Sharing the Word with my small people

I will confess that I am not always perfectly up-to-date about expectations for family behavior within the Church. Along those lines, it has recently occurred to me that I would like to read the scriptures with my kids (all younger than 6). Simultaneously it occurs to me that I have no idea how.
So, what’s the secret? For those of you who have accomplished it, what works? For those who have not, what didn’t work? And please don’t say it involves flash cards or flannel boards, as I don’t feel quite that ambitious.

And I hereby give Steve permission to delete any comments that are intended to make people feel inadequate if they do not read the scriptures with their children regularly. If it is criticism of me, I’ll be sure that Steve forwards me the comment so that I can be duly and justly chastised, but let’s limit any criticism or name-calling to personal attacks on me. It’s hard enough for people to parent without being told they’re getting it wrong over ultimately probably minor stuff.


  1. sister blah 2 says:

    Sam, for my very young toddlers I bought the Gospel Art Picture Kit. Each night before bed (ok, that’s a lie, we don’t actually make it every night) we pull one out either at random or one I think they’ll relate to, and we talk about it. We started out just looking at it very literally and visually, i.e., “Who is that?” (Jesus) “Is Jesus wearing shoes?” (yes) “What color are Jesus’ clothes?” (white) “Can you find a tree?” etc. Over the first several time we did this, I slowly transitioned to telling the story or meaning of the picture. If they lose interest, we go on to another picture, until they lose interest altogether–3 or 4 pictures per night is probably the median. More rarely, I actually read a passage of scripture. I don’t do any explaining, just read it. If they’re tired and in bed, they just enjoy the sound of my voice and I think it will help get them accustomed to the style and cadence of scripture language.

  2. plvmetz says:

    My wife bought the “Gospel Art Set” and we hold up the picture and read the text. The pictures are in page protectors in a binder and the chosen story is unclipped and held up for view. The kids (10, 7, and 5) always choose the story, usually the 5 year old. The kids love having a picture to look at. Because we do it just before bed they usually pick the longest text they can find and are amenable to discussion. If they argue over what to choose, we read one from each child who wants to choose one. This has worked nicely for us.

  3. 4chocolate says:

    Our children are ages 1-12. We purchased the seminary master scripture cards from the distribution store and gave all the children a card. We’ve found success choosing one seminary mastery scripture. We have each of the reading children read it once aloud (unless it’s super long) and between readings explain the meaning or how they can apply or learn from it. We have tended to focus on one book of scripture at a time but do occasionally jump around if it’s a topic our family needs or it goes along with an FHE lesson. Keeping it short and simple has helped us and they have learned!

  4. Well, this might be heresy, but a) I rarely read the scriptures with my kids. It’s hard. Crying like they are in agony when I try to read the scriptures with them usually puts me in a less-than-spiritual mood.
    b) Again heresy, but I have found there are wonderful kids’ scripture stories and picture books from the old and new testaments that are better than the ones usually found in a church bookstore. Not exactly the scriptures but hopefully a good start. You might try a larger well stocked bookstore and find some treasures.

    Good luck!

  5. I use scripture story books for my younger children. Then during the year before their baptism, I try to get through the Book of Mormon with them, reading individually with the child, discussing and explaining as we go along. This tends to go very slow at first but then picks up as they learn to better understand the language of the scriptures. There are also some great songs in the Childrens Songbook that go along with certain scripture stories.

  6. prairie chuck says:

    #4–Add my heretical voice to yours. I bought a Toddler’s Bible with colorful, engaging illustrations and no more than 2-3 sentences per page. Perfect for 2yo’s attention span. I tried the BoM readers (available from Church Distribution) and I hate the illustrations and there’s just too much reading per page for a pre-reader. I’ve found non-LDS materials for Bible study to be much higher quality, more engaging for young pre-readers, more creative and stimulating and a LOT less expensive.

    Our “scripture reading” was more “scripture doing”: flannelboards, play acting, songs, puppet plays, etc (I found an inexpensive book of paper puppets to tell Bible stories.)

