My kids can memorize just about anything if it's set to music. Doesn't matter what the topic is: the anatomy of a flower, countries of the world, presidents of the United States. If you give it a beat and make it (kind of) rhyme, then I can guarantee an almost 100% retention rate.
Now, applying and/or understanding that memorized data is a whole 'nother thing. Fifteen month-olds that sing the alphabet song are not, I'm sorry to tell you, brilliant. They are great parrots and deserve to be praised for being so stinking cute, but they're not destined to read any earlier than the toddler of the same age who invests all of his or her time in learning the theme song to Dora the Explorer. Don't think this is true? I present for your inspection my son Logan, who has a dizzying array of grammar tidbits stored in his brain. He can't use any of them (not yet) but he can spit them out at will and sound like a genius. Is Logan any more intelligent than a child who can recall with uncanny accuracy the batting averages of his favorite hitters? No. Logan has simply been exposed to a different set of norms, and it shows up in the fact that he can sing songs about articles of prepositions.
But there is something to be said for memorization. First of all, you can't recall important information if you never memorized it in the first place, now can you? And how would any of us have made it pre-cell phones if we hadn't learned to memorize digits in combinations of seven, and therefore call our bestest of the best friends?
Memorizing Scripture is a particular calling for Christians who believe that the Bible is God's Word. If a poem or limerick is worthy of space in our child's brain, how much more ought to be devoted to the life-altering, peace-offering words of the Lord?
For most children, the easiest way to soak in a few key truths from the Bible is through music. This is a large part of why those simple songs we learned in Sunday School were so effective; without realizing it, we befriended long-ago prophets, learned how to pray and marched alongside the saints who had gone before us. This is the power of song.
I myself have employed music in Scripture memorization since my children were old enough to join our local AWANA club. The cds offered through AWANA focus on the specific verses listed in the accompanying books and help a child virtually fly through the process. When we began using the cds offered through Sonlight, I saw an amazing jump in the complexities of what the children could retain. Flawless recitations of entire psalms became the norm. With this kind of foundation, deep dialogue could be started on the meaning behind what they were learning.
But it all started with the memorization.
In that vein comes the Bible Story Songs collection. While these cds are marketed towards children of all ages, I found that they were most appealing to--and appropriate for--young elementary students and preschoolers. The music is of the Sunday School variety (simple piano tunes with very little orchestration) and the vocals can be slightly grating. Jo could barely stand to be in the room with the cd on, but Oliver found its jumping melodies entirely danceable.
Bible Story Songs offers sheet music, coloring pages and other extensions through their website. Young students could easily use these cds as an entire memorization program: listening to the cds while you color would be a fun activity for just about any preschooler. I picture new Christians benefiting the most form this kind of simple study with their children. If you're daunted by the prospect of memorizing Scripure and want a starting place, this is a good first place to look.
The cd I reviewed centered on the book of Matthew and introduced actual Biblical text. And while I can't see any reason why a child really needs to know the genealogy of Jesus, it certainly isn't a bad thing to have in a corner of your brain. Who knows how that kind of information can be used later on? A deeper study into God's promises? A reminder that God's timing doesn't always reflect our own? A gentle nudge to reconsider those in our lives who don't seem to have very bright futures?
Who knows what God will do with the humble work we do in pouring Scripture out for our children to absorb? But one thing is for certain: a lifetime of God's Word recalled will never come back void.