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Religious Diversity and Children's Literature [1 ed.]
 9781617353987, 9781617353963

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Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature Strategies and Resources

A volume in International Social Studies Forum Series Editors Jeff Passe, Towson University Richard Diem, University of Texas at San Antonio

International Social Studies Forum Jeff Passe and Richard Diem, Series Editors Democratic Education for Social Studies: An Issues-Centered Decision Making Curriculum (2006) edited by Anna S. Ochoa-Becke Social Justice in These Times (2006) edited by James O'Donnell, Marc Pruyn, and Rudolfo Chávez Chávez Social Studies and the Press: Keeping the Beast at Bay? (2006) edited by Margaret Smith Crocco Digital Geography: Geospatial Technologies in the Social Studies Classroom (2008) edited by Andrew J. Milson and Marsha Alibrandi Unsettling Beliefs: Teaching Theory to Teachers (2008) edited by Josh Diem and Robert J. Helfenbein Technology in Retrospect: Social Studies in the Information Age 1984-2009 (2010) edited by Richard Diem and Michael J. Berson Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources (2011) by Connie R. Green and Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf

Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature Strategies and Resources

Connie R. Green and Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf Appalachian State University

Illustrated by Emily Katherine Green Scott

Information Age Publishing, Inc. Charlotte, North Carolina •

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Green, Connie R. Religious diversity and children's literature : strategies and resources / Connie R. Green and Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf. p. cm. — (International social studies forum) Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-1-61735-396-3 (paperback) — ISBN 978-1-61735-397-0 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-1-61735-398-7 (e-book) 1. Religious education of children. 2. Religions—Juvenile literature—Book reviews. 3. Children's literature—Book reviews. I. Oldendorf, Sandra Brenneman. II. Title. BL42.G74 2011 207'.5083—dc22 2011005759

Copyright © 2011 IAP–Information Age Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, or by photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America.

DEDICATION To the memory of my parents and the future of my grandchildren. —C.G.

To Walter. —S.B.O.


CONTENTS Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Jeff Passe Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii 1. Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? . . . . . . . . 1 2. Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature . . . . . . . 15 3. Indigenous Belief Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 4. Native American Spirituality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 5. Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 6. Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 7. Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 8. Christianity: Orthodoxy and Catholicism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 9. Christianity: Protestantism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 10. Islam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179



11. Sikhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 12. Free Thinkers and Other Belief Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 Appendix A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 Appendix B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239


When I was president of the National Council for the Social Studies in 2005-2006, I was responsible for planning the council’s annual meeting in Kansas City. As I visited state conferences across the nation, trying to find out which type of sessions were most popular, I quickly learned that it was the ones that addressed the teaching of religion. It made sense. After all, the United States is not only becoming more culturally diverse, but also more religiously diverse. There is a greater presence, and pride, among adherents of many religious traditions that had previously existed on the margins of public awareness. As educators, we are expected to help our students navigate the changing cultural landscape. Without basic knowledge of the various religions, and the skills to teach about them, we educators fail to fulfill our duty. In the past, when it seemed that there was less diversity, schools still did not do a good job educating students about religion. I remember standing before a class of middle school students who had no idea that there were any religions besides Christianity. One of my classes, in a mock colonial town meeting, actually voted to prohibit Jews from voting. Years later, in telling that story to a group of preservice teachers, one of my students shared a telling anecdote: While eating lunch with a Jewish roommate, she was shocked to see the girl eating the crusts on her sandReligious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. ix–xi Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.



Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

wich. It turns out that there was only one Jewish child in her community when she was growing up, and that child’s mother trimmed the crusts, simply because her children didn’t like them. Never having seen that custom before, my student formed the conclusion that Jews must not eat bread crusts. Who knows how many similar misconceptions exist among the citizenry? At times, it is comical, as with bread crusts, but other times it is a deadly serious concern. Ignorance usually leads to fear, and fear leads to hate. Religious intolerance had led to the slaughter of millions around the world, in every century (including our own) and on every continent. In recent years, much attention, with its attendant set of misconceptions, has been focused on Islam. In previous generations, the same type of focus was on Native Americans, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, and Hindus. There remains confusion about many of these traditions. Meanwhile, other unfamiliar groups, such as Wiccans, Unitarians Universalists, and Sikhs have begun to appear more prominently on the radar, On a positive note, we can look back and marvel at how this nation once debated over whether John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, would take orders from the Pope. On the other hand, the acceptance of Catholics in American society has been a painful process, and continues to be so in some regions. The answer, of course, is education. The trouble is, we can’t teach what we don’t know. Many teachers prefer to leave it to parents, and churches, to provide religious education, but that instruction, especially in families, is often focused on learning one’s own religion, not that of others. Other teachers look for teaching opportunities, such as inviting members of the class to share some of their customs related to holidays and other observances. Students who teach their classmates about their family’s religious practices may develop their public speaking skills, but are they really the best spokespersons? Can an 8 or 11 year old adequately present the nuances of complex theological thought and often arcane rituals? There is too much at stake to leave the teaching of religion to children. Parents and teachers must accept this responsibility. But they must be well prepared to move forward. Thus, this book. Sandra Oldendorf and Connie Green provide a valuable overview of religious diversity in America. It is not nearly complete. Indeed, an entire encyclopedia may be insufficient. But the authors address many of the basic principles and practices of each major religion, and many less popular ones, so teachers can begin to instruct their students about religion. There are other books that serve a similar purpose. What sets this volume apart is the incorporation of children’s literature. Rather than depend on a teacher’s or family member’s knowledge base, it is better to

Foreword xi

utilize professional authors who can sensitively present religious diversity in ways that children (and adults) can understand and accept. Dozens of books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been reviewed and annotated to help teachers make choices about what to teach about religion, and how to teach it. The literature suggestions in this book have been vetted for accuracy, sensitivity, and insight. I can imagine this volume serving as a reference in every teacher’s (including religious educators) professional library, to be consulted again and again, as our religiously diverse society continues to evolve. Even educators who don’t teach about religion may find it useful. Whether that choice is, due to a personal preference or a mistaken interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling that bans organized school prayer (but not the study of religion), classrooms will continue to be populated by students from a multitude of religious traditions and teachers will scramble to obtain the basic knowledge that is necessary to meet their students’ needs. I can also imagine this book on a family bookshelf. What a great reference it would be for a parent heading to the public library. I, for one, have learned a lot from reading this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling to understand one another in this complex and global society!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We would like to thank the Appalachian State University Foundation for their Foundation Fellows grant, which enabled us to travel to visit religious communities and to interview religious scholars in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. In addition we thank our colleagues at Appalachian State University who made presentations, answered questions, and/or read parts of our manuscript. They helped us enormously in writing this book: • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Dr. Shawn Arthur (Asian religions); Dr. Allen Bryant (Native Americans); Dr. Dinesh and Christine Dave (Hinduism); Dr. Sandie Gravett (the Bible); Dr. Rosemary Horowitz (Judaism); Dr. Michael Jacobson (Judaism); Dr. Maria Lichtmann (Christianity); Dr. Diane Marks (Judaism); Dr. Rose Matuszny (Native Americans); Dr. Walter Oldendorf (Education); Dr. Curt Ryan (Islam); Dr. Robert Schneider (Christianity); Dr. Rahman Tashakkori (Islam); Susan Golden, Children’s Literature Librarian;

Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. xiii–xvi Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


xiv Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

• Pat Farthing, Instructional Materials Center Librarian; and • Margaret Gregor, Instructional Materials Center Librarian. We would also like to thank the following scholars, religious and spiritual leaders, educators, and practitioners who gave presentations, were consulted and/or interviewed: Native American Spirituality • Barbara Duncan, education director, Museum of the Cherokee, Cherokee, NC; • Jerry Wolfe, Cherokee tribal elder; and • Dr. Jeanne Eder, director, Alaska Native Studies, University of Alaska. Judaism • Chuck Lieberman, president of the Temple of the High Country, Boone, NC; • Debra Winston, cantor at Congregation Beth HaTephila; • Robert Ratner, Rabbi; • Rebecca McCarthy, bat mitzvah celebrant; and • Dr. Jeff Passe, Towson University. Catholicism • Mark Akerman, principal of Saint Pius X Catholic School, Greensboro, North Carolina; and • Cecilia Pajaro Chiquito, teacher, Puebla, Mexico. Greek Orthodoxy • Father Dionysios Listermann-Vierling, priest of the Dormition of the Theotokos; • Greek Orthodox Church, Greensboro, NC; and • Polly Anton, religious education director. Buddhism • Darrell Kitchen, monk at the Wat Greensboro (NC), Cambodian Buddhist Center; and

Acknowledgments xv

• American Buddhist monk living at Wat Greenboro. Islam • Rashed Fakhruddin, director of education, Islamic Center of Nashville; • Members of the Islamic Center of Nashville: Imam Ahmadullah, Mobeen Ahmed, Mahmuda Fakhruddin, Tina Mohyuddin, Yasser Arafat, Salaad Nur., Tasneem Ahmed, and Mobeen Ahmed; • Islamic Center Weekend School teachers: Sabahat Faheem, Sofi Ashfaq, Afeef Al-hasan, Basir Kabir, Jamshed Rahman; • Islamic Youth Council of Nashville Islamic Center: Asfian Saeed, Jamal Hasan, Zunir Chaudhry, Faran Saeed, Zara Tariq, Yasmin, Raneya; • Salahadeen Center of Nashville: Iman Salah, Ahmed Brifkani, andNawzad Hawrami; • Muslim American Society Youth Center, Nashville: Sonya El-Othman, Della and Mochammad Koentjoro, Janet Alhasan, and Umm Layth; and • Dr. Amiri Al-Hadid, principal of Nashville International Academy. Sikhism • Gurmeet Kaur, SEWA Gurdwara Sahib, Roswell, GA. Baha’is • Mary Gray, Boone, NC. Unitarian Universalism • Rev. Sarah York, Asheville, NC; and • Dr. Ben Edwards, Boone, NC. We are indebted the following religious communities for their warm welcome at their services, in their communities, and/or their willingness to answer our questions: • • • •

Hindu Center in Charlotte, NC; Durga Puja Celebration, Charlotte, NC; Congregation Beth HaTephila of Asheville, NC; Wat Greensboro (NC) Cambodian Buddhist Center;


Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

• Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church, Greensboro, NC; • Saint Pius the Tenth Roman Catholic Church, Greensboro, NC; • Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA; • Amish community in Cherry Creek, NY; • Islamic Center of Nashville, TN; • Islamic Weekend School of the Islamic Center of Nashville; • Salahadeen (Islamic) Center of Nashville; • The Sangat at the SEWA Gurdwara Sahib, Roswell, GA; • Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; and • Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Boone, NC Chapter. We especially appreciate Rashed Fakhruddin, director of education, Islamic Center of Nashville, who arranged for us to meet and interview members of the Nashville Muslim community and answered our many questions with great patience. A special thanks goes to Dr. Jeff Passe, who edited our book and provided us with excellent suggestions. And finally we are indebted to Dr. Maria Lichtmann, associate professor of religion and philosophy, who read our entire manuscript and gave invaluable advice.

INTRODUCTION There may be no topic that is more controversial in our schools and in our country than religion. Changing demographics and the evolving relationship between religion and politics have contributed to conflicts about religion and education, teaching about religion, teaching about evolution, religious clubs at school, and prayers at graduation. In spite of laws and policies designed to clarify these challenges, the relationship between religion and the schools remains a powerful and conflicted issue. Schools today welcome children from many countries and cultures, who bring with them diverse languages and dialects, traditions, and beliefs. As teachers prepare to meet the world’s children in their classrooms, they need to be aware of the spiritual and religious faiths and practices of their students and families. One way to build community and acceptance among students in a classroom or school is to help them learn about each other’s families, cultures, and religions. As instructors of undergraduate and graduate courses in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education, we see these conflicts manifested among our students when we discuss cultural diversity, religion, and the schools. Some express a lack of empathy for children of different faiths and the accommodations they are required to make to accommodate students’ religious differences. Some think of followers of different religions as strange or “the other.” And some harbor the misconception that religion should not be included in the curriculum at all. The reasons for their misconceptions may include confusion about the latest court Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. xvii–xx Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.



Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

decisions, lack of background knowledge about religion, fear of offending community members, or variance with their personal religious convictions. Some teachers, for example, are not comfortable telling children that most of the people who live in India are Hindus and what Hindus believe. They avoid mentioning the conflict in the Middle East because their only reference for Islam is “Islamic terrorists.” And some are afraid of offending members of their communities by talking about a religion other than Christianity. Much has been written about separation of church and state and tolerance for religious differences as a core value of a democratic society and public education. There is also good documentation about appropriate and legal practices regarding religious content in the public schools. However, little has been written about approaches that early childhood, elementary, and middle school teachers can use to integrate major spiritual traditions into the curriculum in a way that is appropriate and respectful of those traditions. One of the most effective resources for teaching about cultural differences, in general, and religion, in particular, is children’s literature. High quality books, both fiction and nonfiction, offer authentic ways to address faith traditions of the past and present. Dever, Whitaker, and Byrnes (2001) connect the National Council for the Social Studies standards and themes to specific examples of appropriate children’s literature and holiday celebrations. Samuel Ayers (2003) advocates teaching children about religion in the primary grades through studies about families and communities around the world. Chakraborty and Stone (2008) discuss the importance of using culturally sensitive children’s literature to help children understand the increasing ethnic, racial and religious differences in the United States. Our purpose in writing this book is to provide information, recommend children’s literature, and suggest resources to teachers and families for helping children understand world religions and spiritual traditions. The specific purposes of this book are to: 1. develop a rationale for teachers, students and families to learn about religious pluralism and the role of religion in culture; 2. give a historical perspective on spiritual and religious diversity; 3. make connections across the curriculum, especially in social studies and language arts about the role of faith in various cultures; 4. highlight beliefs and practices of the world’s major religions; 5. provide information, resources for teachers, and appropriate children’s literature about major religious traditions, past and present, in the United States and world;

Introduction xix

6. explore developmentally appropriate and legally sound ways to introduce children to religious traditions and practices; and 7. provide selected bibliographies of children’s books on religious diversity and resources for adults.

