I Need That Book!
The story of Mary Jones
by Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To celebrate the enjoyment of books and reading, with reference to Bible Sunday on 23 October 2016.
Preparation and materials
Prior to the assembly, ask some children to bring their favourite books and to be ready to speak briefly about them.
Optional: the telling of the story in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, might be supported with the following objects:
- a large family or pulpit Bible (churches often have an old one that they might loan)
- a bundle of thick twigs
- two or three eggs
- a small pair of women’s black shoes or plimsolls
- a personal Bible
Optional: you may wish to use the YouTube video about the story of Mary Jones, which is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP6qFQyzCGA. (You will also need the means to display it, if so.) It is 7.05 minutes long. Alternatively, you may like to use the video for background information.
Start by encouraging everyone to think about the books they enjoy reading. Which ones are their favourites? Invite some of the children to come forward and share their favourite book. Books can take readers on a journey of imagination, discovery, understanding and even faith.
Ask the children how far they would go to get hold of a book. Recall the enthusiasm that was shown when the final titles of the Harry Potter series were placed on sale: there were queues outside bookshops all night! Otherwise, books can be easily bought online, or from a local bookshop or borrowed from a library. Where are these found locally? How far is it to the nearest bookshop and library?
Observe that, in past times, books were not widely read nor easily found. Introduce the story of Mary Jones, who wanted a book more than anyone might imagine.
The story of Mary Jones
Just over 200 years ago, a young girl named Mary Jones lived at Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, in the Welsh hills. There were no books in the simple stone cottage that was her home. Neither Mary nor her parents could read.
But Mary enjoyed listening to the Bible being read at church, and with the help of her parents, she learned parts of it by heart, in the Welsh language. Mary also liked to visit a farmhouse where the Evans family lived. They owned a large family Bible. Mrs Evans promised that, if Mary learned to read, she would be allowed to use it.
Mary was ten when she heard the exciting news that a school was to be opened a few miles from her home. Every day, in all weathers, she walked to school and back. Soon, Mary could read Mrs Evans’ Bible and longed for a Bible of her own.
Mary was so determined to save enough money to buy her own Bible that she did jobs for other people, such as ‘picking sticks’ to help light cottage fires. She kept some hens and sold the eggs that they laid. She worked and saved for six years until she finally had enough money to buy her own book!
Then, word came that a minister in the town of Bala had some Bibles for sale. Bala was 26 miles away. So Mary, then aged 15, set out barefoot across the hills, carrying her money and her only pair of shoes, which she would wear when she reached the town.
Hearing the purpose of her visit, people in Bala made her welcome and pointed her to the house of the minister, Thomas Charles. He listened to Mary’s story. She told of her long wait of six years, and her long walk of 26 miles to buy her Bible. Sadly, Thomas Charles told Mary that although he did have three Bibles, they were all promised to other people.
Imagine how Mary felt. She was so tired and disappointed that she burst into tears and sobbed. Thomas Charles thought again. He could see how much Mary wanted a Bible to read. And he knew that one of the people he was saving a Bible for would understand. He gave Mary one of the Bibles after all.
Mary stayed at Bala overnight, and the following morning, she set out for home, retracing her steps through the hills and carefully carrying her precious book!
Explain that this amazing story has been retold through the years, and that sometimes, the details vary. But Mary Jones did work and save for six years, and did walk 26 miles because she wanted a book – the Bible – so much.
Repeat the earlier question: how far would you go to get hold of a book? The story of Mary Jones tells us that books can indeed take readers on a journey of imagination, discovery, understanding and even faith!
If any local churches are celebrating Bible Sunday on 23 October, explain that the long wait, and walk, of Mary Jones reflects the importance of the Bible to those of the Christian faith. Having seen Mary’s desire for a Bible, Thomas Charles began to work with others for Bibles to become more widely available to people like her. He went on to found the British and Foreign Bible Society, which aimed to help as many people as possible to own a Bible in their own language. Today, the Bible Society and its supporters still work to distribute Bibles that people can read and understand.
Time for reflection
Let’s be quiet for a few moments while we think about books.
Let’s think about:
- the books that you enjoy reading
- the many books in school
- the books we can borrow from the library
- the books that we can easily buy
Let’s be thankful:
- for books
- for the challenge and fun of learning to read
- for journeys of imagination and discovery
- for journeys of understanding and faith