How to Get Kids to Read the Bible

how to get kids to read the bible

Take a few minutes and ask yourself some questions:

• What can I do during the grade school years to prepare kids for the teen years?
• What does a spiritually strong 10-year old look like?
• What type of skills does he or she have?

This is at the top of my list: When 5th graders graduate to youth ministry, I want them to have a habit of reading the Bible on a daily basis.

Do a random survey. Ask your 4th and 5th graders this question, “How many of you read your Bible every day?”

I find that most Christian kids do not read their Bible. They know the Bible stories. They have watched all the Veggie Tales videos, but they don’t read the Bible for themselves.

The reason they don’t is quite simple. They never have. Most kids that grow up in the church have never picked up a Bible and read it for themselves or maybe they tried one time and it was too difficult for them because they didn’t understand the big words.

What can we do about it?

The solution is to develop a Bible reading strategy for church and for home.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Kids are not going to read the Bible just because we preach to them to “read your Bible.” We need to have a plan.” quote=”Kids are not going to read the Bible just because we preach to them to “read your Bible.” We need to have a plan to help them develop this skill.” theme=”style1″]

The kids that are reading the Bible every day, do so because their parents taught them to read their Bible.

The first step is to choose an appropriate Bible for kids.

Choosing a good kid’s Bible can seem overwhelming. I did a search on Amazon.com and found over 100 choices, so which one is the right one?

For the purpose of this blog post, I am focusing on children that are 8 – 11 years old. (For kids under eight you will want to pick out one of the many good Bible Storybooks.)

First, make a decision about which translation is best for your kids. Once you make a decision about translation you can eliminate 90% of the Kids Bibles. This greatly simplifies your choice.

There are three types of Bible Translations:

1) Word for Word Translation

This includes the King James Bible (KJV) and the New American Standard (NAS). Many people consider this type of translation to be the most accurate as the scholars translated the scriptures one word at a time to preserve the original sentence structure. The down side of the “Word to Word” translation is that they can be difficult to read, especially for children.

2) Thought for Thought Translation

This includes the New International Version (NIV) and New Living Translation (NLT). The goal of this theory of translation is to produce the closest natural equivalent of the thought expressed by the original text. The “Thought for Thought” translations are easier to read, however, the scholars have made some judgment calls. They are not considered as accurate as a “Word for Word” translation.

3) Paraphrase Translation

This would include The Message Bible and The Living Bible. These translations are written in modern English and easy to read, however one man usually does all the writing, so they are not considered to be literal translations.

Personally, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is my favorite for Bible study, but it is at a 10th-grade reading level.

For kids, I like the NIV. If my goal is getting kids to actually read the Bible then it is critical that I use a Bible that is easy for kids to read.

Here is a helpful link to a Translation Comparison Chart: http://www.apbrown2.net/web/TranslationComparisonChart.htm

Once you have made a decision about the translation I suggest taking a trip to your local Christian Book Store to look at the selection of Kids Bibles.

You will want to ask the following questions:
• How large is the print?
• How heavy is the paper?
• Should I purchase a soft cover or hard cover Bible?
• Are the colors attractive to children?
• Are the charts and supplemental material helpful or distracting?

As you answer these questions keep in mind the goal is to purchase a Bible that encourages your kids to read the Bible.

After you have done your research I suggest involving your kids in the process of making this decision.

You can do this by selecting three Bibles that you feel good about and then let your son or daughter make the final decision. This will give them a sense of ownership for “their” Bible.

Let your child take their Bible for a test drive by asking them to read a few verses in the gospel of John. If they are struggling with the words you may need to pick a different translation.

(This may seem like a lot of work just to pick out a Bible for your child, but think about how much work you put into preparing dinner for one day.)

Of course, you may pick out the perfect Bible for your kids, but there is no guarantee they are going to read it. In fact, if you just hand them the Bible the chances are they won’t read it. You need to have a strategy for helping your kids develop the habit of reading their Bible.

Here are my suggestions for developing reading habits:

For Home:

• Have a regular time of the day that you sit down with the family for 10 – 15 minutes.
• Pick one Bible Story to read.
• Focus on the Gospels, Acts, and the historical books.
• Make sure everyone has the same translation.
• Go around the circle. Everybody gets a turn reading a few scriptures at a time.
• After reading the Bible story ask this question, “What did you get out of it?”
• If nobody has anything to say then read the story again. Eventually, they will get the point that you want them to use their brain when they read the Bible. (This is key.)

For Church:

• Use the same system at church during small group time with your 3rd – 5th graders.
• If one child is not a good reader then give them a pass on the reading part.
• I encourage you to build Bible reading into your programs at church.

Kids need to know how to read the Bible and get something out it.

It’s the most important discipleship skill you can teach your kids because it is the primary way the God speaks to us today.

Ten to fifteen minutes per day is all that it takes.

Mark Harper

Pastor, Filmmaker and Coach, Mark Harper has over 30 years of experience in the local church. He is the creator of the Super Church 2.0 Curriculum, which is used in over 5,000 churches worldwide. The focus of Mark’s ministry is helping leaders build strong churches and helping parents build strong families.
Not only has Mark served in the local church as pastor, associate pastor, and family ministry pastor but he is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team.
Mark Harper

5 thoughts on “How to Get Kids to Read the Bible

  1. Barb Mahy says:

    Love your insight, and will try this. I have just started making a cardstock book mark with the Bible reading plan and corresponding pictures for the month – with just a few pre-selected chapters for each week for kids to read WITH their parents, and with a place for the parents to initial. We hole punch the top and provide different color yarn for the kids to decorate their book marks with pom poms, markers, etc. So far the kids are excited about it. When they bring in bookmarks with parents initials each week we recognize and reward them. So far, so good.

  2. David L. Barnes says:

    This is great information that I’m going to share with Kids Ministry leaders and with parents. I really like the explanation of the three types of Bible translations. I’m not sure very many people understand these distinctions.
    During the 18 years I served our church as Kids Pastor, I progressed through several different translations to use with the kids but I favored the International Children’s Bible which is an easy-to-read version taken from the New Century Version. However, I found that it was not as readily available for purchase, so I began to point parents to the NIrV as an easy-to-read version for their kids.
    Now that I’m preaching to adults, I find that I’m liking the New Living Translation the best. The NLT seems less stilted and clumsy than the NIV. While I love the KJV that I grew up with and that I heard preached from, it is awkward in teaching and preaching to constantly be explaining the meaning of words or language we no longer use. However, because of the large number of books and passages that I memorized in Teen Bible Quiz and in Bible School, I end up quoting from the KJV in my preaching. It’s just so ingrained.
    One more suggestion to get your kids into the Bible is take advantage of the audio versions that are readily available through sources such as the YouVersion app. I had read the through the Bible many times over the years since childhood, but a couple years ago I thought I would try something different and listen to the Bible. I have been surprised at some of the insights I had missed and things I have learned that I had overlooked when reading.
    “So then faith comes by HEARING, and HEARING by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 😉

  3. Samuel Ytuarte says:

    Thank you for sharing the info, very useful. We bought the NIrV for our twins and they love it. I want to check out the YouVersion app for the audio version and see what our kids think of it.

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