Biblios Secondary Teacher's Handbook By Terence Copley, Heather Savini, Karen Walshe, pound;14.95
Troubled People By Karen Walshe, pound;5.95
Mysterious Encounters By Terence Copley, pound;5.95
The Riddle of Destiny By Heather Savini, pound;5.95 Religious and Moral Education Press
Eleven to 14-year-olds are often vulnerable and troubled. These books and teacher's handbook are a well organised approach to using the Bible in RE as a resource for exploring the kinds of questions that young people find interesting. The books are a product of a research collaboration between the University of Exeter and the Bible Society and offer some engagingly subtle ways of using the Bible's narratives for learning. The writing team, who are alert to the significance of biblical material for Jews and Muslims, as well as for Christians, look at 18 biblical narratives, including some less obvious choices about prostitution, Armageddon and drunkenness. These feature alongside more familiar stories from the parables, the Creation narratives and the Beatitudes. The selection is balanced between the Jewish scriptures and the Christian New Testament.
There is a fresh feel to this work: challenging and reflective questions, the chance to use literacy strategies for real RE, and an integrity in the way the stories are approached combine to make an exciting set of links between the narratives and the pupils. For example, in work on the Tower of Babel, pupils are asked to examine questions of destiny and reflect on issues of self-centredness, plurality and human chaos.
The resources are not entirely consistent in the high standards set in some of the units: who needs the slightly old- fashioned tradition of biblical representation seen here? While many teachers will struggle to make all the resources and ideas work with the lower-achieving pupils in the 11to 14 age range, the focus on narrative means that entry points for all are straightforward.
A Jewish RE adviser recently lamented the slide of RE "from text to textbook". Pupils used to read the Bible. Now, where RE is poor, they are asked to do word-searches based on a third-hand rendition of a Bible story, with all the awkward God-talk taken out.
These new textbooks reverse the trend: they will encourage pupils to look at ancient texts for themselves, and will help them to see why these biblical narratives have outlasted so many of the other stories that we tell ourselves, and can still open minds today.
Lat Blaylock is RE adviser for RE Today