I Want That Book
The story of Mary Jones
by Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To celebrate our enjoyment of books and reading by considering Mary Jones’ search for a Bible.
Preparation and materials
- Prior to the assembly, ask some children to bring in their favourite books and be ready to speak briefly about them.
- If possible, have a range of Bibles available to show the children.
- Optional: you may wish to show a YouTube video about the story of Mary Jones, in which case you will also need the means to do so. It is 7.05 minutes long and is available at: https://youtu.be/EP6qFQyzCGA
Alternatively, you may wish to use the video for background information.
- Start by encouraging everyone to think about the books that they enjoy reading. Which ones are their favourites?
Invite some of the children to come forward to share their favourite book.
Tell the children that 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. Sometimes, people queue outside bookshops all night to get their hands on a popular book as soon as it is published! Otherwise, we can buy books online or from a local bookshop, or borrow them from a library.
Ask the children the following questions.
- Where can we find bookshops and libraries locally?
- How far away are they?
- Observe that, in past times, books were neither widely read nor easily found.
Introduce the story of Mary Jones, who wanted a book more than we can imagine. Tell the story of Mary Jones and her Bible.
The Story of Mary Jones
Over 200 years ago, there was a young girl named Mary Jones, who 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.
However, Mary enjoyed listening to the Bible being read in church. 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, and 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 also 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, but Mary, who was now 15, set out barefoot across the hills. She took her money with her 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 as she described her long wait of six years, and her lengthy walk of 26 miles to buy a Bible. But then, Thomas Charles reluctantly 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 then set out for home the following morning, retracing her steps through the hills and carefully carrying her precious book!
- Explain that this amazing story has been retold many times over the years, and sometimes, the details vary. But Mary Jones did work and save for six years, and she did walk 26 miles because she wanted a book – the Bible – so much.
Repeat the question in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2: 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!
- The story of Mary Jones shows us how important the Bible is to those of the Christian faith. Having seen Mary’s desire for a Bible, Thomas Charles began to work with others to make Bibles more widely available to people like her. He went on to set up 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 we enjoy reading
- the many books in school
- the books that 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
- Encourage the children to look at different styles of Bibles and other faith books. Maybe they could rewrite their favourite faith stories and make a class book.