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Tips for reading the Bible to children at bedtime

BIBLE
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Children love stories and some of the best are in the Sacred Scriptures.

The Bible, as we all know, is a veritable library: 73 books, among which there are historical narratives, poems, prayers, letters, etc. It’s can hard for us to get oriented, and some books are quite difficult to understand. So it is best to start with the stories that, filled with similes and twists of plot, capture a child’s attention, like the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, etc. Don’t try to interpret the stories or give long explanations: simply read the stories so that the children get familiar with the narratives of God’s People. 

Read just one episode at a time. It’s better to leave the child hungry for more than to oversaturate him or her. You don’t need to follow a strict chronological order; the Bible is not a simple history book. If your child wants to listen to a part that he or she is already familiar with instead of continuing on, you should respect that choice: this is how they can get to know the Bible at their own pace, re-reading the same passages over and over. 

Don’t forget the Gospels

Choose a few episodes from the life of Jesus that let your child see that Jesus was a human being like us in all things but sin. Also read the parables to them. Many are difficult because the main idea is not clear at first glance; nevertheless, stories like the lost and found sheep, the prodigal son, and the Good Shepherd will help your child get a sense of God’s love.

The miracles are not always easy to tell either, because you run the risk that the child becomes fascinated by the miracle itself without understanding its meaning. Miracles are a sign that the Kingdom of God is present among us: in other words, the important issue is that it is the love of God that saves us, not the spectacle of this or that miraculous cure. God is not a magician. He is much more and much better: He is a Father, all powerful in love. We should respect the original text as much as possible, even if it seems difficult. We should also try to promote “inner listening,” which is best done by avoiding any of our own comments. Remember that “God reveals himself to children before the sages and the learned”: as they listen to the Word, children often discover treasures that we hadn’t previously noticed. 

Read and meditate on the passages in the Bible before reading them to your children

If at all possible, before reading a passage from the Scriptures to your children, you should start by reading it yourself in the original text. And then meditate on it, “digest it” in prayer. Because the Bible is a living word. The more we live the word of God, the better we will know how to read the Bible in a “living” way, that is, as the word of the living God among us. 

It doesn’t matter so much if we don’t understand everything, that we don’t know anything or hardly anything about the context in which a given book was written or the latest scholarly interpretation. The two important points when we read or tell stories from the Bible to our children are that for us it is a living word and that we receive it in “the living Tradition of the whole Church.” In other words, that we should try to understand it and interpret it, not according to our own impressions, but in light of what the Church tells us. 

We don’t read the Bible to our children for them to “learn things” — instead, we want them to discover the love with which God loves them. The objective is not to get them to discover the Bible, but to have them discover God. That is why we cannot read the Bible apart from the Church, and we cannot properly read it without “living it” through prayer, the sacraments, and the very real love of Christ and our brethren. 

Christine Ponsard

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