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We all know we should read the scriptures. We all know we should read together as a family. We know we should be teaching our children to read their scriptures on their own. However, sometimes there is this gigantic ravine in between knowing and doing. At times you can hear the trolls under the bridge weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth. Help your children bridge that gap with these 6 tips:
Schedule a Time
You are the key to helping your children develop this habit. There may be murmuring along the way but a consistent scheduled time will help hush those grumbles over time. You may already be doing family scripture study and this seems like yet another thing you have to add to your list but I promise you it will be worth it. Your children need to learn to study their scriptures on their own. They need that testimony of the truthfulness and guidance that is available because of the scriptures. Schedule a time everyday where everyone in your family will spend a few minutes reading scriptures individually. You can even add 5 minutes on to your family scripture study- just find a time and do it! At first this may seem counterproductive since you are the one scheduling the time in for them but you're actually helping your children develop the habit. You're allowing your children the chance to gain a testimony of scripture reading for themselves. As they develop this habit they'll see the blessings come into their lives and make that choice to continue it on. When this happens, let them schedule their own time and reap those blessings. Keep in mind though that every now and then you may need to reinstitute required personal reading time to give the habit another jump start. None of us are perfect.
Give Them a Journal
Show your children the difference between reading the scriptures and studying the scriptures. Encourage your children to write their thoughts down, write questions, discover answers. Elizabeth Dorathy has written 2 excellent Book of Mormon Journals to help your children in this process. "Scripture Power! Book of Mormon Journal for Children" is great for younger children. Elizabeth Dorathy includes questions for children to think about and often sums up a little bit of what they read. She includes the verses for each question so your child can go through the scriptures in order and answer as they go along or jump around in the scriptures. The Journal even comes with bonus help for completing the Faith in God award. When you see one of the symbols, it means as your child does that journal activity, he is also completing a Faith in God assignment. Pretty nice, right? "My Witness of Jesus Christ: Book of Mormon Journal for Youth" is excellent as well and intended for older children and teens. With more space to write and more thought provoking questions, it really encourages your youth to dive into the scriptures. Get one for yourself and one for your child and go through the journal together meeting at the end of each week to discuss your notes. Looking for a more open ended journal for all their spiritual experiences? Use this Sacred Journal idea.
Be a Storyteller
Go beyond reading the stories in the scriptures. Expose your children to the scripture stories in multiple forms. We love listening to Scripture Scouts in the car- even the older ones because it's something we've done for so long. They love singing the songs and hearing the stories in new way. When my children read a story in the scriptures and realize it's one they already know, that story takes on new life and they make more connections! Try telling the scripture stories in your own words at the breakfast table, watch scripture videos, sing songs about the scriptures (the LDS Children's Songbook is full of great ones). These 50 Dinner Discussion topics based on the Book of Mormon are a great way to sum a story and discuss it together as a family. Let your children fall in love with these great men and women of the scriptures.
Write in Books
Show your children your scriptures. Tell them how you choose to mark your scriptures and why. While growing up they probably heard you tell them NOT to write in books and at school you get in trouble if you do. Teach your children that there are some books that are meant to be written in and show them how to do it properly. Help them make a legend for marking their scriptures. Give them the right kind of scripture marking tools or even a way to add in extra scripture notes or scripture story stickers. Challenge your children to find a verse each week and ponderize it. Encourage them to put the date they ponderized that scripture in the margins of their scriptures and write about it in their journal.
Show Them Where Things Are
If you are going to expect your children to be able to look up a particular verse, you need to spend time teaching them where to find all the different books in the scriptures. Spend a family home evening night on one set of scriptures at a time. Learn the songs that go with each set. You can find the LDS Children's Songbook songs for the books in the Book of Mormon here, New Testament here, and Old Testament here. Explain how we got each set of scripture and the sacrifices people went through so we can have them so easily accessible today. Do a scripture chase or try this fun Scripture Relay Race- help your children be comfortable with finding things in the scriptures. Remember to take the time to go over all the study helps as well including the Bible Dictionary, footnotes, and Topical Guide.
I know. I just told you to help your children read their scriptures on their own and now I'm saying read them together. You'll find these two are directly related though. As you read together, you can stop and discuss the meaning of words, the background, your thoughts and experiences. Let your children hear and feel your testimony of the scriptures because it will rub off on them. Read together as a family or take time each week to read with each child one on one. Make sure your children know that you really do put scripture reading a priority in your life and not simply telling them to do so. Show them through your example by reading together and let them see you have personal scripture study time of your own.
Your Turn- What do you do to encourage your children to read scriptures on their own? Do you have a favorite way to mark your scriptures?