    When my firstborn was 2 yrs old, I bought Betty Luken’s Bible Felts–they are beautifully detailed, the kind of flannelboard figures I remember from my childhood. I spent 4-5 days on each story. The first 1-2 days I told the story in my own words, the 3rd day read some of the story from scripture (so they heard it in “scripturese”) and the next day asked my little one to tell me the story in his own words. The felts kept him engaged. Then as more children came to our family, I told the story, then had an older child tell the story, then let the littlest tell it. There is a booklet that tells you how to use the Betty Lukens felts to tell BoM stories, available from Storyteller Felts. These felts are very high quality, with vivid color and detail and worth the cost.

    The best LDS source I’ve seen was a book called Turn Your Little Ones into Book of Mormon Whiz Kids by Christine Melanakos. It has lots of fun ways to teach the principles and stories found in the BoM. We still have the Liahona we made out of paper maché when my now 16yo was 3-4 yrs old.

    It’s hard to read scriptures with a pre-reader. Their attention span is so short and their vocabulary is limited. Since I don’t live near an LDS bookstore, I have to buy LDS-themed books from catalogs or online. When they arrive, I find them tedious, with too much reading on one page for a toddler to sit through. And too much of the artwork is just blech. I can’t even stand to read it, how can I expect my toddler to? Maybe there’s some quality LDS material out there but I haven’t found it. It’s all so expensive, so I quit.

    I’m sorry to sound so critical, but no 2yo can sit through paragraphs of scripturese while having to look at pictures that hurt the eyes. Isn’t there some creative LDS author and artist would follow the example of the non-LDS materials and produce some nice readers for toddlers?

  7. Well… I remember we had those Book of Mormon for children series (the old hardbound ones with big pictures).

    But mainly I remember just sitting down and listening as Mom and Dad took turns reading a chapter. Our goal was to read a chapter each day (although sometimes we cheated on the larger chapters and broke them into 2 or 3 days). Sometimes we would talk about the chapter afterwards (particularly if it was a simple story like Nephi and the Brass Plates). We didn’t discuss much of 2nd Nephi.

    It gets easier once the oldest hits about 3rd Grade reading level, as they can start taking turns reading too (of course they need a lot of help). The fact that they can do something “grown-up” is a big deal, and it seems to cause the younger kids to pay attention.

    But what I remember most were the times when we had a problem and would ask my father for help or advice- and even when I was really young he would say it reminded him of a story in the scriptures, and then he would pull out the BofM (or Bible) and we would read the story, and then talk about how it showed us how to handle the problem.

  8. Times and Seasons had a thread on this awhile ago.

    We started family scripture study with our kids when my oldest was 2. He is now 9 1/2. We have read pretty much everyday for the last 7 1/2 years. We started in the Book of Mormon. We are still in the Book of Mormon, for the first time through. We are now in 3 Nephi chapter 6.

    It started with 2-3 verses a day. It has moved up to 5 or more. We read the real deal and discuss.

    FHE and other discussions is where we incorporate other pictures and books. It has worked really well for us, and truly has blessed our family.

  9. My kids are 2, 4 and 6, and we just started reading every night before bed. Before bed, because it buys them a tiny little bit more of staying up, and now they remind US if we’re forgetting scriptures.
    We do one or two verses a night. That’s it. It’ll take us years to get through anything, but for us, it works.

  10. I have a 2-year-old and an infant. We do family scripture reading at bedtime and read the regular scriptures but don’t try to make the babies sit still and listen. They only have to be in the room and no noisy toys. Our thought is that when they are old enough to read on their own, the scriptural vocabulary and rhythm will be familiar to them because they’ve heard it their entire lives.

    For focused scripture learning for the 2-year-old, we use the scripture readers from Church Distribution but don’t actually read them because like #6 said, they are too wordy for a toddler. We summarize the stories while she looks at the pictures, and so far that seems to work.

    I do plan to get a Gospel Art Kit, and add pictures that are important to our family such as specific temples (Grandma and Grandpa were married in this temple, etc) and favorite scripture stories. But I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  11. Clayton says:

    I have 4 children ages 11, 9, 6, and 4.

    When my oldest were the ages of your children, we would read the church published story books. There is one for the old and new testaments, book of mormon, and D & C.

    When my oldest was about 8 or 9, we purchased the Illustrated Stories of the Book of Mormon published by Heritage Media. It is an 8 volume set and has more detail than the church story books for young children.

    Just 8 or 9 months ago, we started reading the Book of Mormon together. We are now on 2 Nephi 9 and take a few verses each night. My 4 year old does not really get it, so we have a separate time with him where we read the story books to him and he loves it.

