How to make family scripture study fun, interesting

We have found the following to be key elements in helping children appreciate and enjoy scripture study:

Start young. My wife and I started reading with our children at the earliest possible age. The scriptures were used as our children's first "reader." Even though they could initially read only the most basic of words, such as "a" and "the," they enjoyed being able to participate with their parents in reading.- Read actual scriptures. King Benjamin "caused that [his children] should be taught in the language of his fathers that they might become men of understanding . . . [otherwise they] must have suffered in ignorance." (Mosiah 1:2-3.) The language of the fathers for us today is the King James version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

Study topics as well as stories. We have found that linking several scriptures into topics can assist our children to not only learn the scriptures and to become familiar with them, but also to have a better grasp of gospel principles. The "Topical Guide" section of the LDS edition of the Bible is of great assistance in this objective and can help in discovering hidden treasures.

Include games and activities. Many games and fun activities can be developed that will help in reinforcing the concepts of the scriptures. Parents can design games or discover many different and fun concepts in activity books written by Church members.

Allow personal expression. Reading scriptures takes on a whole new meaning if the child is expected to report on what he or she has read.

Form a habit. We have found that the best time to read is early in the morning. Our children now expect to read every morning and are disappointed when they are not able to read. Daily reading makes this a habit which, like any other habit, becomes expected and desired - sort of second nature. - Robert E. Hales, Orange, Calif.

How we did it:

Variety is spice

Variety is the spice of scripture study. In family home evening, we counsel together on how to study the scriptures and then pray for confirmation that the approaches chosen will be beneficial. Some ideas that have proven fun and rewarding include studying scriptures in relation to a special event, such as Easter or a baptism; changing readers when a certain common word such as "and" or "the" appears in the scriptures; and changing direction of readers when a punctuation mark is encountered.

We were surprised how much more the children would remember when the scripture study was approached as a game. Remember, the key is to decide as a family on an approach to take and get confirmation from the Lord to find the best approaches for your family. - Ralph J. Abel, Waldorf, Md.

Visual image

One thing that has recently worked for us is using the Gospel Art Picture Kit, produced by the Church. We put the picture or pictures corresponding with that week's reading out for everyone to see and think about. Then as we read about that part of the scriptures we have a visual image of what we are reading. We also read the synopsis on the back of each picture and discuss it.

Our children have been more interested in reading the scriptures and cannot wait to see next week's pictures. - Dan and Amy Stratton, Inyokern, Calif.

Makes it worthwhile

Our six children range in age from 3 to 15 and so scripture study has to be quite diversified. We play "fill-in-the-blank" with the scriptures and have found this to be fun for all ages. I simply scan ahead while reading and find an appropriate place to create a blank. Our younger children may be asked to fill in a word finishing a very familiar phrase. Our oldest child and only daughter is given a harder fill-in-the-blank. Sometimes there is a lucky guess, and sometimes it's quite humorous.

It's amazing how the consistent spirit of the scriptures produces very accurate answers when guessing. This method requires that the children pay attention to what is being read. That in itself makes it worthwhile. - Thelma Gunter, Greenville, S.C.

Act out stories

The most fun is acting out stories during family home evening and including appropriate pictures to color. We encourage reverence, but the children are most cooperative when they can follow along and read themselves. - Kim Wilcox, Pearland, Texas

Prayer, scriptures

We call our family scripture study "P.S.P," meaning prayer, scriptures and prayer. Each family member has a day of the week to offer the opening prayer. We take turns, youngest to oldest, reading from one verse up to two minutes per person with readers helping non-readers. Dad usually conducts, thanks each member as they finish their turn and assigns the closing prayer.

When guests are present, we invite them to take a turn. If we are away from home for the evening and do not have our scriptures with us, we recite favorite verses. P.S.P. is fun! - Charles Urban family, Toms River, N.J.

Apply the scriptures

Begin young children by letting them read the easy familiar words while parents help with the harder words. Start with the basics, "a," "and," "the," "I," "ye," and build their confidence with praise. Teach new words every day at their pace, not pushing. Explain the meaning of difficult words.

Teach them to apply the scriptures by asking, "How would you feel if you were there?" or "What would you do?" Continuously tell them how well they are reading and how they are pleasing Heavenly Father. - Shaunna Muir, Mesquite, Texas

Use helps

Start when children are so young that they'll never remember when you didn't have family scriptures; be consistent. Never criticize their answers; help them work through their thought processes to a better understanding. Use all the helps, including the footnotes, Bible Dictionary and the Joseph Smith Translation. - Jan and Clarence Dickson, Hawthorne, Calif.

Morning devotional

Our family scripture time has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable parts of our day. It has evolved into a morning devotional lasting about 15 minutes when we sing, study and pray.

We have found that each of these three elements is important to inviting the Spirit, calming our spirits, and helping us to really study and learn from the scriptures. We asked our four daughters what has made family scripture time fun and interesting:

"We don't just read. If we don't understand, we explain it." - Elise, 8.

"We have family prayer." - Amy, 11.

"We sing a Primary song or Church hymn." - Jeanine, 12.

Sometimes "we act out the [scripture] stories." - Rachelle, 4.

Our girls have learned to love their scriptures. - Brent and Sharon K. Fisher family, Brea, Calif.

How to checklist:

1 Invite Spirit; begin, close with prayer; sing songs, hymns.

2 Seek to understand scriptures; use study helps.

3 Add variety; use activities, pictures; take turns reading.

4 Start family scripture study when children are young.

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Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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