Once there was in England a good king named Alfred. He was so brave and wise and did so many fine things for his people that he is always called Alfred the Great.
When Alfred was a little boy, his mother used to teach him from the wonderful book known as the Bible. She had five sons, Alfred being the youngest. One day she called the five boys to her and showed them the Holy Bible. She said:
“I’ll give this book to the one of you that learns to read it first.”
The five young princes began to study hard. They studied one reading lesson after another, as fast as they could. The Bible was a fine prize, and each one of them was anxious to win it.
Not very long afterwards, one of the boys came to his mother and said, “Mother, I believe that I can read the book now.” And sure enough, when she gave him a test, he could read it; and he received it as a prize.
Now, which of the five princes do you think it was who won the prize?
Yes, it was Alfred, the youngest of the five. He won the beautiful book, and he loved books all his life.
While Alfred was king, the Danes were fighting his people – the English. The Danes were strong, fierce people who came in boats from another country. They wanted to live in England, and they tried to rob and kill Alfred’s people.
King Alfred had a hard time fighting the Danes, but at last he won in one or two battles and made them stay in one part of the country by themselves. He drew a long line between his people and the Danes and would not allow the Danes to cross the line.
Alfred trained his men to be good soldiers. At the same time, he allowed some of them to stay on their farms all the time in order that plenty of food might be produced for everybody.
King Alfred also had his men build ships. In time of war the ships were used to carry soldiers, and all the time they were used to carry food and other things that the people needed.
All his life Alfred the Great loved books. He loved books so much that he wanted all of his people to have books, and he wanted every boy (maybe every girl, too) to learn to read.
So King Alfred built schoolhouses and hired school teachers. He gathered together many good books and many good teachers. But as long as he lived there was one book that he always loved best: it was the Bible – the book he had first learned to read.
History Stories for Children, John W. Wayland, © 1991, 79–81.