    It is difficult, but we have had some great gospel disucssions as a result. Good luck finding what works best for you and your family.

  12. In our family we each have a paper back copy of the Book of Mormon (oldest child 21, youngest 2) We take turns each reading one verse, those who can’t read repeating the words read to them. We have red pencils so everyone can mark verses they like. (Some like to mark each verse.)

    We use the scripture readers and gospel art pictures from time to time, but mostly at FHE.

    During the summer when we have more time because of no school, we have used scripture journals (composition books)to write about what we read, or for the younger to draw scripture pictures.(sometimes using the scripture readers to find a story they want to draw) We do branch out to other scriptures sometimes.

    We have been doing this for years now and have gone through several sets of Book of Mormons. Our young children seem to do just fine with the actual scriptures.

    That being said, we don’t always read like we want to. Life (getting up too late!) keeps getting in our way.

  13. We simply promised our children that when we finished we’d go to Chucky Cheese for a family party (btw, they are 4 months, 2, 4, and 6). It is easy and we have no problems.

  14. When our kids were smaller we used the kinda funny/corny Bagly BoM picture books, and sometimes the Church-issue picture books. Now are kids are 9, 7, and 4, and we use the Bookcraft Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families. It has the original BoM text, but with pictures and an easy-to-navigate glossary at the bottom of the page. It also breaks up each chapter into smaller units with explanatory subheadings. This is nice because when the kids are getting to bed late we can read just one little subsection and still feel like we did our reading; if we’ve got more time we read two or three. We hardly ever do a whole chapter in a night, but we don’t feel bad about it, because I think the crucial thing is consistency.

    We do the actual reading by having the grownups read 2-3 verses, kids who read read 1-2 verses, and the four-year-old repeats a verse phrase-by-phrase as it is read to him. It’s slow going, but we’re about a third of the way through the book, which is a record for us.

    I suspect whatever you do, the important thing is to do it and not set standards for length or for attention span that won’t work for your kids. At this point it’s about habit, and only gradually does it become about content.

  15. The children in my CTR-8 class that read the scriptures with their families, mostly seem to cover either a) a story at a time or b) a handful of verses at a time. The ones who are the youngest-of-many types tend to do an entire story at once and actually read through it (the littlest kids being readers = everyone takes a turn reading a verse or two.) The ones who are the oldest-of-several types are more likely to be a-few-verses-here-and-there types. In class I rarely have more than two or three verses for them to read, and I usually blow them up to 18pt or better. I have a firm testimony of large print formats.

    My family is full of heathenish behaviors and this area is no exception: we read Tolkien and Shakespeare but not one lick of scripture, as a family. I don’t remember reading the scriptures outside of church or Seminary/Institute assignments until I was out of college. My sisters and I did like the Living Scriptures videos, and we actually sat through the video versions of the readers (I use the Russian readers for language practice.) So, no judging here. ^_^

    I do heartily recommend that, whatever method you choose, you find some way of a) introducing them to the KJV language and b) getting them familiar with the idea of looking things up. The manuals and Primary leaders have the kids looking up scriptures as young as 8 years old, and as far as I can tell, they don’t officially learn about things like a table of contents, an index, or dictionaries/card catalogs until late elementary school (if at all.) It’s agony sitting with my class, trying to help eight 7/8-year olds to look up a verse every five minutes through Sharing Time. And the kids who aren’t familiar with KJV language really stumble when it’s their turn to read a scripture publicly — which by the way, Primaries start assigning kids to do when they’re (I’m not kidding here) Sunbeams. That’s the class you move into when you graduate from Nursery at the age of 3. Anyway, the ones who can read words like “commandment” and “verily” without stumbling are a whole lot happier at the end of Sharing Time than the ones who can’t — and they usually pay a lot more attention to what’s happening in class and in the big Primary room.

  16. I’d second Jeremy’s recommendation of The Book of Mormon for Latter Day Saint Families. Bigger print, some pictures, word definitions, no standard footnotes, and different chapter (and subchapter headings). For us, with 18 months, 4, 5, and 9 years old, the key is consistency and keeping it short.

  17. We have always simply had snack time before bed and read a few verses from the BOM. The kids get distracted by the food and actually will sit and listen. I usually pause pretty regularly and explain the story in kid terms. We just read where Ammon gets into a sword fight with Lamoni’s father.

