Five-year-old Jane Ann Cox’s favorite Bible story is the one about Noah, the ark, and the animals.
She’s heard the story a handful of times, but it really came to life a few weeks ago when she borrowed a book from her church’s “book swap basket.”
After being read Noah’s story again she emptied her mom’s laundry basket, dubbed it an ark, and loaded her animals – two by two, of course – into the hold.
“I put 12 animals in the ark,” she said. “A warthog, a horse, pink frog, a ladybug, a monkey … all kinds!”
With stickers from the book, Jane Ann decorated a picture of an ark she and her mother had drawn, and they taped it on the side of the laundry basket.
They even made a calendar that showed the 40 days and 40 nights Noah, his family, and the animals spent adrift.
“She’s marked off the days and nights so she knows how long they spent on the ark,” said Misty Cox, Jane Ann’s mother. “We had a really good time with it. She’s really, really enjoyed it and I really feel like it’s opened the door for us to talk and experiment here at home.”
An idea that took root in Whigham United Methodist Church member Lois Duncan’s heart nearly a year ago, the book swap is a simple idea any church can implement.
Duncan, the church’s pianist, placed a large basket at the front of the sanctuary near the piano. She filled it with children’s books – some that she purchased, some that she donated, and some that others donated. Children are invited to choose one or several books and take them home and read them during the week. The next Sunday they can swap them for new books.
“Our church has struggled to keep a consistent children’s Sunday school program, and one day I became concerned,” Duncan said. “This is just another way to help expose them to Biblical stories on their level.”
The book swap isn’t in lieu of traditional Sunday school teaching or children’s sermons, Duncan said, but an easy way for churches to help families in their efforts to teach children about God, His character, and His faithfulness.
“I just want to do what I can,” she said. “This is just another way to help children learn more about God through children’s Biblical literature and to enhance what is being learned through Sunday school and what families may do at home. This idea is working at our church, and any small church with even one child can use the same concept.”
The book swap is a hit with more than just the pre-school set. Jane Ann’s 7-year-old brother, Jaxon, also chooses a book or two each Sunday.
“My kids are loving the book exchange. It’s really offered something new for them and it’s great for both of them. They love to read and be read to,” Cox said. “It’s been a great thing all around for all of us.”
Duncan’s prayer is that, alongside the church’s traditional Christian education offerings, the book swap will help foster in the congregation’s children a love of the Bible and a foundation of Biblical knowledge.
“Having a foundational beginning with the Bible, hopefully they’ll grow up with a love for the Bible and read it for themselves one day,” Duncan said.
Click here to see a photo of Duncan, the book swap basket, and a few of Whigham UMC's children.