As parents, “to do” lists often feel endless. Between soccer practice and ballet, church activities and chores, families tend to lead full and busy lives. So when someone suggests parents should also be “building literacy” or “building Biblical literacy” in addition to everything else they do, we may feel intimidated or overwhelmed.
How can kids’ time at home help inspire a love of reading? How can the content we read help them engage and understand the Bible and learn to apply its teachings to their lives?
Thankfully, it doesn’t take a lot of special programs or complicated routines to encourage both.
Literacy starts, as it turns out, with something as simple as making sure your child has access to good books to read–including their own age-appropriate Bible. The Educating Testing Service has found the more types of reading materials there are in the home, the more proficient young readers will become.
After you stock up on reading material from the school or local library, your school’s book fair, or the Sparkhouse Family online store, here are some tips to get your family hooked on reading.
- Put reading materials everywhere kids are. Place reading materials in various places around your home and in your car or travel bag, so that reading can become a “go to” activity when your kids have down time. Pulling out a book for them to look at while sitting at the doctor’s office or in the cart at the grocery store reinforces that reading isn’t an activity reserved only for bedtime or the classroom, but can be enjoyed anywhere!
- Celebrate when you acquire new books! Make reading an event that kids look forward to by planning special trips to the library. Prepare special snacks and arrange a comfortable reading area to help your kids settle in and get cozy with their books.
- Set aside daily reading time. Designate the first 20-30 minutes after school or after dinner as reading time or set aside the last few minutes before bed for reading one or two Bible stories together. It also can be helpful to require that kids read before they’re allowed to use any electronic devices. Make sure you let your children see you reading books, and your Bible, throughout the week too. This models the importance of reading.
- Teach pre-readers to engage the content of the book even if they can’t yet read the words. Ask your kids to tell you what they see on each page of a picture book. Or prompt them to find certain items, answer questions about what a character might be feeling, or describe what is happening. When they read their Bible, ask them what they think the story and pictures might teach them about God. This helps kids begin to grasp that stories have meaning and conditions them to look for meaning when they read.
- Talk about reading. With older children, ask them if they read any books at school during the day or how they enjoyed the material they read at home. Invite them to tell you what happened in the book, how they liked it or felt about it, and what kind of book they’d like to explore next. When talking about Bible stories, be sure to ask what they think the story teaches them about trusting God in real life. It can also be helpful to ask them to imagine a scenario where they might be able to apply what they learned from the Bible story.