    Mine are 8-6-4-4 and 1 in the womb.

  18. Mormongirl says:

    I read to my kids (ages 2, 4) while they eat their breakfast cereal. Sometimes we read for FHE and we try to have popcorn to snack on. They sit still longer when food is involved.

  19. Mine are 5, 3, and 1. After brushing teeth, we sing a hymn or primary song (almost without fail “Book of Mormon Stories”) and read 2-4 verses of the Book of Mormon every night before our family prayer. If the kids behave they get to stay up for a bedtime story (a surprisingly effective incentive!) We read in short phrases and the oldest repeats them to help focus. Often we ask what a word means or paraphrase what’s happening. I’m amazed that they seem to understand a lot. It is usually a positive interaction in our family.

    Also very helpful is the church produced Book of Mormon CD for the computer. The stories are paraphrased and read aloud along with non-animated illustrations. It is the Sunday computer activity in our house. My kids have spent a long time using the disk and it’s given them a real handle on the BoM stories so as we’re reading they can sometimes place what we’re reading in a broader context.

  20. nmiles and Tracy M described our reading pretty well in #8 & #9. We generally have each child below 8-years-old read one or two verses, each child between 8-12 read three verses and each person above 12 read 4-5 verses. When they were too young to read, they participated with one verse by repeating what we said a few words at a time – as many as they could handle. After each person read or repeated her verse(s), we talked about it and made sure everyone understood what had just been read.

    We never read more than once chapter, unless it was a very short one, and we didn’t stop at the end of chapters. We ignored the chapters and just kept reading until the proper number of verses had been read. Our kids are 6-20 now, and I am amazed regularly by how well they understand the scriptures. In fact, one of the things that motivated my “son” I mentioned in Ronan’s post to listen to the missionaries was, in his words, that our 7-year-old daughter “understands the scriptures better than the minister at my father’s church.”

    You just have to be patient and accept quality of understanding over quantity of reading.

  21. Don’t get too ambitious. A few verses a night is fine. Get every child a cheap paperback copy and help them find the page you are on. Then let them color it while you are reading. They can scribble or draw elaborate scenes of the Tree of Life! When a certain number of pages are colored, (say 10) have a party!

    Also, we always let our littlest one say, “It came to pass,” whenever we came to it. We would point at him/her and he/she got to yell it out. Keeps the non-readers involved.

    I second Sarah’s recommendations in #15. PLEASE teach your children how to pronounce
    and yeah.

  22. #21 I love the mental image of the youngest screaming that phrase. I can imagine some of my nieces doing that. That’s a great idea!

  23. Jamie S. says:

    My parents did almost the same thing as #12 when my siblings and I were all under 10. We each had our own paperback BoM and a set of scripture markers. We just had to listen to mom or dad read, and draw something based on what we heard. We’d all take turns and share our pictures and why we drew them. I was really young, but I still remember everyone drawing “stinky fish” from 2 Nephi 7:2.

  24. We have four kids ages 8-2. We do a couple of different things. We have the all of the “comic book” scriptures. I’m sure there’s a name for them, but they’re the set with the storyboard pictures and accompanying text. They’re a good intro to basic stories. My older kids will sit and read them themselves.

    We also read the real deal at night when the kids are in bed. DH sits in the hall between the bedrooms and reads aloud for about 40 minutes. We usually do a chapter book like Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter and the scriptures, giving equal time to both. It keeps their attention pretty well and they are relaxed. Also, it’s a stall for them going to sleep, so they don’t complain. DH doesn’t stop to explain every verse. He gives a general rundown before he reads, pauses after several verses to paraphrase, and answers any questions the kids have.

    A friend of mine does family scripture study with each person reading silently in the same room. Her younger kids read the storyboard scriptures. Works for them.

  25. Along the same lines as #21: Our kids fight over who gets to start a chapter in the BOM4LDS Families because the first word is in all caps, which they take to mean that the word is to be shouted.

  26. snow white says:

    That’s a hilarious image, #25. I love it.

    This is a great topic, because my kids are 2mo., 2, 4 and 6, and we need the ideas. So far we have mainly done the cartoony story books and I tell them scripture stories at night from memory while the lights are off. I like the idea of using the gospel art kit, and I feel guilty for not reading the real scriptures to them. I definitely want to read the Book of Mormon with #1 before he gets baptized.