RESEARCH We researched the religious and spiritual traditions in this book by consulting scholarly journals, religious scholars, and religious and spiritual practitioners. In addition, we attended a variety of religious services including Wiccan, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Sikh, Evangelical Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and Baptist (African American). We attended an outdoor drama that represented Cherokee spiritual traditions and interviewed Buddhist monks. We found the children’s literature recommended in this book through children’s literature databases, consultations with university librarians, and recommendations from religious leaders and practitioners. The religions and spiritual traditions for this book were selected on the basis of numbers of adherents worldwide, authentic representations of geographic regions and cultures, historical and cultural significance, and availability of children’s literature about the religion. We also felt it was important to include the orientations of families who are humanist, agnostic, or atheistic, who do not follow traditional, structured religious and spiritual beliefs because these belief systems are sometimes misrepresented in the media and by followers of more traditional religions. We want teachers and families to have a better understanding so that they can help children avoid misconceptions about people who follow these beliefs.

ORGANIZATION OF THIS BOOK In the first chapter we discuss the changing religious demographics in the United States and how that impacts schools. We also establish a rationale for including religion in the school curriculum, discuss concerns related to teaching about religion, and give guidelines for teaching about it. The second chapter gives a rationale for using children’s literature to teach religious diversity, connects genres of literature to specific children’s books, and provides strategies for using the books. In the chapters that follow we provide background information on various spiritual traditions based on (a) history, (b) beliefs and practices, (c) spiritual writings/sacred texts, (d) main subgroups, (e) holy days and festivals, and (f) demographic information. The background information is followed by short reviews of


Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

fictional and nonfictional children’s literature selected on the basis of authentic representation of each tradition, appeal to children, and fair presentation of beliefs. Also included are strategies for using specific stories and, of equal importance, suggestions for avoiding misconceptions about specific religions. Although religious and spiritual traditions encompass overlapping timeframes, we ordered the chapters to approximate the historical emergence of these traditions in order for the relationships between them to be more apparent. The final chapter addresses religions with fewer adherents, as well as worldviews of agnosticism, atheism and humanism. An appendix follows with additional information and resources appropriate for various age groups.

REFERENCES Ayers, S. (2003). Teaching about religion in the elementary grades. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 15(3), 27-29. Chakraborty, B., & Stone, S. (2008). Teaching tolerance and reaching diverse students through the use of children’s books. Childhood Education, 85(2), 106G-J. Dever, M., Whitaker, M., & Byrnes, D. (2001). The 4th R: Teaching about religion in the public schools. Social Studies, 92, 220-229.


WHY LEARN ABOUT RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS? Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. (James, 1905, p. 53)

People from the earliest times developed belief systems that explained relationships between people and the natural world, people and the gods, and people and each other. According to theologian Paul Tillich, humans, like other living things, are concerned with food and shelter, but “man, in contrast to other living beings, has spiritual concerns.” He adds that faith is “the state of being ultimately concerned; the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man’s ultimate concern” (Tillich, 1957, p. 1). To study religion, therefore, is to examine some of the great mysteries that face human beings, including questions about creation, death, purpose, love, and the nature of the universe. The study of religion and spiritual traditions includes scholarship from many disciplines such as history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, theology, and literature. These perspectives come together in helping us gain a better understanding of individuals and groups that have influenced the development of civilizations. Given that religious and spiritual beliefs are powerful forces that shaped the past and Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 1–13 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.



Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

the present, it is essential that children learn about religious diversity and the role of religion and spirituality in shaping human understanding, history, culture, and politics. Spirituality is an inner sense that there is a force greater than ourselves and the physical world as we know it. Religion is an organized spiritual belief system for understanding our existence that includes a sense of community with others who hold common beliefs and a network of support in times of need (Newman, 2005). Faith traditions have been both a constructive and destructive force throughout history. Spiritual and religious beliefs have inspired people to create some of the world's most powerful music, drama, and art; to improve the human condition by fighting hunger, poverty, and oppression; and to preserve and respect all forms of life. But misguided leaders and governments have exploited organized religion to divide people, to discriminate against those who hold different views and beliefs, and to justify ethnic hatred (Kimball, 2010). Some of the most violent wars and individual tragedies throughout history are an outcome of “collisions of people of faith” (Marty, 2005, p. 1). Despite these differences and conflicts, the world’s religions actually have much in common. Most, but not all religions, address an unseen world of spirits, ancestors, gods and demons; have stories that explain the creation of life; have organized rituals and places of worship; address the possibility of life beyond death; and have developed a code of conduct or moral order (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). Perhaps most importantly, religions and spiritual traditions contain core beliefs that recognize human kinship and reject hatred and violence. In his recent book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths (2010), The Dalai Lama tells us that the principles underlying different religious and spiritual traditions can all contribute to a better understanding about compassion and what it means to be human. In addition almost all faith traditions espouse as part of their doctrines variations on The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:13). Examples are given in Table 1.1. Given the importance of religion and spirituality as cultural forces, it is essential that children and young adolescents attain a level of religious literacy in order to understand human behavior and to better prepare for working and living with people from diverse religious backgrounds. With the advances in transportation, technology, and communication as well as the migration of populations from one place to another, people of different religious and spiritual affiliations have been brought increasingly together. In schools and homes we can help children understand not only their own faith but also that of others by including content about how religions are alike and different. Just as importantly we can help them address stereotypes, misconceptions and conflicts involving religious and

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 3 Table 1.1. • Buddhism • Confucianism

• Islam

Variations on The Golden Rule “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udana-Varga 5,18) “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” (Analects 15,23) “No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself.” (Azizullah, Hadith 150)

• Taoism

“Regard your neighbor’s gains as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” (T’ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien)

• Zoroastrianism

“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.” (Dadistan-i-dinik 94-5) “A man should treat all creatures in the world as he himself would like to be treated.” (Wisdom of the Living Religions, #69 - I:II:33)

• Jain

• Judaism

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

• Bahá'í

“And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.” (Epistle to the Son of Wolf)

• Christianity

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31, King James Version)

• Hinduism

“This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517)

• Native American Spirituality “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” (Black Elk) • Sikhism “Don’t create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone.” (Guru Arjan Devji 259) • Unitarian Universalist • Wicca

“The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” (UU Principles) “An it harm no one, do what thou wilt.” (Wiccan Rede)

Source: Shared belief in the Golden Rule (2007).

spiritual diversity in our schools and society (Hergesheimer, 2002; Marty, 2000; Prothero, 2007, 2010). RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN THE UNITED STATES The religious tapestry of many countries has changed dramatically over time. Before Europeans arrived in the United States, Native American culture was shaped by spiritual forces that transcended time and that


Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

connected living and nonliving life forms. The large majority of the first European settlers were Protestant, having emigrated from the northwest corner of Europe. Early settlers also included Catholics and Jews, each looking for a place that allowed them to freely practice their beliefs. The forced immigration of African slaves in 1619 brought a variety of African religious traditions grounded in multiple divinities and states of being (living and dead, natural and supernatural) (Williams, 2002). The Irish emigrated in the early 1800s to avoid persecution and famine and greatly increased the numbers of Roman Catholics, and immigration of Latinos from Central and South America have made the Roman Catholic Church the largest group of Christians in the United States today. In the nineteenth century, immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe, contributing to larger Jewish and Eastern Orthodox communities. The Japanese brought Buddhism to Hawaii in 1868 and the Chinese brought Buddhism to the American West when they came to work on the railroads and in mines in the mid-nineteenth century. Islam came to the United States in the early seventeenth century with slaves who were Muslim, with Middle Eastern immigrants seeking freedom in 1875, and with immigrants seeking economic opportunities beginning in the 1920s and continuing today. Hindus, primarily people of the professional classes from India and Southeast Asia, began to arrive in greater numbers with the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. In more recent years immigrants from Vietnam and Laos have brought folk religions such as Animism into some U.S. communities. However, today the vast majority of Americans are Christian, and within that demographic, more people identify as Catholics based in part on the recent increase in Latino immigrants (Largest Religious Groups, 2005; Prewitt, 2002; Williams, 2002). Today the United States is not only a nation of Catholics, Protestants and Jews, but also a nation of seekers, Deists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Pagans, Baha’is, Muslims, agnostics, atheists, and followers of Native American spiritual traditions. This diversity is exemplified by the presence of 300 Buddhist temples in Los Angeles and a 25% increase in the number of mosques build in the United States between 1995 and 2000. In fact, there are now more American Muslims than Episcopalians (Prewitt, 2002). There are more Hindu temples in the United States than in any country outside of India. The White House has celebrated Eid alFilr at the end of Ramadan, and in small New Jersey towns, Hindus sing, dance, and color their bodies and clothes with bright powders for Holi. According to Diana Eck, “The United States has become the most religiously diverse nation on earth” (1999, p. 4). All sects of Buddhism are now well established in the United States and the diverse network of earth-based Neo-Pagans is rapidly growing. Approximately two thirds of Americans belong to a church and two fifths attend church regularly

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 5

(Prothero, 2007). The results of this gradual, yet massive, change to our religious tapestry have made an enormous impact on our communities and our schools (Eck, 2001; Pipher, 2002).

THE WORLD’S CHILDREN COME TO SCHOOL Children bring to school not only their cognitive, physical, and emotional differences, but also their cultural traditions including religious practices. When teachers have children in their classrooms who are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jehovah’s Witness, they have a vested interest in learning about their students’ religious beliefs and practices. If children are to feel safe and cared for at school, teachers should respect their families’ hopes and beliefs and their deepest convictions and values. Teachers and students need to move beyond the idea of tolerance to an “active attempt to understand the other” (Eck, 2001, p. 70). Classrooms where religious diversity is honored help children develop, think critical about, and preserve their cultural identity. Esther Horne, a Shoshone Indian who struggled against a dominant White culture during her lifetime, stated, “An individual without identity is like a plant devoid of nourishment. It withers and dies. Possessing identity, we feel a sense of freedom from within” (Horne, 2003, p. 32). Recognizing and respecting cultural identity can be especially challenging for teachers during holidays because the secular and the sacred often become intertwined in holiday programs at school. For example, a young Seneca mother, trying to preserve her family’s cultural identity, asked that her child not participate in the traditional Christmas program at her school. Her daughter was sent to the hallway to do worksheets. The mother concludes, “No child should be punished for not wanting to sing the songs of other people’s belief systems” (Haese, 2009). In addition, children should be provided a supportive environment where they can discuss and debate their beliefs in order to understand and clarify their own identity. Mary Hess, for example, shares a story about when she and a middle grade school friend were admonished, instead of supported, by a teacher for debating the merits of their individual religious beliefs (Hess, 2010). Children are not only aware of their own religious identity but are also aware of religious differences between themselves and others. In a study conducted in a multiethnic primary school in North London, researchers interviewed 58 children aged 5-11 years who were Muslim (Asian and Arabic), Christian, and Hindu. Almost all of the children said they believed in God. Most were willing to discuss their religion and the importance of religious membership in their lives. The children demonstrated some confusion over ethnicity, country of origin, language, and


Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

religious differences. This small study suggests that it is developmentally appropriate for religion to be part of classrooms discussions about cultural differences (Takriti, Barrett, & Buchanan-Barrow, 2006).

RELIGION IN THE CURRICULUM: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE Religion has been part of the curriculum for educating the young throughout history. For much of the history of the United States, religion, specifically Christianity, has been part of the formal school curriculum. The purpose of education during colonial times was to teach children to read the Bible and to understand the basic tenets of religion. In fact, the first public education law, passed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647 was known as “The old deluder Satan” law, because its purpose was to teach children to read so that they would not fall into sinful ways. The New England Primer, first published in the late 1600s, was comprised of rhyming couplets illustrated with woodcuts that referred to stories from the old testament of the Christian Bible. For example, the first couplet was: A In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. In 1791, The Bill of Rights was ratified as part of the U.S. Constitution, and the first amendment contained the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” These words reflected the reality of European settlement of the United States in which no one religion was dominant; the influence of the Enlightenment, which emphasized reason over revelation; and the beliefs of the founders of the Constitution, namely James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. However, the materials used in schools remained focused on Christianity. Noah Webster’s The American Spelling Book, first published in 1793, included Bible verses and other religious writings on salvation, atonement, and the benefits of attending church (Prothero, 2007). The McGuffey readers, standard fare by the end of the nineteenth century, blended the teaching of reading with the teaching of the Bible, paraphrased for young readers with limited vocabularies. Historically, “basic literacy and religious literacy were one” (Prothero, 2007, p. 64). Finally in the 1960s, parents in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania cited the first amendment in challenging the requirement that their children be forced to recite prayers or participate in Bible reading. Through a series of Supreme Court decisions, Engel v. Vitale (1962), Abington v. Shempp (1963), and Murray v. Curlett (1963), Bible reading and schoolsponsored prayer were finally declared unconstitutional and the concept of separation of church and state truly applied (Dierenfield, 2008; Haynes & Thomas, 2001; U.S. Courts, 2010).

