For most books, the reader starts at the first page and reads to the end of the story, and children see the Bible just like any other book.
Children’s Ministry Consultant with the Youth and Children’s Ministry Unit Mr Paul Yarrow says that we should discourage children from starting at Genesis and reading all the way to Revelation.
“Most adults read the Bible more like a magazine, reading a few pages here and jumping over and reading some more elsewhere, and we need to explain to children that the Bible is a collection of books written in many different styles by different people over a long period of time,” said Mr Yarrow.
“The Bible is a difficult book for children to read because of symbolic language and imagery. It is really a book for adults and we even struggle to understand at times.”
Mr Yarrow explained that, although the reader needs to be able to think abstractly in order to understand the parables, young children can still enjoy these and will often get a different meaning from stories than adults will.
“Trying to understand the Bible in 2005 is not easy because the experiences of the people in the Bible are so far removed from life today,” said Mr Yarrow.
“Few children could understand the life of a first century shepherd or fisherman and the Bible doesn’t even mention television, cars or the internet.”
Mr Yarrow believes that even contemporary Bibles are difficult for children to understand and that, even though the Bible may have an appealing cover and be an exciting gift to receive, reading it is a whole different matter.
“We wouldn’t dream of giving most children a copy of War and Peace to read because it’s a large book filled with small print and has no pictures.”
Despite the difficulties Mr Yarrow firmly believes that God speaks to children through the scriptures as much as to anyone else.
“While children can read the Bible, we need to be aware of the difficulties and teach them some basic skills for engaging with the scriptures.”
Photo : Chris from St Mark’s Mt Gravatt snuggles up with a good book. Photo by Bruce Mullan