Teaching the Scriptures to Young Children
Are you surprised when your small children—even those who can’t read yet—are asked to bring their scriptures to Primary? Your new religion considers scripture literacy very important, and the best way to help children understand and value the scriptures is to begin reading them to your children long before they can understand what they mean. Even when they appear to be playing, they are often quietly listening. One small boy, asked what was in the scriptures, said enthusiastically, “And it came to pass!” Although he was only three, he had heard and remembered that often repeated phrase from the Book of Mormon his parents had read to him since he was born.
The language of the scriptures may seem hard to you, but a child who is raised hearing them will consider those unusual words very ordinary. When he begins to read, teach him to read scriptural words, since they aren’t taught in public schools.
In the meantime, you can begin with the very smallest children to help them become familiar with the scriptures. When you do your family scripture reading, be sure every child is in the room. Small children might want to hold a doll, but can sit quietly for a few minutes while you read. When they are playing quietly with blocks or other quiet toys, read softly. Read scriptures to help toddlers fall asleep. All of these methods help children learn how the scriptures sound and to associate them with peaceful, loving times.
To help your children learn the meanings of these scriptures, use a combination of the real scriptures and the scripture readers, which were created for children and have many pictures. Read a verse or two and explain what it means. Explain unfamiliar words. You may not have time to do this with all the scriptures you read, but choose at least a chapter or a few verses, depending on the ages of the children to explain.
Consider having children memorize a scripture each week. Recite it before breakfast and bedtime, in the car, and in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Make sure they know what it means.
Help children learn the stories in the scriptures. The Friend has many flannel board stories about scriptures and you can make these available for Sunday play. You might also want to create a simple puppet theater by turning a coffee table on its side or putting a blanket over a table. Let the children make their own puppets and act out the stories. If you keep a dress-up box of scripture-type clothing, they can put on simple plays based on the stories.
Find out what stories your children are reading in Primary and review those during the week. Help them to understand the message the lesson was teaching.
Learning the scriptures can be fun for even the smallest child. President Hinckley taught:
“Read to your children. Read the story of the Son of God. Read to them from the New Testament. Read to them from the Book of Mormon. It will take time, and you are very busy, but it will prove to be a great blessing in your lives as well as in their lives. And there will grow in their hearts a great love for the Savior of the world, the only perfect man who walked the earth. He will become to them a very real living being, and His great atoning sacrifice as they grow to manhood and womanhood, will take on a new and more glorious meaning in their lives” (quoted in Church News, 6 Dec. 1997, 2).”
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.