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 7

RELIGION IN THE CURRICULUM TODAY Religion is part of the curriculum in most societies all over the world. In some cultures, specific religious beliefs are taught. In many United Kingdom countries, Christian prayers may be part of the regular school curriculum. In Islamic countries, Muslim prayers are part of the school day, and learning from their holy book, the Qur’an, is an important part of the curriculum. The United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark have curriculum on world religions. However, according to Stephen Prothero (2007), few high school and college graduates in the United States are sufficiently aware of religion to understand the role it plays in public debate, in history, or the daily lives of most of the world’s citizens. In countries such as the United States, in which religious practices and the state curriculum are to be kept separate, the emphasis is on teaching about religion, not promoting a specific religion (Haynes, Chaltain, Ferguson, Hudson, & Thomas, 2003). Religion as a topic is often found in the social studies curriculum as part of the study of cultures, holidays and celebrations around the world. World religions are often studied as a part of world history and world geography. Most classic art and music cannot be understood without some background in religion. Religion and religious symbols are also a part of the study of world literature, and religion is often a major force in the lives of people featured in biographies and autobiographies. In the United States, the goal of social studies education is to develop globally minded citizens who will be interested in understanding people and cultures different from their own (Merryfield, 2004). To support children in developing global dispositions, Merryfield calls for “substantive culture learning” in which students become more aware of the complexities of world cultures. Substantive cultural learning cannot take place without learning about religious diversity. For example, knowing that most people in the United States are Christian ignores the rich variations that Christianity entails such as Quakers, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Salvation Army, Pentecostals, and Seventh-day Adventists. Since school curriculum is under the auspices of the state and local control, what is actually taught about religion varies depending on the state as well as the local school district culture. In some Southern states, for example, the Bible as literature or history is part of the state curricula. According to a recent Associated Press report, the Texas State Board of Education approved standards in which “teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state” (Castro, 2010).


Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 2.2.

Initiating a World Religions Curriculum

1. Involve the community 2. Engage diverse voices 3. Build trust 4. Be sensitive 5. Get district buy-in 6. Training 7. Opt-in for teachers 8. Communicate with parents 9. Lay the groundwork for respect 10. Maintain neutrality Source: Kilman (2007, p. 44).

Other states and school districts have experimented with electives on world religions. Examples include a required course in world history in the ninth grade in Modesto, California, and a unit on world religions in middle school world geography in Scottsdale, Arizona. Modesto recently experienced an increase in religious pluralism, becoming home to a growing number of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. In response to this diversity, the school board began requiring ninth graders to take a semester-long course on world religions in 2000. The curriculum clearly teaches about religion, following guidelines to protect and respect each person’s religious freedom. Students spend equal time studying the history, basic tenets, and societal significance of each of six major faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. There is a prescribed curriculum, with all classes using the same text and watching the same videos. Teachers refrain from sharing their own beliefs, but students may share their religious perspectives and ask questions (Kilman, 2007). Recommendations for developing a course on world religions are presented in Table 1.2.

CONCERNS ABOUT TEACHING RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DIVERSITY Teachers and community members have many concerns about teaching religious and spiritual diversity in public schools. These concerns fall under the categories of constitutionality, controversy, content expertise, and curricular constraints. In the United States, the first concern is about how the principle of the separation of church and state applies to teach-

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 9

ing about religion in the public schools. Secondly, some teachers and textbook publishers think that the topic of religion is too controversial to be included in the curriculum (Nord & Haynes, 1998). A third concern is that many teachers do not have an adequate background for teaching about religious and spiritual diversity. And finally content about culture is currently not emphasized in the United States because of the curricular focus at the federal and state level is on math, reading and writing skills. The first concern is the constitutionality of teaching about religion. Prothero (2007) points out that from its inception the United States has been “both staunchly secular and resolutely religious” (p. 22). Although the U.S. Constitution is adamantly secular, religion and politics have always been intertwined, and this is also true in most nations of the world. In recent years political campaigns in the United States have raised issues regarding the candidates’ religious beliefs (Beinart, 2010). Politics are sometimes blamed for the Supreme Court decisions that “took God out of school” in the form of prayer and Bible reading. In addition, many teachers are under the impression that it is “illegal” to even mention religion in school. However, scholars in religious education and first amendment rights, such as Charles Haynes and Oliver Thomas of the First Amendment Center, advocate for teaching about religion, not advocating specific religions (Haynes & Thomas, 2001). The second concern is that teaching about religion is too controversial. Teachers, principals, and school board members fear that parents or other community members will object to religion in the curriculum. Some teachers consider teaching about religion even more controversial than sex education (Kilman, 2007). Teachers of history and social studies, however, point out that leaving religion out of the curriculum gives an incomplete and dishonest portrayal of history and culture. “Omission of facts about religion can give students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant” (cited in Haynes & Thomas, 2001, p. 73). Social studies educators are especially adamant about including religion in the study of culture and history. According to the National Council for the Social Studies (1998), “knowledge about religions is not only characteristic of an educated person, but is also absolutely necessary for understanding and living in a world of diversity.” Recommended guidelines for teaching about religion are found in Table 1.3. A related controversy is that some teachers may misuse their positions of authority, intentionally or unintentionally, to promote their own religion. The teaching of evolution is one example in which some teachers and school officials mistakenly believe that teaching about evolution, a requirement in the science curriculum, negates the Biblical story of creation (Brooke, 2010). Even teachers who honor the multiplicity of cultural

10 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 1.3.

Guidelines for Teaching about Religion

1. The approach to teaching about religion and spiritual diversity should be academic (studying about religion), not devotional (practicing religion). 2. Teachers should strive to make students aware of the diversity of religions and spiritual traditions, but should not encourage students to accept any one faith tradition. 3. The teacher should not promote nor denigrate any religion or spiritual tradition, including religious holidays. 4. Religious themes are essential to teaching about literature, history, social studies, and the arts. 5. Religion may be taught through special courses such as world religions, the Bible as literature or through literature about world cultures. 6. The biblical account of creation or creation stories from other traditions may be taught through literature or social studies, but not as a part of the scientific study of about the origin of life. Source: Haynes and Thomas (2001).

backgrounds within schools and communities may experience conflict between what their faith expects of them and their belief in the separation of church and state (Oldendorf & Green, 2005). Fortunately, many teachers have, either through education courses or their own study, become knowledgeable of constitutionality and necessity of the “civic public school” which promotes objective teaching about religion without promoting or denigrating it (Prothero, 2007). And yet many find it confusing when they try to determine the content for a curriculum on religious diversity. As a result some teachers choose not to bring up religion at all. According to Nel Noddings, “educators are afraid to address religion in the schools and cite the First Amendment, which is really silly because the First Amendment doesn’t prevent teaching about religion” (cited in Halford, 1998/1999, p. 28). The third issue is the lack of preparation many public school teachers have for teaching about religious and faith diversity. Although most teachers respect the diverse religious traditions of their students, they often do not know much about those traditions. While most colleges of education require courses on cultural, racial, and economic diversity, religious differences are sometimes not a major emphasis. As a result, some teachers may hold misconceptions about other religions such as believing that Catholics are not Christians or that Wiccans worship the devil (Oldendorf & Green, 2005). Preservice and in-service teachers need opportunities to address not only their biases with regard to ethnicity or economic status, but also their level of acceptance for having children and families in their classrooms who represent a variety of religious and spiritual traditions.

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 11

A final concern, due in part to the No Child Left Behind initiative, is that social studies at the elementary level has become a marginalized subject (Rock et al. 2006; Van Fossen, 2005). Since social studies is the most common home for teaching about religion, and since it has been marginalized by high stakes testing in math, reading and writing, it is an uphill struggle to include religion in the curriculum. Adding the study of a “new” subject, such as religion, is far down the list of priorities in most public schools. However, omission of the topic of religion leaves students unable to understand motivations for the abolitionist movement, religion as a force for powerful figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the role of religion in current conflicts between radical Islam and the West. According to Prothero, “students learn virtually nothing about the powerful historical and contemporary effects of religious beliefs, religious practices, religious people, and religious institutions” (Prothero, 2007, p. 44). Since democracy rests on the need for educated citizens, religion as a topic should be included in the school curriculum to help students better understand the past and the present, to understand human motivations, and to develop empathy for people who live in other places and have a different worldview. According to Martin Marty, “religion is too important an aspect of human existence, and especially the American circumstance, to be left out of public education” (Marty, 2000, p. 66).

REFERENCES Beinart, P. (2010). The Jesus litmus test. The Daily Beast. Retrieved from http:// Brooke, J. H. (2010). Darwin and religion: Correcting the caricatures. Science & Education 19(4-5), 391-405. Castro, A. (2010). Textbook standards reflect conservative ideas. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from Dalai Lama. (2010). Toward a true kinship of faiths: How the world’s religions can come together. New York, NY: Doubleday Religion. Dierenfield, B. J. (2008). The battle over school prayer: How Engel v. Vitale changed America (Landmark Law Cases and American Society series). Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press. Eck, D. (2001). A new religious America. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins. Haese, T. (2009). Santa and the Christmas wars. Retrieved from http://www Halford, J. M. (1998/1999). Longing for the sacred in schools: A conversation with Nel Noddings. Educational Leadership, 56(4), 28-32. Haynes, C. C., Chaltain, S., Ferguson, J. E., Hudson, D. L., & Thomas, O. (2003). The First Amendment in schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

12 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Haynes, C. C., & Thomas, O. (Eds.). (2001). Finding common ground: A guide to religious liberty in public schools. Nashville, TN: First Amendment Center. Hergesheimer, J. (2002). Lookout point: Teaching about religion. Middle Level Learning, 14, 2. Hess, M. (2010) Learning religion and religiously learning: Musings on a theme. Religious Education, 105(3), 234-237. Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2007). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Horne, E. B. (2003). The development of identity and pride in the Indian child. Multicultural Education, 10(4), 32-38. James, W. (1905). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. New York, NY: Longmans, Green & Co. Kilman, C. (2007). One nation, many gods. Teaching Tolerance, 32, 38-49 Kimball, C. (2008). When religion becomes evil: Five warning signs. New York, NY: HarperOne. Largest religious groups in the United States. (2005). Retrieved from http:// Marty, M. (2005). When faiths collide. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Marty, M. (2000). Education, religion and the common good. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Merryfield, M. (2004). Elementary students in substantive culture learning. Social Education, 68(4), 270-273. National Council for the Social Studies. (1998). Study about religions in the social studies curriculum. Retrieved from Newman, D. (2005). Sociology: Exploring the architecture of everyday life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Nord, W. A., & Haynes, C. C. (1998). Taking religion seriously across the curriculum. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Oldendorf, S. B., & Green, C. R. (2005). Listening to teacher voices: Religion in schools in the rural South. Religion and Education, 32(2), 65-84. Pipher, M. (2002). The middle of everywhere. New York, NY: Harcourt. Prewitt, K. (2002). Demography, diversity, and democracy: The 2000 census story. Brookings Review, 20(1), 6-9. Prothero, S. (2007). Religious literacy: What every American needs to know—And doesn’t. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins. Prothero, S. (2010). God is not one: The eight rival religions that run the world and why their differences matter. New York, NY: HarperOne. Rock, T., Heafner, T, Oldendorf, S., O’Connor, K., Passe, J., Good, A., & Byrd, S. (2006). One state closer to a national crisis: A report on elementary social studies education in North Carolina schools. Theory and Research in Social Education, 34(4), 455-483. Shared Belief in the Golden Rule. (2007). Retrieved from Takriti, R. A., Barrett, M., & Buchanan-Barrow, E. (2006). Children’s understanding of religion: Interviews with Arab-Muslim, Asian-Muslim, Christian and Hindu children aged 5-11 years. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 9(1), 2942.

Why Learn About Religious and Spiritual Traditions? 13 Tillich, P. (1957). Dynamics of faith. New York, NY: Harper & Row. U.S. Courts. (2010). Retrieved from Van Fossen, P. J. (2005). ‘Reading and math take so much of the time …’: An overview of social studies instruction in elementary classrooms in Indiana. Theory and Research in Social Education, 33(3), 376-403. Williams, P. W. (2002). America’s religions: From their origins to the twenty-first century. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.


CONNECTING WORLD RELIGIONS AND CHILDREN’S LITERATURE THE STORYTELLING TRADITION Faith groups are bound together by their myths, legends, and shared history, with storytelling at the very heart of human and religious experience (Gangi, 2004). Storytelling has always been a way of conveying beliefs of the world’s religions through the oral tradition. The Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Abraham, and Nanak (Sikhism) were all storytellers. From the earliest times, indigenous peoples passed on their creation myths and explanations of natural phenomenon to the next generation. As more formalized religions evolved, legends, parables, and proverbs provided followers with an understanding of religious principles and metaphors for daily living. In modern times religious narratives offer a framework for faith, provide examples of ethical living, build awareness of human responsibilities, and connect followers with the sacred. The term myth is often used in different ways. Kate Baestrup writes, For anyone to get at truths that lie beyond fact, we must create myths. I don’t mean we have to tell lies. The story we tell can be wholly fictional or the story can be true. If it illustrates the organizing principles by which we

Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 15–37 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


16 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources understand the world and live in it, the story is a myth in the scholarly sense. (Baestrup, 2007, p. 127)

Myths may explain aspects of nature or the worldview and ideals of a culture and are often believed to contain sacred truths. The word myth derives from the Greek word, mythos, which means speech, thought, or story. While religious stories and myths are found in all major religions (and many smaller ones), we will address Native American spirituality, Buddhism, and Judaism in this chapter as examples of the storytelling tradition.

STORYTELLING WITHIN NATIVE AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY Native American children’s author Joseph Bruchac states: More now than ever before, we need the gift of stories which instruct and delight, explain and sustain. Such stories lead us…to an understanding of who we are and what our place is in the natural world. They help us find respect for ourselves and respect for the earth. They lead us toward the rising sun each dawn, the story of the gift of life. (Bruchac, 1996, p. 81)

Native American storytellers believe that stories are dynamic and should be treated with respect as living things, not as cultural artifacts. In traditional Native American cultures, children were rarely punished for misbehavior; instead adults told stories to redirect and teach about proper behavior. “That’s the purpose of storytelling: teaching people who they are so they can become all they are meant to be” (Bruchac, p. 75). According to Bruchac, the spirit of American Indian identity has survived most powerfully through stories. Within Native American cultures, the sacred and the mundane are not separated. Stories can be prayers or methods of healing and should never be taken lightly; stories strengthen inner spirituality. The Cree language contains the word “achimoona,” which means “sacred stories that come from within.” The Micmac people refer to the “great man inside,” a spiritual being within each person’s heart that provides guidance, if one pays attention (Bruchac, 1996).

