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I discovered The Kids Book of World Religions by Jennifer Glossip when I was looking for a book to teaching my daughter about the different religions of the world. I choose this book because it had several good reviews online.

When the book arrived, I was a little worried it might be a little too advanced for my daughter. She was in first grade and just beginning to read. She did pretty well with it on her own and she really seemed to enjoy it. However, in retrospect, I think it may have been better had we read it together.

The book begins by explaining that religions typically attempt to provide answers to the “big” questions:

  • Is there a God?
  • Can I talk to God?
  • How was the world created?
  • What happens when people die?
  • How should I live my life?
  • Why do bad things happen?
  • How can we celebrate special times?
  • Why are some objects and places special?

Throughout the next several pages the book discusses these questions. For example, in discussing the first question, the passage begins with “Human Beings have often felt that their is someone or something in the universe greater than themselves. They usually call this greater power God. Most religions teach that a God or Gods exist.” (p. 5) Then it goes on to give a little further information about some of the religions’ beliefs about gods.

Following this section, the there is more in-depth information about each religion discussed. The religions included are Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Baha’i, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. In addition, there are brief discussions of various religions of certain regions (Africa, North America, and Australia). History, teachings, and traditions of each religion are discussed.

Positives: 

(1) The book gives a lot of information about each religion it discusses. Some of the religions have several pages devoted just to the topic. The information about each religion is broken up into subsections, such as festivals. These subsections makes it easier for young readers to understand.

(2) The author does not seem to show bias toward one religion.

(3.) Science is given as the means to which we now have answers to many factual questions today that people once looked to religion for answers.

(4) The author mentions that not everyone believes in a god or gods. The author  also mentions that many great thinkers and scientists have been atheists.

Possible objections: 

(1) Some readers who do not believe Mother Teresa was truly helping sick and poor people may object to the descriptions of her in this book. There are two text boxes that relate to Mother Teresa. One of these is a text box that discusses good and bad things that people do in the name of religion. The information in the text box is accurate, however, there is a picture of Mother Teresa beside the box. While it gives no information about whether Mother Teresa is intended to be part of the good or bad done in the name of religion, I believe the author intends her to be an example of how some people care for the poor in the name of religion. In the Christianity section, there is a text box that gives a profile of Mother Teresa where the author mentions that she spent 50 years caring for poor and dying people. No mention is made about any of the criticisms made against her.

(2)  The author gives definitions for both atheists and the agnostics. As there are many different definitions for each of these terms, some people may object to the definitions the author uses for one or both of these terms.

(3) The wording of some of the sentences might lead a reader to believe certain information is factual. For example, when discussing the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama the author states “As a child, he showed who he was by identifying objects that had belonged to the previous Dalai Lama.”

(4) Some important information is left out. Of course, a book such as this one would not be able to cover all aspects of any one religion. However, I noticed that the virgin birth was completely missing from the Christianity section. For many Christians, the virgin birth belief is integral part of their religion, so I was surprised to find it absent.

(5) The book gives a positive take on fasting. It reads, “Fasting teaches self-discipline and helps people understand and care for one another.” (p. 49) Instead of stating that the religion teaches that it teaches these things, it reads as a fact. No mention is made of how fasting can be unhealthy or cause hallucinations.

Despite some of the problems I saw with the book,  I liked it. I think it provides good information for anyone trying to understand the basics of major religions around the world.

While the book can certainly be read by a child on his or her own, I think this book might best be read with a parent. This book provides many opportunities for discussion of various beliefs, understanding of other cultures, and critical thinking. Reading the book as a family will also give you a chance to discuss any areas of the book that you find problematic.

Glossop, J. (2003). The Kids Book of World Religions. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press

Have you read this book? If so, please share your thoughts about it or this review in the comment section below.

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