Literacy training in prisons using Bible storytelling

Literacy training in prisons using Bible storytellingFor those desiring to use literacy or English teaching to reach others for Christ, here is some inexpensive, effective and easy-to use material based on 30 Bible stories. It was designed for prison use, and is being used in four or five states to get individuals from total illiteracy to fifth grade reading level in 30 lessons. A recent Language Olympics summer reading program for children helped them (in six weeks) advance (on average) one grade level in reading and half a grade in spelling. Now it is being supplemented and used in local churches to help people learn English as a second language. One of the delightful results is students learning to read, remember and tell the 30 vocabulary-graded Bible stories while improving pronunciation, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. In our city many of the tutors are also English learners, just a little more advanced. Instruction videos for tutors on the website are only about 20-minutes long total.

How were these developed?

John Walsh had been invited to bring BibleTelling into the worst of the US prisons by a Baptist warden, and it was a great success, now being run by the inmates. When John was asked to help with the need for literacy, Jan Walsh felt God wanted them to do so. She spent six years designing and testing the curriculum there. Other material took seven years to get someone to first grade because of the prisoners’ lack of self-confidence. Jan had been using other essays, and in the advanced lessons adding a Bible story at the end. Of course in prison there are people from every background, and some of the non-Christian inmates asked to have the stories moved earlier in the sequence of lessons, because they were easy to remember. No other reading material was producing as good a result, and when they decided to publish the material, copyrights become an issue anyway. They did a rewrite on the Bible stories, starting with Creation, and simplified the vocabulary. By the time a student comes to read the Creation story, they have already been exposed to and learned 70% of the vocabulary. By the end of the book (five stories) they know 99%. There are six booklets, and the rave reviews from even non-Christian students prove ‘the power of a story simply told’, as John would say. It can change lives, and does, through this non-evangelistic pre-conversion discipleship method, which lets people learn about God by what He does and says and how He interacts with sinful people.


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