St. John Bosco said, “Do you want to do a good deed? Teach the young! Do you want to do a holy thing? Teach the young! Truly, now and for the future, among holy things, this is the holiest.”
As Catholic parents, grandparents, godparents, teachers, and guardians of our little children, we want them to develop a close relationship with Jesus and a deep love for God’s Word. Helping our little ones foster a devotion to the Bible from an early age is one of the best ways to plant seeds for a fruitful walk with the Lord over the course of their lives.
Here are some simple tips for reading Scripture with young children:
1. Don’t ditch the real thing! Scripture itself tells us: “…the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). I love a good children’s Bible and it can be a helpful tool in the little years, but, grown-ups, don’t shy away from reading your young kids the REAL Bible. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we observe children at the feet of adults — even at the feet of Christ Himself — listening to the unwatered-down words of Scripture. Trust that their little souls can handle big truths. Maybe for now they simply listen, but this lays the foundation for understanding later.
2. Start small. Imprint little bits of biblical truth into your child’s heart. My favorite way to do this is by praying one short passage of Scripture with my children during our morning or evening prayer time. That little nugget of wisdom can be something to reflect on in our hearts or a launching point for discussion. We use this beautiful new children’s book every day to help us hear and pray (and memorize) the Word of God together: The Word of the Lord: A Child’s First Scripture Verses. That resource leads me to my next tip…
3. Utilize images. Children love to learn through art. That’s why I love The Word of the Lord – because a simple, gorgeous illustration accompanies each Bible verse, giving my little ones some image to focus on as they hear or read God’s Word. Use pictures to help the Scriptures come to life for your children, both in art and by encouraging them to close their eyes and form mental pictures of what they hear or read in the Bible.
4. Focus on stories. Most of us don’t start instilling a love for Scripture in our children by reading Leviticus at length (even adults might flee from that idea). But little children love Old Testament hero stories (i.e. David and Goliath) and Gospel stories (i.e. the parables). Focus especially on Jesus as the Good Shepherd; it’s one of the most relatable, comforting, beautiful images of Jesus for the young child.
5. Make Bible reading a daily habit. Teach your children that the Bible is the most important book in the house by reading it every single day. Let them see you reading it, encourage your young readers to read from the Bible themselves every day, and take time to read the Bible aloud together as a family during morning or evening prayer. Over time, you’ll see this family habit bearing much fruit in the lives of your children.