In our bookcenter where I work, people sometimes come in looking for “a” book to help them understand the Bible. Their desire to deepen their appreciation of God’s Word in Sacred Scripture is commendable, so I am always sorry to disappoint them by explaining that there isn’t any one book that can give them the understanding they are looking for. Just reading books about Scripture will not give the depth of knowledge that a gradual growth in familiarity with the Bible over time will give. And so, since it’s better to start sooner than later, here are some simple ways to bring Scripture into the life of your kids. Probably you are doing some of these already. Perhaps you’ll find a new idea or two to try.
1) Read the readings for Sunday the day before
This one is for you, the parent. There are many easy ways to have access to the readings of the Liturgy of the Word: get a missal, subscribe to a periodical that provides them, use iMissal for your smart phone, go to a website. Looking up the citation in your Bible is even better, because it shows the context for the passage. The idea is that, once you know what the Scripture passages are, you will be able to make connections for your children. For example, if one of the readings involves a story covered recently at school or in a bedtime story (see number 2 below), you can alert your kids. “Junior, wait till you hear the reading from the Bible that we’re going to have at Mass today. I think it will sound familiar!” Or perhaps there is something in the reading that connects with a recent happening. (For example, being afraid in a storm—and Jesus calming the storm, or having fun climbing a tree—and reading about Zacchaeus who climbed the tree to see Jesus.) Admittedly, there isn’t always an easy connection with the Scripture reading, but if you take a peek ahead of time, you might find something you can use.
2) Use a children’s Bible story book for bedtime stories
If you don’t already have a good, age-appropriate Bible story book, get one, and use it periodically for bedtime stories—maybe on a certain day of the week. For ages five and up, try reading my new series, the Gospel Time Trekker: chapter books involving time travel to the time of Jesus, where the children meet various characters from the Gospels and hear their stories.
3) Bring Bible story books to church
For little ones, a pile of “church books” to look at during Mass can be the best thing to occupy them. These should be books that have been read to them, so they can follow the stories in the pictures, but not read too often, so they feel fresh and new when taken to church. Try switching from the Bible stories during the Liturgy of the Word to a children’s missal during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
4) Display a family Bible in your home
If you have one passed down from previous generations, consider putting it out on display in a place of honor. If you don’t have one, or if the heirloom copy is fragile or hard to read, consider getting a new one. It doesn’t have to be the very large kind usually called “family Bibles,” but just large enough to lay flat when open. You can show your children the two (unequal-sized) parts of the Old and New Testaments, and the way the Bible is really not one book but a library of books contained in one binding, and how, like in any library, there are different kinds of books in the Bible—history, stories, poetry, prayer, etc. Older children can learn how to find the chapter and verse locations from a citation. It’s like a secret code that, when cracked, allows ease of access and navigation.
5) Identify people you meet who have names from the Bible
Many biblical names are very popular now, and common among children. Most likely your kids know several children with names from characters in the Bible, and among your own friends and relatives there are likely to be more. In 2010, three of the top twenty names for girls and eleven of the top twenty names for boys were biblical names. (Jacob has topped the list since 1999!) It would be nice to look up something about these people in Scripture, whether from the Old or New Testament, and learn a little of their stories. (This works with names of saints, too!)
by Sr Maria Grace