Tom Rose, manager of Child and Youth Curriculum, Church Curriculum Department. The best time to begin preparing children to read the scriptures is as soon as they will listen while you read to them.
The Church has published four scripture storybooks on a second-grade reading level: Old Testament Stories (PBIC0336; $2.50), New Testament Stories (PBIC0347; $2.50), Book of Mormon Stories (PBIC0325; $1.75), and Doctrine and Covenants Stories (PBIC037A; $3.25).
These storybooks contain up to six full-color illustrations per page. With a very young child, you can simply point to the pictures and tell the story in very simple terms. Later you can read the words as the child follows along. As he gains reading skills, he’ll enjoy reading these books on his own, and reading them to younger brothers and sisters. Since reading levels don’t necessarily correlate with grade levels, he may be able to read them himself earlier than the second grade.
Cassette tapes containing powerful narrations with beautiful background music have been prepared for these books. The narrations follow the texts of the books exactly. One beep tells the child to go from one picture to the next; two beeps tells him to turn the page. Some young children have actually increased their beginning reading skills by following along with the tapes over and over again. (Three Old Testament tapes: VVOT0992: $4.00. Two New Testament tapes: VVOT1044; $3.00. Two Book of Mormon tapes: VVOT0697; $2.00. Tapes not yet available for Doctrine and Covenants Stories. Watch for announcement of availability during fall or winter of 1984.)
These scripture storybooks are doctrinally sound and scripturally accurate. At a tender age, children learn about Jesus Christ and the lives and teachings of the prophets. They begin to learn the names of scriptural characters and places and are introduced to gospel concepts. As they read, even young children begin to understand the messages of the scriptures, and their testimonies begin to grow.
An effective way to help young children become familiar with scriptural style is to encourage them to memorize selected passages. We’ve done this in our family and have found that young children are avid memorizers. One day, after we had been helping our older children memorize Alma 37:35, we noticed four-year-old Karilee walking around the house saying, “Learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” We were surprised—but pleased that at her young age she was becoming familiar with scripture wording and concepts.
When your child grows a little older and is ready for more advanced reading, the Church has provided an intermediate reader. The book Scripture Stories (PBIC0358; $3.95) is on a sixth-grade reading level, but many children are ready for it earlier. This excellent book contains stories from all the standard works and is specifically designed to help prepare children to read the actual scriptures. It contains many simple quotations from the scriptures and utilizes scripture style and vocabulary. Cassette tapes are also available for this book. (Seven tapes: VVOT1135; $10.00.)
All of these Church-produced materials are available at the Salt Lake Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. (Make check payable to Corporation of the President.)
Once your child is able to read Scripture Stories, he should be ready, with a little help, to read the Book of Mormon, which is on about a seventh-grade reading level. And after experience with the scriptural language and style in the Book of Mormon, he will be more prepared to understand the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Old Testament.
Of course, your children will be encouraged to study the scriptures if they see you reading them regularly, if you study them as a family, and if you discuss the stories and ideas. Because of this exposure, many children will want to turn to the actual scriptures much earlier than the grade levels of the books would indicate.
The Apostle Paul saw our days and warned: “In the last days perilous times shall come.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, … despisers of those that are good, …
“Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. …
“Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–4, 13.)
These are challenging times, both for parents and for children. However, Paul told Timothy how we can overcome evil:
“Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. …
“From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14–15.)
The scriptures can make us and our children “wise unto salvation.” If we help our children obtain the necessary skills and desires, scripture reading may become a regular part of their lives.