Accessing God’s word with reading difficulties
If you or your kids struggle with reading, it can feel hard to access God's word well. In one of our Facebook Lives for parents and carers, Rachel shared her experience and ideas.
For Christians, the Bible is so important – it is the word of God that anchors us, feeds us, guides us, comforts us, brings us truth – and we want our children to be able to access it well. But many children have dyslexia or dislike or struggle with reading. In this Facebook Live, Rachel shares ideas for how we can enable children and young people to access the truth of the Bible without expecting them to memorise it or read great chunks.
As usual, there were three separate Facebook Live sessions: one for under-5s, one for 5–11s and one for pre-teens and teens. You can see each of these videos below, and we’ve added some notes below.
Pre-teens and teens
As under-5s, not many of our children will be reading, but some of us may have dyslexia or find accessing the Bible hard, or you may have spotted something in your kids.
At this age, we want to share the Bible and we can feel the pressure to read it to our kids. But it’s not just an activity of reading: it’s much bigger than that. It’s a time for them to:
- give them an understanding of who God is
- give them a sense of how to listen to the stories of God and find themselves in the stories.
But how they access the Bible is up to you, and how you train your kids to access the Bible is up to you.
Choose ways of accessing scripture that work for you all.
- The See With Me Bible – a Bible with no words that you share using your knowledge of stories
- Use an audio Bible or other picture Bibles – you can use the pictures and add your own version of the story rather than reading their text
- Weave the stories of God into everyday life – for example, crossing the Red Sea in the bath, use toys to tell them, draw the story or dress up
- And then add questions, comments, start conversations that show your child that scripture is important and it helps you connect with God – for example: ‘This story is in the Bible, let me tell you about it’; ‘I wonder what this tells us about what God is like’, ‘When I hear this story, it makes me think God is strong. What does it make you think?’
Listen together to stories that weave the whole Bible together
Some books aren’t just Bible stories, but weave scripture together to show the big picture of who God is and what he does. You can read these to your children or enjoy the audio versions
Model how the Bible truths impact your life
We want our children to learn that the stories in the Bible are important in everyday life.
- Talk about the impact a story has on you
- Tie in their everyday experiences to Scripture
5–11s and pre-teens and teens
We know that the Bible is essential for our kids’ faith journeys because being rooted in scripture anchors us as life chops and changes around us. The Christian world encourages children and young people to read the Bible every day, to do Bible studies, to memorise scripture – but when we do this, we can accidentally equate scripture with words. How can we help children and young people access scripture and all the benefits of scripture without it getting up in the stress of reading?
But accessing and understanding scripture doesn’t only depend on reading and memorising. There are many other ways to access scripture. You know your kid best and you will know which of these will work for them.
Create a bucket of stories
The Bible is where we learn who God is and how he interacts with us, so help your kid access it with someone else reading or telling the stories. For example:
- Use an audio Bible, such as the Jesus Storybook Bible. Bible Gateway have several different audio options which you can access for free.
- Read or listen to the Diary of a Disciple (this audio version is free to use); there is also a follow up book Diary of a Disciple: Peter and Paul’s story. The books are written using doodles and drawings as well as words.
- Use a picture Bible as a basis for retelling a story, such as the See With Me Bible.
- Tell the stories yourself – for example: ‘Have you ever heard of the story of the girl named Noah?’ Or ‘I really love this story – he was a worse parent than me!’
- Talk about the stories that impact you – so it’s not just ‘this is information you need to know’ but ‘in my life, this story means …’
Make scripture reachable
Help them find out how to access the right bit of Scripture when they need it. The Bible can feel inaccessible if you don’t know it well or struggle with reading.
- Create visual art around Bible truths: as you discover verses or truths that strike you, write it out and invite everyone to find ways to illustrate it, and then leave it on display as a tangible reminder of that truth of Scripture
- Highlight bits you love on post its and stick them up where they can be seen
- Display art of Scripture which speaks to you, or to them: for example as a screensaver, or draw it yourselves, use photos (including ones you take) – whatever works. You can find a lot of Bible art online.
- Help them annotate a full words Bible or use post its with clue words. Or give them a notebook and invite them to write down (or have you write down) any significant verses they hear so they can access the ones that are important to them easily.
- Biblica has an accessible New Testament with a simplified layout, large print and bespoke illustrations
Help them apply scripture to life
- Ask questions as you read – I wonder why? I wonder what God was doing there?
- Model how scripture connects to real life for you – this reminded me about …
Make it memorable
Memorising scripture is really hard for a lot of people. But we can help make scripture memorable. For example:
- Multi-sensory approaches – as you make bread, remember the verse about yeast working through the dough; as you see birds, recall what scripture says about the birds; watch YouTube videos.
- When you pray, use scripture as a focus for your prayer
Tie into encounter
The Bible isn’t just head knowledge; it’s heart knowledge
- Give them a chance to respond: through chat and catch, time spent in God’s presence
- Apps such as Lectio 365 helps you to reflect slowly on a passage of scripture
You might also be interested in: