Increasingly, books are being printed to educate our youth in the area of church history. This is a most welcome development. Church history gives children, as it does adults, the feeling of "connectedness" with the work of God in the past, and hopefully encourages a desire to work under GodÕs blessing to keep the flame of GodÕs Word alive.
Diverse cultures tell stories so that history will not be forgotten. With this new book from Farenhorst, Nap, and Torenvliet, children can hear once again the stories of ChristÕs work. The authors have done a beautiful job of showing the hand of Christ leading His church. ChristÕs work continues despite the opposition of the power of darkness.
The TeacherÕs Manual provides numerous activities to complement the reading of the stories. The authors emphasize collaborative learning. They write on page ix, ÒOur experience has shown frequently that group work is an excellent context in which students are encouraged to share their thoughts and learn to be vulnerable as others critique their thinking.Ó Through group discussion, students are given the opportunity to formulate and express their thoughts. This is an invaluable tool in helping children remember what they have learned. Along with different activities, the authors have also given guidelines to help teachers implement group learning.
The textbook has wonderful illustrations that help students visualize the events of the book. ÒA picture is better than a thousand words,Ó the saying goes. The pictures help imprint the story in oneÕs mind.
The authors are to be complimented for their well-rounded integration of different subject areas. They have included listening, reading, and writing assignments, as well as geography and art projects. This book could be used as a continuation of the teaching of Book 1. Repeating coverage of similar time periods can be an effective way of refocusing teaching from previous years. Another alternative might be to supplement Book 1 with Book 2, seeing that the time periods coincide. By using Book 1 and 2, the students will be able to have a fuller picture of what was happening to the Church. Book 1 tends to focus more on the church in Western Europe, while in Book 2a we can see what is happening in Eastern Europe.
The authors have done a wonderful job of including many topics relevant to church history without Òoverburdening the students with a barrage of dates, details, dogmas, and divisions.Ó They aim at the interest level of the children and succeed in their objective. They could have included the story of the childrenÕs crusade with their treatment of the Crusades because the children reading the book will be the same age as the children who participated in those crusades. Parallels could also be discussed between what happened to these children and what happens today to children who run away from home. Another suggestion for the next two volumes: it would be nice to see some historical narratives that include females as main characters in order to capture the attention of female readers. I am thinking, for instance, of LutherÕs wife, Katherine von Bora or John CalvinÕs wife, Idelette de Bure. On a more positive note, I do feel that after the students complete this book, they will have a good understanding of both Roman Catholicism and Islam. With the suggested teaching activities, the students will also be able to understand how Christianity differs from these religions and why it is important to preserve the truth of Christianity.
May the story of ChristÕs salvation continue to be told!
*For a review of Volume I, see The Messenger, March 2000, 16-17.