Spreading the gospel of literacy

7th May 1999 at 01:00
The Bible is full of drama and moral debate. Sarah Cassidy reports on moves to make more use of it in teaching the literacy hour.

THE Bible should be used to teach the literacy hour in all primary schools because of its dramatic stories, powerful imagery and treatment of moral issues, according to a literacy and RE consultant.

Its focus on character development and moral dilemmas make it an ideal resource, claims Margaret Cooling, a consultant to a Christian training and resource centre. Using religious stories to improve literacy should also protect RE's place in the primary curriculum while providing stimulating stories.

However, the format of the National Literacy Strategy has deterred many schools from using religious texts to boost reading and writing skills, she said.

The strategy is divided into two categories, fiction and non-fiction, and defines activities for each.

Many Christians refuse to have their sacred text described as fiction, but treating it as non-fiction under the literacy strategy means only limited activities can be carried out.

Mrs Cooling, a consultant at The Stapleford Centre, a Christian training and resource centre in Nottingham, wants the literacy strategy to reclassify texts as narrative or non-narrative. "Bible stories are good stories, she said.

Hollywood has recognised this from Cecil B DeMille's films to Disney's Prince of Egypt, the Bible has been a box office hit.

"Work on narrative sequence and what makes a good story can be done using Bible stories as subjects. It contains letters, proverbs, laws, instructions and many other types of text. "Schools are using it, but many more would do so if they had more advice about how to."

The Bible is not a children's book, but there are many suitable adapted titles on the market, she said. "RE is more than Bible stories: it needs its own special time with its own aims and objectives.

Some RE content can he covered in the literacy hour but, generally, RE texts used in literacy time will need following up in RE."

Martin Tibbetts, of the National Association for the Teaching of English said: "So the literacy hour is not only going to deliver 84 per cent of level 4 and above. It will save a few souls too - what stuff and nonsense! As the chair of NATE and a Christian, I've never mixed religion and politics."

The Stapleford Centre is running six regional one-day courses on how to use the Bible in the literacy hour.

Telephone 0115 939 4671 or email admin@stapIefordcentre.org for more details.

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