You probably never really thought about the need for you as a volunteer Bible class teacher to help your students with their reading comprehension skills. After all, doesn’t their ‘regular” school take care of that? Yes and no.
Schools do work with students on different types of reading comprehension. As a series of books translated from other languages into English though, the Bible needs a few extra reading comprehension skills for your students to consistently understand what they are reading.
You don’t have as much class time as a regular school teacher does, but there are still some things you can do to help your students better understand what they read in the Bible.
- Provide NIrV Bibles. Most Bibles have a reading level of 7th-12th grade. Which means for most of your students, those versions are difficult if not frustration level texts. They won’t be able to de-code, much less understand many of the words. This can cause them to hate reading the Bible – the book they need to love reading the most. The NIrV is written on a third grade reading level – making it easier to read and understand.
- Read scripture to students. Since the Bible is translated from the original languages, the phrasing may sound awkward – even when translated into English. Some of the Bible is also poetry and other literary forms not as familiar to your students – even in secular works. Reading the Bible aloud – even a few verses every class – gets them used to hearing the Bible’s rhythms.
- Ask them what they think it means. When you read verses to your students, don’t immediately explain what they mean. Ask them what they think it means. Have them give you clues in the text for why they came to that conclusion. For example if you area reading about Moses destroying the tablets with the Law written on them, a student may say Moses was angry. Have them explain what words in those verses made them decide Moses was angry.
- Teach them how to work on comprehension during their independent Bible reading. Encourage them to go slowly and not speed through Bible reading just to be able to say they finished reading the Bible quickly. Teach them to ask themselves every few verses what they think they just read. Tell them to see if they can re-state the passage in their own words. Explain to them that if they feel confused or something doesn’t really make sense, then they should ask an adult to help them understand what they read.
- Show students resources for finding the meaning of unfamiliar words and other more difficult aspects of reading the Bible. Make sure you give them well vetted sources (preferably online) they can safely use. Otherwise, students may click on the first Google response to their question which may or may not be biblically accurate.
- Remind students reading and understanding the Bible is crucial to being able to do what God wants them to do. That is why so many people have being willing to die over the centuries – to make sure people had access to read the scriptures for themselves. Your encouragement can help students get through the rough patches in learning to be comfortable reading the Bible on their own.
Taking the time to teach students Bible reading comprehension will make it easier for them to develop independent Bible reading habits. Staying in scripture for their entire lives will also help them stay strong spiritually for the rest of their lives. It is most definitely worth your time and effort.