STORYTELLING WITHIN BUDDHISM Within the Buddhist tradition, the Jataka fables are possibly the oldest and largest collection of folk tales in the world (Conover, 2005). These tales originated in Asian culture and blended with Buddhist teachings as

Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature 17

the religion spread throughout southern Asia. Eventually the Jataka tales were accepted as Buddhist scripture, with the animal or human hero being viewed as “the Buddha in a former life, working his way towards enlightenment” (Conover, 2005, p. viii). Though the Buddha did not write any of his teachings, his message was conveyed through conversation, discourse, and storytelling. After Buddha’s death, monks and storytellers continued to tell his stories and eventually write them. Tales from the Theravada Buddhist tradition clarify Buddhism’s wisdom and compassion for life and convey the concept of karma (originally a Hindu concept), or consequences of one’s actions. Within the Mahayanic tradition Zen sutras (sermons or lessons of The Buddha), stories, sayings, and other teachings have been preserved for over 1,000 years (Conover, 2005).

STORYTELLING WITHIN JUDAISM Wherever Jews have lived throughout history, they have told stories to pass on their beliefs and traditions to their children. In the early years of Judaism, folk preachers known as maggidim recounted parables and tales in their messages. Both the Talmud (commentary on sacred scripture) and Midrash (interpretations of scripture written by rabbis) contain many stories. Hasidism is a movement within Judaism that is rich in the storytelling tradition. The practice of storytelling is considered a mitzvah, a divine commandment (Buxbaum, 1994). Within Hasidism, stories are of utmost importance because they inspire people to “practice and fulfill the teaching of the Torah and the teaching of the rebbes (rabbis or religious leaders)” (p. 72). Several Hebrew sayings confirm the importance of stories. One saying is, “The story of the deed is greater than the doer.” This means that the stories may motivate others to act in a similar fashion. Another familiar saying is that “God loves stories.” Some believe that when Jews are telling holy stories, God sits beside them and listens. Many Jews believe that God is a storyteller, as well, for he is said to have given the stories in the Torah directly to Moses. Within Judaism storytelling is seen as a sacred practice, bringing people closer to God. The contemporary Hasidic storyteller Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach has said, The difference between teaching and a story is that in the first we are asking to learn something we do not know. But in the story we are asking to be made holy, to be made new, like a child, like a tzaddik (righteous person).

18 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources We are saying, “Please tell me! Let me know what I am.” (personal communication, cited in Buxbaum, 1994, p. 73).

Through stories about one’s own religion and other religions, students can learn about themselves and similarities between their own beliefs and the beliefs of others. They can learn that similar themes infuse the stories of people from around the world and throughout time. The concept of self-knowledge and the perennial battle of good and evil forces are conveyed in the writing of Newbery-award winner Madeleine L’Engle’, whose novels are influenced by both science and Christianity. A tribute to L‘Engle in the Journal of Children’s Literature (“In Memoriam,” 2007) includes the following quotation, “Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith—faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters; matters cosmically” (p. 78).

VALUE OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE When children read and discuss religious stories and informational texts they begin to comprehend the multiplicity of faiths in our world. By reading books, viewing films, listening to music, watching dramatic presentations, and listening to story tellers, children can strengthen their understanding of their own convictions, as well as develop tolerance and appreciation for the beliefs of others. Books that address religious diversity can be found in all genres of children’s literature, which are described below. Children’s literature is a familiar medium to teachers and provides an inviting way to teach about the important dimension of religious diversity. It is one medium through which students can acquire information about the multiplicity of faiths in our world and come to see similarities among faith groups. By reading books, viewing films, listening to music, watching dramatic presentations, and listening to storytellers, children and adolescents may strengthen their own convictions, as well as develop tolerance and appreciation for the beliefs of others.

GENRES OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE High quality fiction and nonfiction books offer authentic ways to address faith traditions of the past and present. The books we review in this chapter are a sampling of child and adolescent literature teachers can use to

Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature 19

develop content knowledge and open-mindedness toward religious diversity. Books were selected from reviews from Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, consultations with university librarians, the National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Books for Young People, and recommendations from religious leaders and practitioners. Criteria for selecting books about faith diversity can be found in Tables 2.1 and 2.2. We have organized the books by the traditional genres of children’s literature to demonstrate the many areas in which teachers can address religion and faith. However, several of the books overlap the conventional genre definitions. In the remainder of this chapter we will examine the major genres of children’s literature: traditional literature, modern fantasy, modern realistic fiction, historical fiction, poetry, biography, and informational books. The description of each genre will begin with a definition of the genre, followed by examples of books within that that relate to various faith tra-

Table 2.1.

Evaluating Nonfiction Books About Religious Diversity

In seeking high quality informational books and biographies about religious diversity, teachers and families should consider the following suggestions: 1. Examine the text for stereotypes. Are there any “loaded” words, such as “odd” or “unusual” that hint of a prejudiced or condescending attitude? 2. If the book covers many different religions is each covered fairly and honestly? Check the qualifications of the author. Is this person a member of the faith community about which he or she has written? If not, has the author done adequate research? 3. Has the author included endnotes, time lines, a glossary, tables, maps, and references for adults and children? 4. Did the author use current sources by experts in the field? Is the book organized in a clear way that children or adolescents can follow? 5. Does the book authentically convey depth of content about the religion appropriate for the audience? 6. Does the content have a positive and sensitive focus on values of the religion? 7. Do illustrations and photographs honestly portray religious observances and practices? 8. Are the illustrations free of stereotypes and do they clarify information in the text? 9. Are there any craft activities that might be offensive to members of the religious group? For example, some older books on American Indians suggested that children make totem poles, a sacred symbol. 10. Does the book encourage analytical thinking? For example, some informational books pose thought-provoking questions for discussion. 11. Does the style and format of the book stimulate interest in the religious group? Sources: Groce and Groce (2005) and Norton (2007).

20 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 2.2.

Criteria for Selecting Fictional Books on Religious Diversity

1. Are the characters portrayed as individuals rather than representatives of a particular religion? 2. Is the writing free of stereotypes and language that might be offensive to members of this religion? 3. Are factual or historical details accurate? 4. Is the religion accurately portrayed? 5. Are the conflicts or problems in the book authentic for the time period and the character? 6. Is the setting authentic to the religious group? 7. Are the illustrations authentic and free of stereotypes? 8. Is the format and content appropriate for the age group for which it is intended? 9. Does the book make a positive contribution toward learning about the religion being studied? Sources: Galda and Cullinan (2002), Norton (2007).

ditions. Teaching strategies to extend the meaning of the books will also be presented.

Traditional Literature Traditional literature includes the category of religious stories and myths based on sacred writings of religious traditions. Within the broad category of traditional religious literature, readers will find myths, legends, parables, pourquoi tales (explain natural phenomenon), and hero stories. Although some people may question the classification of religious stories and myth, “myth in this sense can be broadly defined as the quest to discover and share truth concerning the spiritual aspect of existence” (Darrigan, Tunnel, & Jacobs, 2002). The Jakta tales of Buddhism, ancient epics of Hindu heroes, the legends of the Catholic saints, American Indian legends, and the Jewish myth of the Golem are examples of religious stories. The following books contain legends and myths based on religious traditions of the world. Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions (McFarlane, 1996) is dramatically illustrated with digital art that brings each story to life. The tales represent Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Native American, and Sacred Earth (indigenous). By reading stories from each tradition, students can note similarities in values and themes among the religions. McFarland provides a brief introduction to each chapter, a pronunciation guide and a glossary. Children and adults will admire the storytelling style and peaceful illustrations in this volume.

Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature 21

There are many surprises in Heather Forest’s Wisdom Tales From Around the World (1996). The volume includes Taoist parables, Zen stories, tales from Ancient Greece, Mulla Nasrudin stories from the Muslim Sufi tradition, and tales from Christianity. The parables are pithy stories, often with animal characters, that have a clear, but sometimes surprising message at the end. One of the Christian stories was a biographical piece on John Newton, the slave ship captain who returned to his childhood Christian roots and penned the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace.” Virtually every early culture had its own story of how the earth was formed. In the Beginning: Creation Stories from around the World (Hamilton, 1988) is a stunning collection of 21 myths about gods and goddesses, plants and animals, and the first humans. Throughout time, these stories have provided people from sacred traditions with solace, inspiration, and answers to some of the eternal questions of human kind. The dramatic illustrations by Barry Moser and author comments following each myth enrich this comprehensive volume. Stories of Catholic and Orthodox saints have inspired both adults and children for many centuries. In Lives and Legends of the Saints, Armstrong (1995) includes full-page reproductions of famous classical paintings to accompany engaging stories of the lives and heroic deeds attributed to the saints. For example, Armstrong describes Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of philosophers, ministers, students, wheelwrights, millers, and young women. In an intriguing one-page story, the author illuminates Catherine’s steadfast Christianity that led to her torture and death. Armstrong explains the symbols in the art, which date from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. She also includes an index to artists and paintings at the end of the book, making it an excellent resource for art history lessons. The rich cultural variety found in the folktales and sayings in Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs, by Sarah Conover and Freda Crane (2004), will help children and adults realize the diversity found in Islam. The authors, one who is Muslim, wrote their book in order to reach both the secular and Muslim world. Stories and wisdom from cultures as diverse as China, Pakistan, Turkey, West Africa and Indonesia provide humor, insight and cultural perspective. A quote from the Qur’an in the introduction captures the spirit of the book, “Of Allah’s Signs, one is that He created you from dust; and lo, you become human beings ranging far and wide” (43:48). The book contains two types of stories: those from the Qur’an and those from the hadiths, words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad. Many of the stories begins with kan ya ma kan, meaning “There was and there was not,” a Muslim version of “Once upon a time.” The stories are told with humor and insights that reveal beliefs and values underlying Islam.

22 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

The 32 fables in Kindness are often told from the perspective of the Buddha himself or from that of a Buddhist monk or nun. Stories from a variety of Asian countries are included in The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist Tales (Chodzin & Kohn, 1997) and exemplify different aspects of Buddhist wisdom. “The Foolish Boy” is an example of Tibetan humor similar to Western “noodlehead tales.” Other stories include gods and goddesses, demons, human and animal characters who illustrate the profound truths of Buddhism. The richly colored illustrations and borders created by Marie Cameron, portray Buddhist art from the country in which the story originated.

MODERN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION Modern fantasy and science fiction books depict characters, setting and events that could not really happen in the physical world. Although there are few modern fantasy books that directly tell stories about religious beliefs, it is not unusual for books within this genre to have underlying religious themes. A classic example is the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, who was a professor of medieval and renaissance literature at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Born into Christianity, Lewis became an atheist during his teen years. His reconversion to Christianity at age 31 strongly influenced his writing. Madeleine L’Engle’s characters often struggle with religious themes, such as the power of love and hatred. The Newbery Award book, A Wrinkle in Time (1976) and the four books that follow in the series are both science fantasy and religious allegory. Fundamental themes of faith are woven throughout the novels, which include quotations from the Bible, Dante, Pascal, and Shakespeare. L’Engle honors the mysteries in life and conflicts of the human condition we all face. Phillip Pullman’s popular “His Dark Materials” science fiction trilogy takes readers on a trip into a parallel universe filled with daemons, winged creatures, mammoth polar bears, and a substance called dust. The initial volume, The Golden Compass (1996) and its sequels present a parallel universe quite similar to our own in which complex characters grapple with universal questions. Some religious conservatives have criticized the series for negatively portraying organized religion. Other readers believe that Pullman portrays the beauty of the world and the value of life within a well-crafted fantasy. Middle school students who read this trilogy might begin to think critically about the authenticity of these claims and read the author’s own words. There are several interview clips with Pullman on

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Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the first woman to be ordained a Reconstructionist rabbi, writes books for young children with inclusive religious themes. In God’s Name (1994) is a celebration of the diverse ways people have of knowing and naming God. As the poetic story begins, the world has just been created, and every creature has a name, but no one knows the name of God. Boys and girls around the world suggest different names based on their perceptions and beliefs and in the end learn what God’s name really is. Julius Lester is another author who has embraced the topic of religion in his books for young readers. The son of a Methodist minister, Lester converted to Judaism as an adult. He was influenced early in his career by a creative writing teacher who believed that writing was a way of praying. Lester sees his writing as reaching out, not only to a child or adolescent audience, but also to the Divine (Lester, 1999a). If in the presence of a book or a person, we feel ourselves … confirmed as human beings, and we sense that life itself is being celebrated in this book or person, then we are in the presence of the Divine. (Lester, 1999a, p. 55).

Drawing on both African American and Jewish traditions that portray God as having a sense of humor, Lester created two religious fantasy books for children: What a Truly Cool World (1999b) and When the Beginning Began (1999c). The first is a picture book illustrated with Joe Cepeda’s vibrant and humorous paintings. The story opens with a bald, dark-skinned god wearing a yellow robe and green bedroom slippers, admiring his new creation, a blue and brown earth populated with people and animals of many shapes and colors. But his side-kick, Shaniqua, the angel in charge of everybody’s business, complains that the new world is too dull. After listening to her suggestions, God brightens the earth with a variety of creations—trees and bushes, flowers and music, vibrant colors and fluttering butterflies. When the Beginning Began (Lester, 1999c), draws from the Jewish tradition of the midrash, narratives that inquire into or investigate biblical stories. In a sense the midrashim fill in what is missing, what people wonder about, in the biblical text. For example, Lester explains in his introduction, all the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) say that God is eternal, that he has always existed. In the short stories Lester has created in this collection, he plays with the idea of what God did before and during the creation. In a similar vein, Rabbi Marc Gellman creates his own humorous twists on traditional Bible stories in Does God Have a Big Toe? (1989). In the short story with the same title as the book, a little girl asks her mother, father, and grandfather if God has a big toe. Each adult is preoccupied and sends her to someone else until her question reaches the king. The

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king orders everyone in the country of Babel to build a tall tower up to God, so he can see if God has a big toe. Knowing what a waste of time and resources this is, God decides to solve the problem by giving people different languages so that they aren’t able to communicate. In the end, the people who speak the same languages move away together and the little girl asks about God’s belly button. These would be good stories for reading aloud and discussing the updated messages. Samsara Dog (Manos, 2006), a story based on Buddhist principles, contains elements of both realism and fantasy. Dog begins his existence as a rough street animal that lives only for himself. After he dies he returns as a mascot of a motorcycle gang. In each incarnation Dog has different responsibilities and characteristics. The more times he returns to life, the more loyal and giving he becomes, until he returns as a companion and teacher to a child who is blind. Once he has given the great gifts of love and compassion to another, he no longer returns to life on earth.

