Mormon for the first time as a family, but we never quit."
It doesn't matter which way your children like to learn about the scriptures — find something that works and make it a habit, Pinborough said.
"It's by example that they will learn best. ... Parents need to model the process. They can't treat reading the scriptures like a reading assignment you have to get to."
Foster explained that if scripture study is viewed as something that is fun, children's attitudes about the scriptures will be positive.
"Helping our children see the scriptures as something that is fun and important in their lives, rather than a duty for grown-ups, is something that will take a lot of effort, thought, creativity and inspiration," Foster said. "But it is worth every second of time and energy, and they will thank you for generations to come."
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized in an article in the July 2005 Ensign that the parents’ example is critical (“A Discussion of Scripture Study”).
"For me at least, and I think my six children would agree, scripture study works well only if your children know you love the scriptures and they also know as individuals that you love them. Then whatever pattern you have will work. If scripture study is forced for either them or you, if your children feel pushed, or if you don’t really love the scriptures yourself, then scripture study doesn’t have as much power."
President Eyring explained the important example his wife has set for their children: "I’m blessed with a wife who absolutely loves the scriptures," he said. "If I ask her, ‘What would you like to do?’ she says, ‘Oh, read me the scriptures.’ I think our children have sensed that it wasn’t a duty for us to read the scriptures — it was a pleasure."
Resources are listed below to help begin or continue your study of the scriptures with your children.
Apps and online books
Scriptures4kids.com: Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants ebook with four different reading levels available.
Lift-the-flap Bible Stories App: Flipbook stories from the Bible for the iPad and iPhone.
LDS Gospel Art Book: This book contains 137 pictures from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, New Testament, Old Testament and teachings from latter-day prophets. Versions for the iPad and iPhone are available, as well as printed copies.
Interactive games and videos
The Friend: Several scripture stories are told in videos, coloring pages, puzzles, matching and more.
Learning resources on www.lds.org: An archive of multimedia, scripture stories, scripture reading charts, cutout scripture heroes and other extras sorted by gospel topic.
Noah's Ark — An Interactive Bible Tale App: Follow Noah and his family throughout their journey. Help build the ark, get the animals onboard and find a place to build your new home.
LDS Scripture Slider App: Twenty-five different pictures depicting Book of Mormon stories.
Bible Wordfind App: Word searches containing words that are found throughout the Bible.
LDS Scripture Heroes App: Five different games that can teach kids about the lives and testimonies of scriptural heroes in the Bible, Book of Mormon and early LDS Church history.
Little Scribes App: Flash cards to help remember what different words mean in the Bible.
Mormon Channel: A weekly radio series for children to listen to scripture stories. Children share their favorite experience with the scriptures.
Hard copies that you can keep on hand
Friend magazine: Filled with stories based around different scriptures.
Scripture Stories: Colorfully illustrated stories from the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Old Testament and Doctrine and Covenants. Each is written on a basic reading level for children.
ABC Printable Scripture Cards: Help your children learn their ABCs by printing out these cards that contain words from the Bible.
Discovery Stories: Introduces children to the beautiful stories of the Book of Mormon, the Bible and modern church history. These materials have been developed for those just beginning to read, as well as those who are confident reading on their own.
Mormon Little Books: Different coloring pages of scenes from the Book of Mormon that one mother created for her children. After 14 years, she had 2,241 pages that described each verse in the Book of Mormon.
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a Communications major and editing minor.