The Bible is different from most of the books your students are reading at school or independently. It’s translated from several languages and at times has a way of wording things that may sound a bit unusual in the students’ every day language.
The Bible also contains stories from other cultures unfamiliar to your students. As a result, even strong readers in school may struggle with independently reading the Bible. If we don’t help them with comprehension skills, the Bible will become a frustration text for many of them. This means they will associate the Bible with being too difficult to read. They may resist reading it for the rest of their lives – even after they have better comprehension skills.
There are a lot of things you can do to help, including making sure all of your students own an NIrV version, which is on a third grade reading level. There’s an activity you can do with them that will also help them slow down, think about what they are reading and seek help when it doesn’t make sense.
Start by reading them a short passage in the Bible that might be confusing to someone the age of your students. (Revelations is always good for this, although it may be a little too hard to use as an example with early readers.) Ask them if they understood what you read. Then ask them how it made them feel while you were reading it to them.
Explain to your students that God wants them to understand as much of the Bible as possible, so they learn what God wants them to know. Help them understand that even you sometimes need help to understand parts of the Bible. Encourage them to develop the habit of asking for help when a scripture doesn’t make sense instead of just speeding past it.
Teach your students to ask themselves three important questions whenever they read a story or passage in the Bible.
- Can I picture the story or passage?
- Can I retell the story or passage in my own words?
- Is there anything I don’t understand or that doesn’t make sense?
Teach students that if they answer “no” to these questions, it is important they go ask a trusted Christian adult to help them. Help them understand that reading the Bible without understanding it will not be as helpful as taking a little extra time to learn about what they read.
If your students are older, you can extend learning by teaching them how to find and use trustworthy resources when people aren’t available to help them. Revisit this activity periodically until students naturally ask themselves these questions and do something to increase their comprehension of what they are reading. It’s an important Christian life skill your students need to master.