For the last few months my husband and I have really been struggling with family scripture study. We don't have a problem remembering to do it. Our problem is how to keep it from degenerating into total chaos and mayhem which ends with someone throwing a tantrum in the middle of the floor... and it isn't always a child. It is hard for me to admit that I dread family scripture "study" and every morning I wonder why in the world we keep doing it if no one ever pays the least amount of attention.
When I went to the LDS Holistic Living Conference several weeks ago I went to a lecture about how to have an effective family devotional given by Diann Jeppson, one of the authors of "A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion". After her lecture I realized that my husband and I had been going about family scripture study in completely the wrong way. When we first got married our routine was to read a chapter together every day from the Book of Mormon and then discuss what we had read. After we had children we still held to the same pattern and each morning would read, wrestle, bellow, and time-out our way through at least a column of verses.
Yet in her lecture Diann Jeppson said that since children love stories the best way to read the scriptures with them is to focus on understanding the significant stories instead of trying to read straight though a book of scripture. She suggested getting a large print version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon (like the ones sold here) and then going through and marking the main stories in them. She has even made a list of biblical highlights for young children so that it is easy to go through your Bible and Book of Mormon and mark the stories. Then she suggested that each day during family scripture study you just read the next highlighted story, focusing on talking about what is going on, what lessons are being taught by the story and how the young children can apply the story. She also suggested using the gospel art kit as a supplement so that when you read a story you have a picture to go along with it.
She also emphasized the need to read the ACTUAL scriptures with children and not just to read them the scripture readers or other books that summarize the stories. She said that it is so important that young children become familiar with the language of the scriptures. If children don't learn how to understand and read the language of scriptures it handicaps them as teenagers and adults. They aren't able to understand the doctrine behind the passage because they can't get past the unusual language and rhythm of the scriptures. She said that while the scripture readers are good supplements they shouldn't replace the actual scriptures.
After hearing Diane Jeppson's lecture my husband and I drastically changed how we did family scripture study and it has been a MIRACLE at how wonderful it has been going. The first thing we did was to pull out this book that my sister gave us for Christmas a few years ago.
It is a large print version of the Book of Mormon that already has the stories broken down into short easy to read sections (the perfect length for 3-year-olds!) and has lots of pictures to go along with the stories. Here is what the inside looks like:
Every morning I just skip ahead to the next page in the book that has a picture or a good story on it. Then we read a section of scriptures and talk about what is happening in the story. Since my kids can't read yet we just have them repeat back to us one verse. This book has really been wonderful for our family and there are other ones for the Old Testament and the New Testament which I think we might get in the future. I also think that I am going to take Diann Jeppson's suggestion and get large print versions of the scriptures and then go through and mark all the stories of women in the scriptures in them. That would sure be a fun way to do family scripture study!
The other thing we did that has helped our mornings was to change our morning "scripture study" to our morning "devotional". We realized that we had already created such a negative connotation with the term scripture study in our house that we needed a whole new word. The day we started our new approach to reading the scriptures with the kids we started calling it "devotional" and it has really helped our morning morale.
I am sure that our routine and approach to scripture study will change as our children get older, but for right now this has been a huge improvement for us! I feel like now we are actually "studying" the scriptures with our children on their level and having significant spiritual conversations rather than just reading a whole bunch of words. And it has been weeks since anyone has thrown a tantrum in the middle of the floor!
But I am curious... What has worked for family scripture study in your house.... with little kids, big kids, or anyone in between?