MODERN REALISTIC FICTION Modern realistic fiction books are invented stories that could actually happen in the real world. They sometimes present dilemmas faced by child and adolescent characters as they grapple with religious convictions. For example, Amal, the teen protagonist in Does My Head Look Big in This? (Abdel-Fattah, 2007) is conflicted over the decision of whether or not to wear the hijab (head covering) to her private school in Australia. Students and teachers could discuss some of the stereotypical ideas held by the students in the book about Muslims and see if any of these notions changed as they came to know Amal. Buddha Boy (Koja, 2003) is a story told from the point of view of Justin, a typical high school student, who somewhat reluctantly befriends a new student, Jinsen. As their relationship develops, Justin learns of Jinsen’s past and his conversion to Buddhism. Other students, uncomfortable and intolerant of those who are different, torment Jinsen who refuses to fight back. Both Does My Head Look Big in This and Buddha Boy are excellent novels to stimulate discussion of preconceived ideas about belief systems and the treatment of students from minority religions. Shouting! (Thomas, 2007) is a picture book for primary children illustrated with exuberant, yet featureless paintings by Annie Lee, that make the reader want to stand up and celebrate. The story is told from the point of view of a young African American girl going to church with her mother. As the preacher begins to wave and thunderously preach and the choir vigorously responds, some of the women rise from their seats and dance with the ghost (Holy Spirit). The girl’s mother is among this

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throng, overcoming her arthritis pain to join other worshippers in the aisles, swaying and shouting “Hallelujah, Amen.” At the end of the book, the illustrations show contemporary worshipers joining with African dancers, as they trace their steps back through time. This book could connect with a study of spiritual music and the evolution of dance.

HISTORICAL FICTION Historical fiction books combine an accurate and convincing portrayal of a setting in the past with fictional characters. This genre facilitates children’s understanding that history is more than a series of dates, names, and places; history is about the lives of real people. It can help children develop positive attitudes toward history and gain general understanding of different time periods (Norton, 2007). Sometimes realistic events and authentic minor characters are included in well-researched historical fiction. Occasionally historical fiction refers to the religious milieu during a certain era and the impact of various religious movements on individuals and on history. Gideon’s People (Meyer, 1996) is a fictional story for intermediate students set in the late nineteenth century near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Two adolescent boys learn about each other’s religions when Isaac, the son of a Jewish peddler, is injured and stays with Gideon’s old order Amish family for several weeks. Both boys experience conflicts about the strict rules of their conservative faiths and their desire to fit in with their English (nonAmish) neighbors. The author describes the Amish Sunday service, the Friday evening Jewish Shabbat, dress codes of each group, differences in diet, and the custom of shunning among the Amish. In Brother Juniper, Diane Gibfried (2006) tells the story of the most charitable friar living in the monastery with Father Francis in the hills of Assisi. Brother Juniper is so generous that when the other friars leave to preach, he gives away the chapel’s gold chalice, the priest’s vestments, the altar cloth, the stained glass windows, and even the doors and walls of the chapel. When the other brothers return, they find him naked in the hole of what was once their sanctuary (he gave away his robes, as well!). The tale ends with the town’s people coming to a hilltop on Sunday morning to thank Brother Juniper for his kindness when they were in need. Readers see that it is people, not walls, windows and ornaments that make a church. Based on writings of St. Francis of Assisi, Gibfried and artist Meilo So, create a charming tale of generosity, which contains elements of both history and legend. There are numerous books about the role of Quakers in helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. One example is Henry’s

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Freedom Box (Levine, 2007) in which the main character is shipped north in a wooden crate with the help of Quaker abolitionists. North by Night (Ayers, 1998) illustrates how one woman made a decision based on her religious convictions to assist escaping slaves. These books could be used as part of a broader unit on slavery and the role of religion in the abolitionist movement.

POETRY AND SONGS The artistic expression, rhythm and imagery of poetry and song lyrics can be a beautiful way to express spirituality. The Psalms from the JudeoChristian-Islamic tradition are well known examples. The artwork in The Lord Is My Shepherd (Wilson, 2003) proclaims the joy and comfort many people find in these verses. Striking colors and swirling abstract shapes provide a visual journey for young readers. In contrast, Tim Ladwig’s illustrations for Psalm Twenty-Three (1993) show the meaning this poem might have for contemporary urban children. Living in a crowded city, the children find love, comfort, and encouragement from grandparents, teachers, and a school crossing guard. The words of the psalm appear to give them strength to surmount the negative forces in their environment. Had Gadya: A Passover Song (Chwast, 2005) is one of the best-known songs sung after the Passover Seder. The folk art paintings add to the lightheartedness and cumulative style of this chain folk song. In an afterward for adults, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld explains that the tale may be a metaphor for the history of the Jewish people. He believes that the song relates to the oppression of Jews and final liberation by God (an interpretation that may be controversial among contemporary Jews). Music and words in Aramaic are provided at the end of the book. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations for He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (2005) suggest an immense, beautiful world, as a child might see it. The multiethnic family depicted in Nelson’s paintings show gratitude for the world and for each other by swimming in the ocean, fishing, and admiring the night sky. A delightful DVD accompanies the book. Ramadan Moon (Robert, 2009), written in narrative verse, describes holiday preparations, prayers, and celebration of a modern Muslim family, told from a child’s point of view. The delightful mixed media illustrations of Shirin Adl, show the changing phases of the moon that accompany the family through The Month of Mercy (Ramadan). A recent noteworthy publication, On My Journey Now, by Nikki Giovanni (2007), chronicles African American history through the music of spirituals, beginning with music brought across the Atlantic from Africa and continuing through the years of slavery, the Civil War, and on to

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today. Lyrics to some of the verses of the spirituals are included in the text and complete lyrics are included at the end of the book. Many of these spirituals and other hymns from the African American Christian tradition are included in Gloria Pinkney’s Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven (2005) and the accompanying compact disc.

BIOGRAPHIES Biographies, autobiographies, and first person accounts are an especially valid way for students to learn about the lives and courageous acts of individuals, conflicts real people try to resolve, as well as history and culture. Biographies of religious leaders such as Gandhi, Thich Naht Hanh, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Black Elk, Mahalia Jackson, Billy Graham, Muhammad and the lives of the Sikh Gurus give children insight into the religious history and exemplars of spiritual commitment. Becoming Buddha: The story of Siddhartha (Stewart, 2005) is a stunning biography of Siddhartha Gautama. Illustrator Sally Rippen’s bold paintings, fabric, and gold outlines are dramatic against a black background, enriching the text and providing the reader with appreciation for the life and teachings of this religious leader. The seamless story recounts the life of the Buddha from prophesies of his birth to his enlightenment and his early teaching. Gandhi, written and illustrated by Demi (2001), concentrates on the spiritual and political leader’s ethical decisions, his respectful defiance, and the “insatiable love of humankind that guided his life” (unpaged). Throughout the stages of Gandhi’s life depicted in words and paintings, the reader sees growth in his religious convictions. Flora Geyer’s Saladin: Muslim Warrior Who Defended His People (2006) with its maps, replicas of Muslim art, and timeline, would be an excellent resource for learning about the Crusades. The book also provides a hero to be compared to many contemporary Muslim warriors. Dalai Lama (Worth, 2004) includes a chapter on Tibet under Communism that could be a focus for understanding the continuing conflict between the Communist regime in China and the traditional Buddhist faith that led to the Dalai Lama’s exile from his native Tibet. Both of these books might help students learn more about underlying causes of religious and political conflicts. Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo (Roth, 2006) begins by informing readers that if they had lived a thousand years ago and heard a song they wanted to learn to sing, they would have to listen very carefully and memorize it. Roth goes on to tell the story of “The Father of Music,” first as a choirboy and later as a monk, struggling with

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little encouragement to convey musical pitches in written form. He finally has his epiphany and the world of music changed forever. Roth’s charming collages of torn and cut paper and an array of musical scores provide a perfect complement to this inspiring story.

INFORMATIONAL BOOKS Informational (nonfiction) books on faith traditions reviewed here contain documented facts in a format that is appealing to children and youth. Most contemporary informational books on religion contain photographs of holy sites, devotees engaging in religious practices or festivals, and artifacts used in worship. These images help young readers gain a visual concept of the religion and its followers. There is a trend among publishers to produce series of books on different world religions. Some books are general, whereas others focus on a specific aspect of religion, such as houses of worship or the way different religions commemorate life transitions. A Faith Like Mine (Buller, 2005) is a large-format picture book that addresses the six major world religions. It also includes a section on traditional beliefs and a final chapter on “other faiths” that have smaller followings and may not be well known. Each page contains several photographs of religious symbols, worshippers, or houses of worship. Small pictures of children accompany quotations from them about their beliefs and practices. Short segments of text and an abundance of photographs from around the world make this an appealing introductory book for many age groups. The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions (Meredith & Hickman, 2005) has a similar format to A Faith Like Mine, but includes more text and is written for older readers. It is also a good resource for teachers and families. The authors address thirteen religions that are practiced today, as well as historical belief systems, such as those of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Maps of the world’s religions and a time chart that shows when various religions began and died out are also included. Internet links allow students to go on a virtual Hajj when reading the chapter on Islam or take a picture tour of a Korean Buddhist temple. DK Publishing produces a series of Eyewitness Books that includes several volumes on world religions (Bowker, 2006), Christianity (Kindersley, Wilkinson, & Tambini, 2006), Islam (Wilkinson, 2005) and Judaism (Charing, 2003). Each double page spread focuses on a topic about that religion. In the book on Islam the topics include Islamic culture, scholarship and teaching, and festivals and ceremonies. Following an introductory paragraph for each section, the remainder of the information is in the form of detailed captions accompanying photographs. The final

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pages in the book are a section called “interesting facts,” a glossary, questions and answers, and a timeline. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored (Bowker, 2006), also published by DK, is a visually appealing book, covering 11 faith traditions. Faith (Ajmera, Nakassis, & Pon, 2009) is a nearly wordless book that conveys its message through stunning photographs and succinct text describing the many ways in which children around the world express their faith. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief identification of the religious practice and location where it is occurring in the photo. Authors’ notes, providing a longer description of the elements of faith, and a thorough glossary, provide useful information for teachers and students. Author Anita Ganeri and illustrator Rachael Phillips have collaborated on six books in the series “Traditional Religious Tales” for Picture Window Books: Buddhist Stories (2006a), Christian Stories, Hindu Stories (2006b), Islamic Stories (2006d), Jewish Stories (2006b), and Sikh Stories (2006e). Each slim volume contains about eight illustrated stories, a glossary, index, and lists of print and online resources. Other helpful features are that children and adults can search by ISBN number on to locate further age-appropriate informational on a particular religion and the “Did you know” inserts, containing information and pictures that extend the story or religious concepts contained within it. The World Religions series (Nardo, 2010a, 2010b; Raatma, 2010; Rosinsky, 2010a, 2010b), consisting of six books representing major organized religions around the world, is appropriate for upper elementary or middle school students. Each book follows the pattern of beginning with the story of a teen or young adult of the faith, followed by chapters that answer a particular question, such as, “What do Muslims believe?” and “What are the origins of Sikhism?” An appealing feature of this series, especially for older readers, is the “debate” boxes that pose questions that relate to the faith. For example, the book on Islam has a debate box on whether arranged marriage is a good idea. The Holidays Around the World series (Heiligman, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2007d, 2007e, 2007f; Otto, 2007, 2008, 2009), produced by National Geographic, includes 12 books on both religious and secular holidays. Evocative photographs and examples of global traditions make these informative books appealing to children and adults. The back matter includes cooking and craft activities, songs, a glossary, resources for further investigation and a note for adult or older readers. The religious holidays included in the series are Diwali, Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Chinese New Year. Religion and Spirituality in America (Gay, 2006) is part of the “It Happened to Me” series for teens published by Scarecrow Press. The text is

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interspersed with photographs and boxes, which include quotations from teens found on religious websites. One example is an entry from a teen who has lived much of her life in a religious commune; another insert quotes nonreligious teens who have been harassed at their school. Chapters address mixing religion and politics, rites of passage, lesser-known beliefs, and a chapter on what agnostics and atheists believe. The Cultures of the World series (Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, n.d.) are a comprehensive set of books focusing on world geography, history, people, government, and religion. The religion sections are quite comprehensive and (depending on the country) include information on indigenous, as well as contemporary faiths. The books are generously illustrated with colorful photographs. In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child’s Book of Prayers and Praise (Lindbergh, 2000) is a collection of prayers and inspirational sayings from many different faith traditions. Four acclaimed artists use different styles (acrylics, collages, watercolors) to illustrate children from various spiritual traditions. The traditions represented include Native American, Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, African, and Celtic. Arranged in four themes: “For the Earth,” “For the Night,” “For the Home,” and “For the Day,” this book is appropriate for families and religious educators to use to help children understand how they are both alike and different from children from other faith traditions. Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions (Rottner, 2006) features colorful and engaging photographs of very young children from around the world worshipping with their families. Families in churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship are depicted to show both how families are alike and different. At the end of the book adults are given background information on each of the photographs to help them answer questions.

TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR BOOKS ABOUT RELIGION The books described in this chapter are exceptional resources for teaching content about religious diversity. There are many approaches teachers can employ to enhance comprehension, expand understanding of character and perspective, and stimulate further reading and research.

Storytelling Reading aloud and storytelling are logical choices for sharing traditional religious myths and legends that have been transmitted orally from

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generation to generation within communities. When stories are told rather than read, there is no barrier between the teller and the audience. Listeners incorporate the voice and gestures of the storytelling with their own imaginations to picture the events and characters in their minds. Teachers can model storytelling techniques then teach students to tell their own stories. An outstanding resource for helping children learn to tell stories is Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom (M. Hamilton & Weiss, 2005).

Creative Drama Students might create a play based on one of the Buddhist stories in Kindness (Conover, 2005) an Islamic story from Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs (Conover & Crane, 2004) or a Pagan tale, such as “The Rebirth of the Sun” retold in Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions (Starhawk, Baker, & Hill, 1998). They could also dramatize scenes from biographies of religious leaders who advocated nonviolent protests, such as Gandhi’s Salt March to the Sea or a discussion between Martin Luther King, Jr., and other religious leaders who supported the civil rights movement.

Graphic Organizers Graphic organizers help students visualize the way a book is organized and key facts they have learned about the religion. If a class is studying several religions, students might glean facts about each and display them on graphic organizers, such as spider webs, around the classroom. One example might be a web showing houses of worship for different faith communities. For examples of graphic organizers and ways to use them see For younger children, drawing scenes or helping construct a mural may help them focus on details or sequence of a story. Character maps are a helpful way for students to think about and record the feelings of a character and reasons he or she behaves in a certain way. Graphic responses to literature can be appropriate for any fictional genre. Upper elementary and middle school students could create graphic organizers to compare and contrast creation myths from different cultures. A good resource for this particular exercise is In the Beginning: Creation Stories From Around the World (V. Hamilton, 1988). Social studies students might research the geography and culture in which folktales originated.

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KWL Before reading an informational book about a religious group, students and their teacher could develop a KWL chart. In the “K” column list what students think they know about a certain religion. In the “W” column write what they want to know, and when they have completed their study, write what they have learned in the “L” column. This approach can be used with individual students or a group. Teachers can apply the KWL approach with a single book or with a longer unit of study.

Writing Creative modern fantasy books may inspire children to write their own imaginary myths or stories to explain natural phenomenon such as lightning or volcanoes. Children’s writing and artwork can be published at websites such as, a safe, commercial-free website for publishing students’ stories and pictures from all over the world. Writing point of view pieces can help students take the perspective of religious leader from an historical or contemporary time. “I poems” can be written about oneself or students can write from the point of view of the subject of a biography they have read. For example, after reading a biography of Thich Naht Hanh, a student could determine his values, beliefs, interests, and hobbies and construct an “I poem” about him. (See for “I poem” templates.) Students could synthesize what they have learned about various religious groups by writing original poems based on their reading and research. Because poetry is meant to be heard, it is an excellent genre for choral reading, where groups of children read different lines. Students could practice choral reading and perform for another class at school.

Literature Circles Literature circles could provide a forum for students to discuss books such as those described above in small groups of peers. To prepare for literature circle discussions students take notes on the book, make personal connections to the story, and sometimes do further research on some aspect of the book. Group meetings are characterized by open, natural conversations, honest, open-ended questions, and a spirit of playfulness and fun (Daniels, 2002). In reading books such as Does My Head Look Big

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in This? (Abdel-Fattah, 2007) and Buddha Boy (Koja, 2003) students might discuss the religious beliefs of the protagonists and how those beliefs influence their decisions. As students research related information about Buddhism, it might lead to a discussion about the current conflicts between China and Tibet involving Buddhist monks. Likewise, Does My Head Look Big in This? could be connected to news items in which school girls and teachers have been prevented from wearing the hijab (head covering). This discussion could also lead middle school students to debate the wearing of other religious symbols in public schools in the United States and other countries.

Visual Arts Many teachers today share “author studies” with their students. This approach could be expanded to “illustrator studies,” where students learn about the lives of artists, as well as the media and styles they use. Illustrators’ websites frequently include video clips showing work in progress and demonstrations of techniques. Students can try their own hand at collage, photography, charcoal, scratchboard, or various types of paint. Many informational books about religion focus on visual arts and music. Religious art is some of the finest and most revered art ever created. Christian painting, sculpture and architecture dominated the art of Medieval Europe. The rich and varied culture of Islam is reflected in the architecture of mosques, decorated ceramic tiles, the beauty of their calligraphy, pottery and carpets; and detailed geometric, floral, and vegetative designs. One way for students to understand Buddhism is to study the symbolism in the different physical positions of the Buddha depicted in sculptures. Children’s literature that includes information on religious art can be a way for students to develop a deeper understanding of particular religions.

Biography boxes Students might demonstrate their understanding of Gandhi’s life by creating a “biography box” (a decorated box or other container in which the student places objects that relate to the subject of a biography). A biography box for Gandhi might include a British flag to represent his years of schooling in London, salt to represent the salt marches, homespun cloth to represent the right of Indians to spin their own cotton, a piece of fruit to symbolize vegetarianism, and rose petals, which were scattered after his death.

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“You Are There” Dramas To extend their understanding of biographies, students might create “You Are There” dramas based on important historical events documented in the biographies they are reading. An example might be a dramatization of the civil rights event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prayed and marched together, as depicted in As Good as Anybody (Michelson, 2008). In these presentations student take on roles of different historical figures in a biography and write a script about a memorable scene to perform for others. Students might dress in simple costumes, if they choose. Higher level thinking skills will be applied when teachers and students stage imaginary conversations between two people from the same time period or different times (Norton, 2007). For example, what would The Buddha and Harriet Tubman talk about if they were to meet? Although completely fictional, these discussions would have to be well grounded in an understanding of each person’s philosophy and religious beliefs. Students could also study interview techniques and stage a mock interview with a famous religious character from the past.

CONCLUSION Because religion and spiritual traditions are so important in understanding past and present cultures around the world, it is essential for teachers to include the topic of faith traditions in their classrooms. Both the national guidelines and state curriculum standards for social studies include the teaching of religious and spiritual traditions under many topics (National Council for the Social Studies, 1998). These include families and communities around the world, holidays, current events, exploration and discovery, and colonial settlements. In addition, teachers need to validate the cultural differences, including the religious and spiritual beliefs, of the children and adolescents in their classroom. Teaching strategies that use children’s literature to explore diverse cultures can also provide opportunities to open the window on the diversity of religions within the United States and the world. These strategies, in turn, will enable children and adolescents to reflect and think with greater depth and broader understanding about their own cultures and faith traditions.

REFERENCES Baestrup, K. (2007). Here if you need me. New York, NY: Little, Brown.

Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature 35 Bruchac, J. (1996). Roots of survival: Native American storytelling and the sacred. Golden, CO: Fulcrum. Buxbaum, Y. (1994). Storytelling and spirituality in Judaism. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. Darrigan, D. L., Tunnell, M. O., & Jacobs, J. S. (2002). Children’s literature: Engaging teachers and children in good books. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Galda, L., & Cullinan, B. (2002). Literature and the child (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. Gangi, J. M. (2004). Encountering children’s literature: An arts approach. Boston, MA: Pearson Education. Groce, E., & Groce, R. (2005). Authenticating historical fiction: Rationale and process. Education, Research and Perspectives, 32(1), 99-119. In memoriam: Madeleine L’Engle (2007). Journal of Children’s Literature, 33(2), 78. Lester, J. (1999). Writing about Religion. Book Links, 9 (2), pp. 54-56. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. (n.d.) Retrieved from _the_world_second_ed/index_fr.xml National Council for the Social Studies. (1998). Study about religions in the social studies curriculum. Retrieved from Norton, D. E. (2007). Through the eyes of a child (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Children’s Literature Cited (P = Primary Level, I = Intermediate level, M = Middle School Level) Abdel-Fattah, R. (2007). Does my head look big in this? New York, NY: Orchard. (M) Armstrong, C. (1995). Lives and legends of the saints. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ayers, K. (1998). North by night. New York, NY: Delacorte. (M) Bowker, J. (2006). World religions: The great faiths explored and explained. London, England: DK (I, M) Buller, L. (2005). A faith like mine. New York, NY: DK. (P, I, M) Charing, D. (2003). Judaism. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Books. Chodzin, S., & Kohn, A. (1997). The wisdom of the crows and other Buddhist tales. Bath, England: Barefoot Books. Chwast, S. (Illustrator). (2005). Had Gadya: A Passover song. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press. (P) Conover, S. (2005). Kindness: A treasury of Buddhist wisdom for children and parents. Spokane, WA: Eastern Washington Press. (I) Conover, S., & Crane, F. (2004). Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful signs. Spokane, WA: Eastern Washington Press.

36 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Cultures of the world. (various authors, 2009). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. (I, M) Demi. (2001). Gandhi. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I) Forest, H. (1996). Wisdom tales from around the world. Little Rock, AR: August House. (P, I) Ganeri, A. (2006a). Buddhist stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2006b). Christian stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2006c). Jewish stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2006d). Hindu stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2006e). Islamic stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2006f). Sikh stories. Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Gay, K. (2006). Religion and spirituality in America. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow. Gellman, M. (1989). Does God have a big toe? New York, NY: HarperCollins (P, I) Geyer, F. (2006). Saladin: Muslim warrior who defended his people. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (I) Gibfried, D. (2006). Brother Juniper. New York, NY: Clarion. (P) Giovanni, N. (2007). On my journey now. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. (M) Hamilton, M., & Weiss, M. (2005). Children tell stories: Teaching and using storytelling in the classroom. New York, NY: Richard C. Owen. Hamilton, V. (1988). In the beginning: Creation stories from around the world. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. (I, M) Heiligman, D. (2006a). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Diwali: With sweets, lights, and fireworks. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2006b). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Hanukkah: With light, latkes, and dreidels. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2006c). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2006d). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Thanksgiving: With turkey, family, and counting blessings. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007a). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Christmas: With carols, presents, and peace. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007b). Holidays around the world. Celebrate Easter: With colored eggs, flowers, and prayer. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007c). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Halloween. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007d). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Independence Day: With parades, picnics, and fireworks. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007e). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Passover: With matzah, maror, and memories. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Heiligman, D. (2007f). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: With honey, prayers, and the Shofar. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Koja, K. ( 2003). Buddha boy. New York, NY: Farr, Straus, and Giroux. (M) Ladwig, T. (1993). Psalm twenty-three. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (P) L’Engle, M. (1973). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: Dell. (I, M) Lester, J. (1999b). What a truly cool world. New York, NY: Scholastic. (P)

Connecting World Religions and Children’s Literature 37 Lester, J. (1999c). When the beginning began. New York, NY: Harcourt/Silver Whistle. (I, M) Levine, E. (2007). Henry’s freedom box. New York, NY: Scholastic. (P, I) Lewis, C. S. (1950). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York, NY: Macmillan. (I) Lindbergh, R. (2000). In every tiny grain of sand: A child’s book of prayer and praise. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. (P, I) Manos, H. (2006). Samsara Dog. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller Book. McFarlane, M. (1996). Sacred myths: Stories of world religions. Portland, OR: Sibyl. (P, I) Meredith, S., & Hickman, C. (2005). The Usborne encyclopedia of world religions. London, England: Usborne House. (I, M) Meyer, C. (1996). Gideon’s people. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace. Michelson, R. (2008). As good as anybody. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Nelson, K. (2005). He’s got the whole world in his hands. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers. (P) Nelson, K. (2005). He’s got the whole world in his hands. New York, NY: Scholastic DVD. (P) Otto, C. B. (2007). Holidays around the world. Celebrate Kwanzaa: With candles, community, and the fruit of the harvest. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Otto, C. B. (2008). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Valentine’s Day: With love, cards, and candy. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Otto, C. B. (2009). Holidays around the world: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With fireworks, dragons, and lanterns. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Pinkney, G. (2005). Music from our Lord’s holy heaven. New York, NY: Amistad/HarperCollins. (P, I) Pullman, P. (1996). The golden compass. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. (M) Robert, N. B. (2009). Ramadan moon. London, England: Frances Lincoln. (P) Roth, S. (2006). Do, re, mi: If you can read music, thank Guido d’Arezzo. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Rotner, S., & Kelly, S. (2006). Many ways: How families practice their beliefs and religions. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press (P) Sasso, S. E. (1994). In God’s name. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights. (P, I) Starhawk, Baker, D., & Hill, A. (1998). Circle round: Raising children in Goddess traditions. New York, NY: Random House. (I, M) Stewart, W. (2005). Becoming Buddha: The story of Siddhartha. Torrance, CA: Heian. (P) Thomas, J. C. (2007). Shouting! New York, NY: Hypernium. (P) Wilkonson, P. (2005). Islam. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Books. Wilkonson, P. (2006). Christianity. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Books. Wilson, A. (Illustrator). (2003). The Lord is my shepherd. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (P, I) Worth, R. (2004). Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House.


INDIGENOUS BELIEF SYSTEMS “Circle round, and listen how we came to be …” —Starhawk, Baker, and Hill (1998, p. 15)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE I have been invited by a pagan group to take part in the winter solstice celebration on December 21. As I enter the room I see an altar in the center and smaller altars representing the four directions, each associated with the elements: air, fire, water, and earth—the things we all need to survive. The central altar represents spirit, where balance, peace and harmony reside. The solstice ritual begins with participants standing in a circle just inside the four outer altars. A woman dressed in a long, flowing red and green skirt walks around the outside of the circle carrying a sword above her head, chanting words that signify an entrance into sacred space. Next a young man calls the four directions, acknowledging and honoring our connection to the elements. Everyone joins in this process by reading: Hail to the north, where the mountains rise, Where green grows the land Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 39–66 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


40 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources under brilliant blue skies, Realm of stability, strength to persevere, Powers of Earth, we welcome you here!

