As our youngest asks, "Can we have The Reading now?", we realize that he really enjoys our family scripture reading. We also look forward to reading the scriptures with our children because it gives us a great opportunity to teach them the gospel and assist them in building their testimonies. There are several things which help us to create this atmosphere for learning and closeness.
One thing we attempt to do is set a casual atmosphere where our children feel our love for them. So we try to not push them beyond their attention span, expect them to hold perfectly still, automatically understand Old English, or grasp new concepts on their own. As we relax, our children ask more questions and everyone feels more at ease in sharing personal experiences. One question frequently asked by our youngest is, "What does that mean in other language?" The "other" language is words he knows. As our younger children draw, do a craft, or some other quiet activity, we use questions directed just to them to bring them into the discussion. We gradually increase their involvement as they mature. We begin with simple plot questions of "and then what did Ammon do?" and ease into questions which help them discover basic principles in the stories - such as courage and honesty. Another way we keep our reading time more relaxed and enjoyable is by following our scripture reading with reading from other good books. We are careful, though, to clearly distinguish the "real" scriptures from the "pretend" stories. This gives us more time together as a family, replaces most TV watching, encourages a love of good literature, and gives the children an extra incentive to remind us to have "The Reading", so we are more consistent.
We also attempt to help our children relate to the people in the scriptures, and find the answers to their own problems. Pictures, the Church Scripture Readers and videos all assist us, as does discussing how this person might have felt and how we would feel and act in a similar situation today. Discussion helps our children to internalize the examples and principles we are reading. We ask many questions. We even begin our reading with a review question, like "Where did we leave Nephi?" This reminds us that we are reading about real people and gets everyone instantly involved. Our older children are challenged with difficult questions such as, "Why would the Lord have Nephi kill Laban?" We hope that learning to question and answer questions will strengthen their testimonies and prepare them for future missions.
The ingredient which holds both our attention and our hearts is humor. When my husband reads, he often inserts the child's name into the scripture or says that Paul wrote some advice for one of them. The child catches him, we laugh, and he rereads the scripture correctly. Once he authoritatively delivered Paul's advice to teenagers; "Greet one another with a holy kiss." But besides keeping attention, it helps us all realize that the scriptures are there to help us individually. Tongue in cheek, we see ourselves when we insert a few modern things such as Nintendo games and blow dryers into the list of items that Lehi and his family left behind them in Jerusalem.
It requires a joint effort between my husband and myself to make our reading time go as we would like. We feel that the time we spend questioning, sharing personal experiences and extra information from footnotes, maps, Bible dictionary, Ensign articles and seminary, helps all of our testimonies grow. Since I have more time to read and enjoy doing research, I study ahead so I can add to the discussion. We both bring up questions and explain ideas as we feel impressed. To enable us to cover the important principles and stories in the entire book of scripture, as my husband reads he omits sections which might be of little interest to our children such as the "begats". Some sections, for instance Revelations, he just summarizes, and then we discuss it.
We enjoy reading scriptures as a family because during this special time we share our feelings and experiences. We share our faith, questions, hopes, humor, love and testimonies more fully as we read the scriptures than we do at any other time. Reading scriptures together has strengthened not only our love for the Savior but our love for each other.