07 February 2014
Bible stories vital for future generations
A former poet laureate has stressed the importance of Bible literacy among Britain’s children, after a poll revealed today’s young people know far less about scripture than their parents did.
“It's essential for us to keep these stories alive, regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack of them); they are indispensable to our understanding of the past, and to the enrichment of our present,” said Sir Andrew Motion, who was poet laureate until 2009.
He was commenting on the publication of a YouGov poll, commissioned by Alliance member Bible Society, which revealed widespread ignorance about the contents of the Bible and a growing generation gap in biblical literacy in Britain.
The report, based on answers from 800 children aged eight to 15 and about 1,100 parents, demonstrates the majority of parents think it is important for their children to engage with the Bible but in practice 59 per cent of children did not identify David & Goliath as characters in the Bible and 29 per cent of children didn’t identify The Nativity as a Bible story.
Following the results, the Bible Society is calling on parents to tell their chidlren Bible stories, as part of their new Pass it On campaign.
Over half of children polled (54 per cent) never or less than once a year read Bible stories at school or home. Similarly 45 per cent of parents with children aged three to eight never read Bible stories to their child. But in contrast, around nine in 10 parents (86 per cent) read, listened to or watched Bible stories when they were growing up.
Most parents surveyed think it is important for their child to have read, seen or heard Bible stories because they provide values for a good life. Similarly, 40 per cent think they are important to our history and culture and a third (36 per cent) say they are classic stories that stand the test of time.
Encouragingly, half (49 per cent) of primary school children describe Bible stories as interesting, while almost one in three (31 per cent) of those in secondary school feel the same. Around half of children never read or are read Bible stories, in contrast to their parents.
In a foreword to the report, Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres said sharing Bible stories "is as vital now as it has ever been".
“Too few children have the opportunity to hear and reflect on what this life-changing book contains,” he said. “Even those that do when they are young often take its awesome stories for granted when they become adults. There is work to be done.”
The survey also found that children today fail to identify Bible stories from fables, fairytales and Greek myths. Based on a selection of answers, children couldn’t pick some of the best-known Bible stories. More than half indicated they have never read, seen or heard Joseph and his coat of many colours (54 per cent), Moses parting the Red Sea (56 per cent) and David & Goliath (57 per cent). But the proportion rises to 61 per cent for The Feeding of the 5,000 and The Good Samaritan, 63 per cent for the Creation story, three quarters (72 per cent) for Daniel in the lion’s den.
It is clear that Bible literacy is part of a much bigger battle to keep children engaged with reading anything at all. Forty per cent of parents with children aged three to eight read stories to them daily, while one in seven never do, whether Bible-related or otherwise.
James Catford, group chief executive of Bible Society, said: “Our research indicates that the Bible’s brilliant and engaging stories could be lost to future generations unless people take action.
“It’s clear that parents want to give their children the best start in life. The Bible’s contribution to our culture – language, literature, the visual arts and music – is immense. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. The Bible enriches life, and every child should have the opportunity to experience it. We're calling on parents to pass it on."