How King James Can Boost Reading Skills

As your students move toward high school and college, reading skills become increasingly important. A student who grows up hearing and reading a wide variety of literature, both old and new, tends to be well prepared to be a strong reader and writer in adulthood. One of the most important and helpful things your student can read (even if you’re not a faith-based family) is the King James or Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible.

I grew up hearing my grandfather read from the KJV almost daily, and the beautiful rhythm and cadence of King James English permeated my thoughts, writing, and literary imagination from the time I was a very small child. This doesn’t mean I think in thee’s and thou’s, or use words like “verily” or “thence.” It means that when I encounter King James English in a Shakespearean play, Handel’s Messiah, or Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” it seems both clear and familiar, making it much easier to focus on the story and what it means. It means that when I encounter references to Jonah, a lion’s den, or a “Gadarene rush” in a newspaper editorial, I can easily identify the allusion and understand the point of the argument. I would suggest that few other literary works build understanding of vocabulary, syntax, and literary context in the way that this early 17th century translation can.

When to begin

How and when is the best time to introduce your children to the King James Bible (KJV)? My husband and I started very early with our family, just as our parents had started with us. In its pages we read stories — David and Goliath, Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, five loaves and two fishes, and so many more — poetry, sound advice from the Proverbs, and even bits of history. Sometimes the boys would illustrate or act out the stories, and sometimes we’d talk about “what if?” Because one short selection each day was a normal part of life and daily reading, it never seemed to occur to the boys that this book was any more difficult than any other.

During the years when our boys were learning to read and write, we also used a more modern translation for reading practice and copywork, so they would learn current punctuation and spelling conventions. Experiencing the stories, poetry, proverbs, and more in both King James and modern English was tremendously helpful to me in my college literature courses, and I believe it’s been a big help to the boys as well.

Both the King James and the Douay-Rheims offer much beyond just reading skills, but at the very least, they can increase understanding of literary allusions, boost vocabulary in preparation for the SAT or ACT, and provide   Once a student is reading fluently for learning and delight, he or she needs to be able to read and comprehend the kind of literature that is taught in high school and college. Beyond that, reading just one or two small selections every day can help families grow in wisdom and virtue, and that is a very good thing.

Tips for enjoying the King James

  • Begin with short selections (the younger the child, the shorter the selection). One brief story or parable is much more memorable and digestible than an entire chapter.
  • Let the passage speak for itself, especially if your goal is to establish a foundation of beautiful language.
  • Read expressively and at an appropriate speed for the content of the passage.
  • If you aren’t comfortable reading it, find a good audio version (the Max McLean reading at BibleGateway is very well done and free).
  • If you are doing picture study of a painting with a Biblical theme, read the associated story from the KJV or Douay-Rheims, as that is what the artist was most likely familiar with.


Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C.

BibleGateway: Many translations, both text and audio.

Charlotte Mason on Copywork


6 Responses

  1. Debbie says:

    I could not agree more. I started homeschooling two years ago and we read directly from the King James Version together. Some have told me that they do not want to read from the KJV to their younger children because they will not understand it. I told them that when we learn anything, it seems foreign to us at first, but as we continue to use the new information, it becomes so much clearer. It is the same for the KJV. One great item that we must not forget is that the Lord gives us the knowledge we need if we ask. He’s promised us that.

  2. Gerald (Jerry) Landis says:

    There are “church wars” on which local assembly
    is the best or most Scriptural! There are “Bible
    wars” on which translation is the best.

    I learned to read using the King James when my
    father and mother used it in family prayer and
    Bible readings.

    Certainly it is an excellent translation and a
    good standard and I believe we should use it
    as much as possible.

    Haaving a multitude of translations in a local
    church or Bible study group can cause confusion.

    Yet, I willnot choose to war with another brother
    who chooses to use another translation.

    Blessings .. when we get to heaven some of
    our little wars and battles as to what is right
    and wrong will soon be forgotten when we are at the that special place with our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • You are right — there is no theological reason to divide from others over translation. I recommend the KJV for literary value and beauty, but use other translations, too. Thank you for the comment!

  3. Jena says:

    When I got to college literature classes, I had a definite advantage over my classmates because I’d been reading the KJV for about 5 years (because I didn’t know there were any other translations out there!). I breezed through all the “difficult” language of the 16th and 17th Centuries because I was used to it.

    I’m glad I found your blog. I’m homeschooling high schoolers too. I’ll have to spend some time going over your archives. And thanks for installing my Daily Quote Widget.

  4. Tom Smedley says:

    All of our children were put to bed listening to an Alexander Scourby narration of the KJV. By the time they were six, they were assembling sentences rich in grammar, and elaborate in syntax. In casual conversation.

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