Another member of the group reads a short description of the history of Yule, a season celebrated in the northern hemisphere since prehistoric times. We learn that when the growing season ended and the nights became shorter and shorter, early people feared that the sun would completely disappear and they would be left in the cold darkness. Fires and candles were lit in attempt to bring back the sun. When they perceived that the sun was strengthening and rising earlier it would have been an occasion for festivities. Evergreens, mistletoe and holly, which remain green all year, symbolized everlasting life to early pagans. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many of the older pagan traditions were incorporated into the new holidays. After the reading about Yule history, the children and adults work together to create a community wreath. Evergreen stems and a circular frame have been prepared in advance; we take turns twisting small branches onto the frame while chanting “snowy crests of evergreens warmed by dawn’s new rays.” The circle is closed by facing each direction and bidding farewell to each spirit. The woman with the sword circles again to open the circle and we don our coats to walk into the night and hang the wreath, symbol of community and circle of life.

HISTORY In prehistoric times, before written language and structured religions, all people were indigenous; they originated from and lived in a particular region. Today “indigenous” is a term that refers to approximately 200 million people living in small societies throughout the world (Grim, 2004). These local groups of people have well-defined kinship systems, myths and stories, and their own languages, which may be combined with the standard language of their geographic area. When scholars write about the religious and spiritual beliefs of indigenous people, they use a variety of terms depending on the academic discipline and geographic location. These terms include primitive, primal, cosmic, archaic, traditional, and basic religion. In our discussion, we will use the term indigenous to refer to the beliefs of early inhabitants of a specific geographic area and/or their descendants. Indigenous spirituality is thought to be as old as the existence of humanity (Smith, 1994). There is archeological evidence from all parts of

Indigenous Belief Systems 41

the world indicating that ancient people sought balance between this world and the spiritual world. The holy was present in everything and every act was a sacred ritual (York, 2003). Their beliefs did not constitute a major world religion, but were a holistic way of life encompassing traditions, symbols, and relationships to one another and the environment. In prehistoric times and today in cultures with no written language, important beliefs and history are conveyed by word of mouth through stories, myths, and legends. Stories may answer questions that people have always asked: • • • •

How did the world come to be? Why are people here on earth? What are people supposed to do with their lives? What is the relationship between humans and the natural world?

Because spoken language is “invisible,” it allows people to be open to new forms of the sacred, that which they held in reverence (Smith, 1994). They can remember what is important from a story and not be overwhelmed with details. The oral tradition protects human memory and may increase comprehension of the sacred through nonverbal channels. If people are not busy reading and grappling with ideas, their eyes and minds are more open to the sacred (Smith, 1991). Often stories and songs related to the local geographic area where people and animals shared space, teaching respect for the earth (Fisher, 1999) and binding people together. While specific spiritual beliefs and practices vary from the past to the present and by geographic location, there are a number of features common to many indigenous groups. These characteristics, which will be defined below, are animism, relationship to place, ancestor veneration, totems, atemporal views of time, polytheistic, magic, and rituals and rites of passage. Animism, the concept that all things contain a vitality, energy, or life force, is found in almost all indigenous traditions. Ancient people did not differentiate between living and nonliving, but lived in spiritual relationship with all that existed (Fisher, 1999). They believed that nature was sacred and that humans were part of the natural world. In some cultures, great, old trees were revered while other cultures venerated rivers, rocks or mountains, believing that each had a spiritual essence. Pantheism, an aspect of animism, means that “divinity is inseparable from nature and that deity is imminent in nature” (Adler, 1986, p. 25). The importance of place, or geographic location, is central to indigenous spirituality. Indigenous people often view their part of the earth and local surroundings from a religious frame of reference. “Despite their great variety, surviving indigenous cultures in general teach that all forms

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of life, all aspects of existence, are spiritually interrelated” (York, 2003, p. 30). For example, Uluru, the world’s largest rock found in central Australia, plays an important role in the sacred traditions and stories of the Anangu people who live near it (Arnold, 2003). Weather, animals, plants, people, rocks, celestial beings, and spirits are all connected and live in sacred relationship with each other. Some societies also have totems, or animals, such as a bear, an eagle, or an emu that guard a tribe. In return people show great respect for the totem and refuse to injure it because of their connection to that animal. Totemic practices protect animal species because people do not eat their own totem animals and they must ask permission to catch and eat the totems of other clans (Reynolds, 1992). For many indigenous people, time is atemporal; the concept of “now” is eternal (Smith, 1999). The past was a “golden age” or “dreamtime” (Aborigine) or time of mysteries (Chinese) when gods and goddesses existed on earth. Elders are held in esteem because of their age and wisdom and animals are venerated for being part of the time before humans (Smith, 1999). The dreaming time of the Aborigines is referred to as eternal or “everywhen” (Hume, 2000). Many indigenous people are also polytheistic, believing that the sacred has many forms of spiritual beings (Bowker, 2006; York, 2003). However, there is usually one animating force or creative power that is behind a plurality of forms and often associated with the sun or sky. The Maori of New Zealand call this force Io and American Indians may refer to the Great Spirit. Many indigenous religions practice ancestor veneration, honoring relatives who have become part of the spirit world. Ancestor veneration continues today to be part of many world religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and some Native American beliefs. People have made sacrifices or offerings of animals, grain, milk, weapons and jewelry to please and appease the spirits throughout history. The most sensational type of offering, human sacrifice, was in actuality a rare practice (Smith, 1994). Magic, the belief that people can have some control over nature, bring benefit to themselves or others, or cause harm to their enemies, is found in some indigenous spiritual practices (Bowker, 2006). Fetishes or good luck charms are found in contemporary culture and spiritual beliefs as well in the form of spiritual medallions such as St. Christopher’s medal, which is believed to bring safe travel. Rain ceremonies, battle rituals and hunting rituals are also examples of practices from indigenous cultures in which people attempt to affect a force of nature, the outcome of a battle, or a successful hunt (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). Indigenous people often mark events such as the changing seasons, birth, death, harvest, or preparing for battle with rituals and rites of passage.

Indigenous Belief Systems 43

Shamans, priests or priestesses, or healers may play an important role in these rituals. The term “shaman,” originating in Siberia, refers to visionaries or healers in many indigenous societies who connect with spirits and draw on their power for purposes such as healing (Bowker, 2006; York, 2003). They may be the conduits for divination, contacting the spirit world to learn about and predict the future. Purification ceremonies are another example of a ritual. Traditional American Indians enter a sweat lodge as a form of purification. People who participate in these rituals become bonded to one another and to their communities, and individuality becomes secondary to one’s role within the group. “Uniqueness is alien to collective identity and harmony” (York, 2003, p. 34). Although indigenous people worldwide were colonized by larger or more technologically advanced societies, indigenous religions are still practiced today. In some locations, people have beliefs and practices that may be very similar to those of their ancestors. However, indigenous beliefs and practices are often blended or syncretized with major world religions or in some cases practiced in parallel with those religions. Contemporary celebrations such as Carnival in South America and Day of the Dead in Mexico are examples of the blending of indigenous beliefs with those of Roman Catholics (Penyak & Petry, 2006). Reflecting on the combining of her Nahatl ancestors’ indigenous beliefs with Catholicism, Cecilia Pajara Chiquito, from Tlaxcalancingo, Puebla, Mexico states, “The Gods change, but the love of God is the same.”

INDIGENOUS BELIEFS FROM AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND History Australia is the oldest geographical land mass on earth and, along with Indonesia, the source of the some of the earliest animal and human skeletal remains (Lawlor, 1991). The root word for “aboriginal” means “from the very first” (Arnold, 2003) and aborigines consider themselves the original inhabitants of the land on which they live. Early aboriginal religion was totemic; people believed that animals guarded the tribe, and in return, they respected and did not injure their totemic animals. It is difficult to know much about either early aboriginal beliefs or those of the Maori religion in New Zealand since missionaries who wrote the first accounts unfavorably compared indigenous beliefs to Christianity. When Europeans arrived in Australia, they did not consider aboriginal beliefs to be a religion and tried to convert the Aborigines to Christianity. Young people were taken from the ancestral land and brought up in Christian missions. Known as the “Lost Generation,” many converted to Christianity, and

44 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 3.1.

Aborigine boys.

today there are Aboriginal priests and ministers in Christian churches (Kung, 2002). The Maori religion contained much secret knowledge, involved veneration of ancestors, and was concerned with finding supernatural help for locating food. Many of the Maori gods and goddesses are found in other parts of Polynesia, as well (Early Australasia Religions, nd). Beliefs and Practices Spiritual beliefs of Aboriginal people center on their founding drama called the dreaming or dreamtime, the creative period when the mountains, watering holes, rocks, and deserts of the earth took form (Hume, 2000; Morin, 1998). According to Huston Smith, Aboriginal people believe “there are not two worlds, but a single world that can be experienced in different ways” (2009, p. 367). Aborigines refer to their creation myth as the time the earth was “sung” into existence (Lawlor, 1991). During the dreamtime, the ancestors arose from under the earth and traveled about, giving life and form to all that existed. They permeated all things with their own essence and set forth “The Law” for Aborigines to follow

Indigenous Belief Systems 45

(Hume, 2000). When the Ancestors completed the work of creation they returned inside the earth. The Law of the Aborigines is an all-encompassing set of truths that direct all of life (Swain, 1993). It cannot change because it originated in the dreamtime and is specific to a particular place. Thus, The Law is local, rather than universal (Hume, 2000). Aboriginal people are joined to the spiritual world through their relationship with the land. “Everything is considered a vast web of sacredness” (Hume, 2000, p. 127). Expressions of the Ancestors can be seen in natural sites such as rock outcroppings, waterholes and trees. High value is placed in keeping the earth in its original pure form (Lawlor, 1991). An interesting spiritual phenomenon is the blend that some people have found between their Aboriginal cultural heritage and New Age spirituality or neopaganism. These groups are similar in their desire to “employ intuitive knowledge to achieve spiritual harmony with the land” (Hume, 2000, p. 130). The spiritual ecology movement, with its deep connection to the concept of Mother Earth, is found both in New Age spirituality worldwide, and traditional Aboriginal beliefs. The indigenous Maori of New Zealand believe that the universe has no beginning and no end, and was not “created” in the way many other cultures believe. They have great respect for all things tapu (holy), and almost any object could be tapu if used for a religious purpose. The term mana means a power present in all things, living and nonliving that give some people, especially priests and chiefs, power over fate (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). The Maori believe that two people can connect physically and spiritually when they touch their noses (hongi) in the traditional Maori greeting (Griffiths, 1999). An old Maori story tells that in the beginning the Sky God Rangi lay on top of Earth Goddess Papi. Everything was dark and their children had little room to move between them. The children dreamed of light. Several Gods and Goddesses tried to separate the earth and sky, but only Tane Mahuta, God of Forests, had a plan that worked. He made himself into a tree that slowly grew until it separated the earth and sky. The children were able to play and run on the mountains and valleys of Papi’s body. One of the children, Maui, made a fish hook and sank it deep into the ocean. When he pulled up his hook the island of New Zealand was formed (Kanawa, 1989).

Demographics In 2001 there were 458,520 Indigenous people living in Australia, with over 57% located in New South Wales and Queensland. Indigenous people comprise 24% of those living in remote areas and only 1% of major

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city dwellers. Only 30% of Aborigines live in major cities (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003).

INDIGENOUS BELIEFS FROM EUROPE: PAGANISM AND NEOPAGANISM “Being a witch just means you take care of the earth and each other.” —Stafford (2005) History The term pagan is derived from the Latin word paganus, originally used to refer to early European country-dwellers or peasants who had not converted to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam (Fisher, 1999). Early Christianity took root mainly in cities; the rural folk maintained their old religion that was closely connected to nature, the earth, seasons, and lunar/agricultural cycles. Early pagans followed the cycles of the sun and moon, celebrating the changing of the seasons and honoring sacred places, such as springs or aged trees. Gods and Goddesses represented both masculine and feminine principles embodied within creation—the stars and moon, animals, and even plants. Examples of ancient pagans are the Druids in England, the Asatru in Scandinavia, Pagans in Europe and the ancient Greeks and Romans. Pagan groups, such as the Druids, likely built some of the oldest structures in Europe, the most famous of which is Stonehenge, as ritual sites and astronomical calendars (Carr-Gomm, 1991; Rogers & Hickman, 2001). The roots of Druidism began with the ancient Celts of Great Britain. Some researchers think that the ancestors of the Celts lived in an area near the Black Sea around 4000 B.C.E. and over the next 3,000 years migrated to all parts of Europe including the British Isles (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). Druids and Druidesses were the priests and professional class, studying for up to 20 years in the fields of astronomy, genealogy, music, and science. They led rituals, usually within groves of sacred trees, marking life passages and celebrating the changing of the seasons. There are estimates of around 300 Celtic gods and goddesses, with 33 major deities (a magical number to the Druids). Some of the better known Druid deities were Cerridwen, Morgan, Arawn, and Lugh. The triple goddess is a common depiction, possibly representing sisters or the three stages of a woman’s life: maiden, mother, and crone. Modern Druids are a subgroup of neopagans who follow a religion based on the ancient beliefs of the Celts (Carr-Gomm, 1991; Green & Arnold, 2008).

