Kids are a curious bunch, aren't they? Just when you think you've heard it all from your little one, they'll suddenly take up with a topic seemingly out of nowhere. The questions will begin to fly fast and furious. I know as a parent this has already happened with me, and as Sprout grows the topics will get even more complex - and controversial. Not looking forward to some of those conversations, believe you me!
For many parents, the topic of religion may be a tough one to discuss with their kids. Faith is a tricky thing, even harder to explain than it is to hold on to. And while it may be hard to describe one's own beliefs, defining those of another religion or group can be much more difficult. After all, religions are founded on deeply personal tenets and incorporate traditions from many cultural systems and communities. Those beliefs inspire passion and honor, making them seem like subjects that are vast and hard to define.
Still, many of us want our children to grow up understanding and respecting the belief systems of people around the world. A keystone of tolerance is an appreciation of the ways others live their lives, the beliefs that guide them and the ideologies they hold dear. And as parents raising global citizens, learning about religion is a first step in understanding cultures and people around the world.
Two terrific books to help parents begin the discussion about world religion are available from noted children's publisher DK. If you're familiar with the DK list, you know they produce quality offerings. Lavishly illustrated with inviting photographs and written in clear, straightforward fashion, the books on DK's publishing roster are the cornerstone of every well-rounded nonfiction collection, home or classroom.
A great place to start learning about faith is with DK's A Faith Like Mine, written by Laura Buller. This title is of course filled with intriguing photographs of people from all walks of life, engaging in the various traditions and ceremonies of their faith. Through the perspective of children just like them, kids can learn about what members of religious traditions believe and how they practice those beliefs on a daily basis. In the pages of Buller's book we meet 10-year-old Hasini, a Buddhist from Sri Lanka; 13-year-old Erin, a Jewish girl from the U.S.; and 9-year-old Leena, a Muslim from Jordan, just to name a few. Even very young children will enjoy flipping through this title and looking at all the amazing photos, which is a great way for discussions to begin naturally; parents and children will learn a lot from this well-researched and well-rounded title.
For kids who are ready to begin thinking and talking about the philosophical aspects of various religions, DK's book What Do You Believe? is a natural next step. Beginning with a discussion of why religions exist in the first place, this title examines the major faiths as well as many alternate views. I love that this book considers multiple perspectives on the same issue, and talks about how the practicalities of our lives -- how we dress, what we eat, how we celebrate -- are influenced by our belief systems. Even the origins of religious traditions are discussed, and native religions are also part of the conversation. Tolerance, peace, and the collision of conflicting beliefs is included here too, as well as a nicely rounded glossary to help define some of the basic terms. Visually, this title is incredibly impactful, and raises the same questions you might find in a comparative religion course, so it's a great educational tool.
Look for these titles, and others like them, to spark some lively debate and help you consider your own philosophies more deeply, as you examine the spectrum of belief with your children. You can use these books as a way to begin introducing complex topics with your kids, to see what they believe and to help them begin to comprehend the world around them. Yes, religion is complicated -- but never more so than when we try not to understand.
What books about belief does your family read? Have you thought about how broadening your bookshelf could strengthen your own faith?