Open the Book. [Feb. 2016]

‘Who would like to top and tail? Who’ll narrate? And we need volunteers to be the Centurion

 and Jesus.  We’ll ask some of the children to be soldiers’. Preceded by a prayer, so began a        recent Open the Book preparation meeting.


     The Open the Book scheme is a programme of themed and dramatised Bible stories from

   both the Old and the New Testaments which are taken into  primary schools by teams of

   volunteers. Begun in 1999 when a group of local  Christians began presenting Bible stories

   in their local primary schools in Bedfordshire, it has since expanded country wide,  becoming a

   national organisation in 2007, and is now administered by the Bible Society.


       The value of Open the Book has been recognised by Estyn, Ofsted and other educational

    bodies as contributing to the child’s religious, moral and spiritual education. Sessions

    usually take place as part of an assembly in the school.


         The Revd Alison Jones, our former curate, introduced the scheme as a new Ministry

    Area initiative in early 2014 and the project was launched in three local primary schools,

    Cila, Pen y Fro and Sketty, but by September, 2014, we had added a further three schools,

    Dunvant, Parkland and Brynamor, the latter with a Welsh speaking team and known as

    Agor y Llyfr.

       During the  school terms each of these schools is visited on a weekly basis. The project

    has become ecumenical as volunteers from other local churches have joined the team and is

    a positive example of Christians working together with a  common objective. The format

    and scripts for each session are followed closely and carefully as the material has to be

    suitable for children from multifaith backgrounds. Our aim is to familiarise them with some

    of the major, well-known stories from the  Bible. Whilst we are secure in our own faith, we

    are not there to proselytise. At  the very least it will introduce the children to Biblical events

    which are  depicted and referred to in Western literature, art and music and are part of our

    Christian heritage and which would have been familiar to past generations.


        Each session, which takes no longer than twenty minutes, begins with a brief

    introduction to the day’s story. That story, frequently taken from the Lion  Storyteller

    Bible, is then read and dramatised simply with the participation of  the team and some of

    the children. There follows a short conclusion and time  for reflection after which there is a

    prayer. The children are invited to say   Amen at the end if they wish to make it their prayer.


         Great acting skills are not required although a loud clear voice helps. The  group of

    volunteers is flexible and the teams going out to the schools vary  from week to week to

    take into account those who are unavailable for whatever reason. The planning meeting each

    week is of the utmost  importance and fairly chaotic. After prayer, we read through the

    story, decide  how we are going to present it, who is doing what on which day (we are not

    gender-specific), and how we can involve the children. We then have one or  two run

   -throughs for that day’s team with the others watching and adding suggestions and it often

    generates a lot of laughter. We also decide what props we need and, because we are doing

    it on a weekly basis, we keep them simple. In the school, the inclusion of some or all of the

    children also has to be straightforward as we have no time to rehearse them beforehand.

          We are fortunate in having an efficient administrator in the group who follows the

    meeting by sending a swift email confirming who is doing what, on which day, at what time

    and at which school. Invaluable!

        All volunteers have to have safeguarding checks. We follow the Open the Book

     code of practice strictly and work closely with the schools. We are sensitive to their needs

     and respect the fact that we are invited visitors. Apart from the value of the Bible stories to

     the children, the scheme fosters an important link between church and community. With

     several primary schools in our Ministry Area, it is an ideal way in which to work together

     and to get to know our friends from ther churches. Although we are deeply serious in our

     aims, we as individuals benefit too and derive great enjoyment from our contact with the

     children. We really need more volunteers. Have you thought of giving the scheme a try?

More information can be found on the website


Elaine C Gale

Team Leader