Everyone loves a good story. We all love to tell them and we all love to listen to them. Story telling is the way we make sense of the world and our place in it. From TV news broadcasts, soaps and documentaries to social and print media, books and film, our lives are full of stories. Teachers, parents and carers alike all know the value of a good story.
The Bible is often described as the greatest story ever told – the story of God’s interaction with his world and its people. With 66 books and some 40 authors, it spans thousands of years of history from the beginning of our universe to the establishment of the Christian church. It even ends by talking about the eternal future of humanity – no other history book does that! But the Bible isn’t just a history book. All of contemporary life is there in the stories – love, hate, jealousy, greed, families, sibling rivalry, heroism, bravery, friendship and self-sacrifice.
In 1999, a group of Christians in Bedford started telling these stories in school assemblies/acts of collective worship. But this was no dreary reading of the Bible. The stories were brought to life through interactive drama using mime, costume, props, puppets and sound effects. Children, and even staff, got involved. The concept became so popular that Open the Book became a national charity and, in 2013, part of the Bible Society. Thousands of children for whom the Bible might have remained a closed book have seen it come alive in front of them.
Open the Book is a three year rolling programme of themed and dramatised Bible story telling. Stories are from the child-friendly Lion Storyteller Bible written by the internationally known children’s storyteller Bob Hartman. Teams of volunteers formed from local churches provide assemblies at no charge to schools. Each story takes between 10 and 15 minutes to tell so it can stand alone or be incorporated into an assembly. There is also an introduction and conclusion for each story, a time of quiet reflection and the option of a prayer, carefully worded to respect the different backgrounds of all children present.
The strength of Open the Book is that the team will come weekly – this isn’t just a one-off visit. Storytellers are given the option to be trained and they stay within the legal requirements for collective worship – stories are simply presented without any teaching or application. Demands on the school are minimal and volunteers understand their role as invited guests in each school. There are several benefits to schools inviting a team to share with them, not least the fact that OFSTED and SIAS reports are very positive. It also gives an opportunity for local churches to work together, for schools to meet local Christians, and for children to hear stories which are important for them to know.
Children are overwhelmingly positive about Open the Book – many have never heard the stories before. They say that it seems as though the stories are really happening, that Open the Book is their favourite assembly each week and that they love seeing the teams in school.
If you work in a school, perhaps you could think about inviting a team into your school. If you love sharing Bible stories with children, perhaps you could become a trained volunteer. If you are part of a church, perhaps you could encourage your church to form an Open the Book team. Whoever you are and whatever your role, as a parent, governor, member of staff or a member of a local church, you could play a part. You only need to Google ‘Open the Book’ to see just how many schools are enjoying the opportunity. Why not make your school one of them?
To find out more, visit the Open the Book website, which is full of information for schools, churches and volunteers. To get involved or if you have any questions , email the team at [email protected]