Indigenous Belief Systems 47 Table 3.1. Children’s Literature About Australian Aborigines and Maori Author/photographer Jan Reynolds accompanied two Tiwi women and young girl on a walkabout on the Bathurst Island off the northern coast of Australia. Carrying only a bucket and axe, they walk for days across the landscape, finding food and water as they go along. In Down Under, Reynolds (1992) tells the story of their walkabout through photographs, quotations, and vivid descriptions of their days in the bush. As they walk, one of the women tells her grandchild, “Long ago, your great-grandmother went on walkabout, walking day after day across the land, searching for food and fresh water. When she traveled the same path many times, she entered the Dreamtime” (Reynolds, 1992, n.p.). The grandmother goes on to explain that on walkabout Aboriginal people become part of the land and part of the dreamtime. She tells the child that the land can belong to no individual, but is here for all people. During the walkabout it is believed that a person can return to that time of creation. One’s birthplace and the birthplaces of ancestors are considered sacred and it is common on walkabouts for people to care for these places and perform renewal ceremonies. Sun Mother Wakes the World (Wolkstein, 2004) depicts the Sun Mother’s descent to earth to awaken the plants and trees, the sleeping animal spirits, birds, frogs and snakes. During this time animals were allowed to choose their form--a pouch for the kangaroo and long legs for the emu. According to the myth, the moon and morning star gave birth to the first humans, who were instructed to care for the birthplaces and the land. In Ready to Dream (Napoli & Furrow, 2009) a child who loves art visits Australia with her mother and meets an old woman who is an Aborigine artist. The little girl brings each of her creations to show the artist, who is always most interested in the imperfections and accidents in the child’s work. She connects each animal painting with its dreamtime qualities and finally tells the little girl that she is ready to dream herself. The book illustrations, painted by Bronwyn Bancroft, are reflective of the patterns and dots found in Aboriginal art. Because of the Maori proximity to the ocean many of their stories depict battles between wind and water or undersea creatures. Several stories in Land of the Long White Cloud (Kanawa, 1989) feature Maui, a half-god, half-man trickster, in Maori tales. In one story the people do not have time to complete everything they need to do in a day because the sun moves so quickly across the sky. So Maui recruits his brother to make ropes of flax to capture the sun. The sun fights against the restraints, but by the time he is released he is so battered that he can no longer move quickly. Now the sun moves slowly across the sky, giving humans longer days. The Whale Rider (1987/2003) by Witi Ihimaera (Maori), a mystical and spiritual story set in contemporary New Zealand, was made into an award-winning film by the same name (Caro, 2003). It depicts the modern day issues of racism toward the Maori people and the tragedy of whales who beach themselves. But, the focus of the book is on Kahu, an 8-year-old girl who lives in Whangara, where her great-grandfather is chief of the Maori. The Maori in Whangara believe that they are descendants of a single ancestor, Kahutia Te Rangi (later named Paikea). According to legend, Paikea arrived in Whangara on the back of a whale and brought spiritual forces that would enable people to live in harmony. Kahu, who was named after the ancestor, believes that she should be in line to be the next chief, but her great-grandfather Koro insists that the chief must be male. However, Kahu prevails when she demonstrates that she can communicate with whales and rides a sacred whale deep into the ocean and is safely returned to the surface by the whales (Ihimaera, 1987).

48 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 3.2.

Pagans honor sacred places, such as ancient trees.

Asatru is a Norse form of an ancient pagan religion that once spread across northern Europe. They believed the universe was three-tiered and that humans were literally descended from the gods (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). Three brothers, Ve, Vili, and Odin created humans from two trees. A creation story tells about the time when fire and ice collided and the universe was created (Asatru, n. d.). Many modern Asatru prefer the term “Heathen,” believing that they are a separate religion, rather than a branch of neopaganism. Unlike many Neo-pagan groups that have built

Indigenous Belief Systems 49

new traditions on the old; followers of Asatru base their beliefs closely on the original religion. During the Bronze Age (approximately 2,000 B.C.E. to 30 B.C.E.) an ancient civilization flourished on the mainland of Greece (Eliade, 1987). Roman civilization thrived at approximately the same time, with Romans spreading across Europe and eventually conquering the Greeks. The Greeks worshiped many gods and goddesses and believed the most important ones lived on Mount Olympus. The Romans were influenced by these beliefs and matched their own deities with the Greek gods, such as Jupiter and Zeus, incorporating them into their state religion. The Greeks and Romans believed in the supernatural and had many ways of predicting the future, including visits to oracles, the most famous of which was the Oracle of Delphi. Both the Greeks and Romans built temples as earthly homes for their gods and goddesses. Only priests were allowed within the temples, but people brought animals and birds as offerings to the deities (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). As Christianity spread across Europe, more and more Christians viewed their religion as the one true faith and maligned the older religions. Many Christians considered the worldview of the Pagans to be a form of Satan, their gods and goddesses as malevolent, and their seasonal celebrations and practices to be perverse. Christian churches were often built over ancient ritual sites. However, many churches today include carvings of time-honored goddess figures, such as the horse goddess carving found in St. John the Baptist Church in Burford, Oxfordshire, England. Most contemporary Christian holidays have roots in early pagan festivals. Christmas, for example, has similarities to the winter solstice or Yule festival and Easter is connected to spring equinox celebrations of rebirth. During the inquisitions of the Middle Ages, millions of pagans, then called witches, were murdered over a period of 300 years. Many who died were female healers who used plants and pagan rituals to alleviate suffering (Adler, 1986; Studio D Film Board of Canada, 1999). Neopaganism is the revival and reaffirmation of some of these old traditions. While there is no particular set of beliefs, dogma, or doctrine to which all neopagans adhere, most believe in a strong power within each person and the interconnection of all creation (Holland, 2005). Many neopagans speak of their experiences as coming to accept what was already within their own psyches (Adler, 1986), and self-identify themselves within the movement (Berger, Leach, & Shaffer, 2003). Beliefs and Practices Neopagans practice earth-based spirituality, celebrating the power of nature and striving to live in harmony with the natural world. Neopagans

50 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

work together to create ritual, teach, build community, and promote equality (Starhawk et al., 1998). During rituals, Neopagans may turn to each other and say “Thou Art God” or “Thou Art Goddess,” recognizing the divinity within each person. Some neopagans view male and female divinities as symbols, archetypes, or powers within each person. Others conceive of multiple gods and goddesses as ethereal beings, while still other groups worship one goddess, the earth mother, who may be represented by the three forms of maiden, mother, and crone. Ancient stone goddess figures have been found all over the world, dating back as early as 25,000 B.C.E. Some neopagans practice magic (majick) defined by Starhawk as “the art of sensing and shaping the subtle, unseen forces that flow throughout the world, of awakening deeper levels of consciousness beyond the rational” (Fisher, 1999, p. 35). This is not the nose wiggling of the television show “Bewitched,” nor the wand waving of Harry Potter, but a type of awareness intentionally used to help oneself or others. Holidays and Celebrations Seasonal festivals are an essential part of neopagan life (see Figure 3.2). Festivals may be celebrated individually, by solitaries (individuals), in small groups (sometimes called covens), or by large groups in outdoor campsites (Berger et al., 2003). First, a circle is cast, creating sacred space, with chants or words as participants stand in a circle. Someone calls forth the deities (or spiritual essences) of the four directions, north, south, east and west. Readings, enactments, and/or a guided meditation focus participants on the time of year and what it represents. Dancing and chanting often follow. Seasonal rituals, such as lighting black, red, and white candles to symbolize rebirth at the time of winter solstice may be included. The circle is closed with words or a chant, such as “Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.” Many pagans follow the ancient Celtic belief that the year has no beginning or end, but follows the cycle or wheel of nature. During seasonal festivals and rituals the boundaries between the material and spiritual or supernatural world may dissolve. Those who participate in these celebrations often come away feeling more in balance with themselves, other people, and the earth (Smith, 1991). Wicca, also known as “The Craft” is a recently created form of neopaganism that began with the work of Gerald Gardner, a British citizen, in the 1940s. “Followers of Wicca seek their inspiration in pre-Christian sources, European folklore, and mythology” (Adler, 1986, p. 10). They often identify themselves as priests and priestesses of the ancient Mother Goddess. Some Wiccans worship many gods and goddesses, while others

Indigenous Belief Systems 51 Table 3.2.

Pagan Celebrations or Festivals

• The pagan year is divided into eight ritual celebrations known as Sabbats, 6 weeks apart from each other: • Samhain, celebrated on October 31, celebrates the ending of the Celtic year and the beginning of a new year. Ancestors are remembered and old ideas and influences are discarded. • Winter solstice, celebrated on December 21, signifies death and rebirth. It is a ritual of lights, held on the shortest day of the year, celebrating the return of the Sun God as daylight returns. • Imbolc or Brigid’s Day, celebrated on February 1, is a time of new birth, cleansing, and a celebration of creativity and new beginnings. • Spring equinox or Ostara, celebrated on March 21, occurs at the time when light and darkness are in balance. • Beltaine or May Day, celebrated on May 1, originated as a fertility festival, but is also a time of magic. • Summer solstice or Litha, celebrated on June 21, the longest day of the year, is a powerful time for gathering herbs and flowers. • Lammas or Lughnassadh, celebrated on August 1, is a preharvest festival. • Autumn equinox or Mabon, celebrated on September 21, represents the conclusion of the harvest.

are atheists who view these deities as symbols, and still others recognize one supreme being called “The All” or “The One” (Wicca: A Neopagan, Earth-Centered Religion, n.d.). Followers of Wicca use the term witch simply to refer to themselves. In earlier European history witches were usually women who understood the properties of herbs and roots used in healing and midwifery. Some people confuse Wicca and Satanism. These are two different belief systems with totally different ethics, deities, beliefs about the universe, and seasonal celebrations. Wiccans do not believe in any evil or quasi-deities like Satan, and there is no link or similarity between the two belief systems (Wicca: A Neopagan, Earth-Centered Religion, n.d.).

Demographics In a 2007 survey it was estimated that 340,000 American adults identified themselves as pagan (up from 140,000 in 2001); 342,000 identify as Wiccan in 2007 (up from 134,000 in 2001) (American Religious Identification Survey, 2008).

52 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 3.3.

Children’s Literature on Paganism

Earth Mother (Jackson, 2005) portrays the Earth Goddess as a tall, slender African woman who begins the day by fanning sacred smoke in the four directions. Following this traditional pagan practice she walks the earth, hanging acorns on oak trees, placing a little summer into a flower seed, swimming deep into the ocean with the whales, and flinging a spear of lightning into the sky. Earth Mother represents the pagan perspective in several ways: first there is a female creatrix or deity; second, all nature is shown as sacred; and third, animals and humans are shown as interdependent, with no creature dominant over the others. Leo and Diane Dillan’s soft, expressive illustrations will appeal to the imaginations of young children. Aisha’s Moonlit Walk: Stories and Celebrations for the Pagan Year (Stafford, 2005) is a collection of eight stories focused on pagan holidays Aisha celebrates with her family and their friends. Several of the stories emphasize the contemporary pagan commitment to social justice and environmental causes as spiritual practice. The sacredness of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—is depicted through the experiences of 10-year-old Aisha, her family, and her friend Heather. At the beginning of February Aisha and Heather are preparing to celebrate Brigid’s Day. They set out candles and art materials for the celebration of the creativity Goddess when a friend of the family arrives and invites the two girls to accompany her to her home to see her cat giving birth to kittens. Aisha is nervous about watching the birth, but her mother reminds her that “Birth is the most creative act of all” (Stafford, 2005, p.19) and a wonderful way to celebrate Brigid’s Day. As they watch the kittens being born Aisha grows stronger and begins to master one of her fears. For the chapter on Brigid’s Day readers are asked about their own fears and how they have learned to overcome them. Activities, questions, and ideas for family discussions are included at the end of each chapter. Wise Child by Monica Furlong (1987) is set in Scotland during the Middle Ages. Wise Child is left alone when her grandmother dies, her mother disappears, and her father has gone to sea. She decides to live with Juniper, a solitary witch (doran). Juniper teaches Wise Child to read, write, sew, weave, and prepare healing herbs. Wise Child matures and finds her own inner strength as she is initiated into both the science and magic of the old traditions. When Juniper and Wise Child attend a Beltane gathering Wise Child discovers her own voice and wisdom. By reading Wise Child upper elementary and middle school students will learn about early pagan traditions and the prejudice against witches during this time period.

INDIGENOUS SPIRITUALITY IN ASIA History Indigenous (basic) religions are difficult to describe in Asia because they are blended with the established religions of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity as well as the philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism. Because of the geographic size and diversity of Asia, the traditional religious beliefs vary considerably in different parts of the continent. Although there is evidence that the first people in Asia practiced religion, most of what is known about them comes from the Aryan people from the north and west who migrated into Asia and brought their own

Indigenous Belief Systems 53

ideas about religion. Evidence of the early culture and spiritual beliefs of Asia is found in written records (such as hymns), their influence on later religions, shrines, statutes, and other artifacts (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). In this section what is known about early beliefs in China, Japan, India, Persia, and Indonesia will be addressed. Shamanism, regarded by some scholars as the first religion, was practiced at least 10,000 years ago by the Tungus (Evinki and Even) peoples of Siberia. It later spread into Mongolia and China. The shaman was a person who could go into a trance-like state and communicate with the animal and spirit worlds. It was believed the shaman could assume the shape of animals. Evidence of shamanism is found in surviving fragments of early myths that depict a divine brother and sister, Fu His and Nu Kua, who were half human and half animal. Shamanism is also practiced today in parts of Indonesia (McKenzie, Prime, George & Dunning, 2001; Stack & Peterson, 2002; Vitebsky, 2000). In India, where one of the world’s oldest religions, Hinduism, is widely practiced, it is difficult to distinguish between indigenous beliefs and those of Hinduism. For example, anthropologists widely agree that Hinduism has influenced indigenous animism and that animism has affected the evolution of Hinduism. The Vedas, Sanskrit hymns that date back to 1500 B.C.E., describe the world of spirits called Devas, who personify the forces of Nature. Examples include Agni, god of fire, Usha, goddess of the dawn, and Varuna, god of the ocean. The wisdom in these hymns is the underpinning for the teachings of the Upanishads and the Vedanta philosophies and later the foundation for Hinduism. Archaeological sites have revealed statues of gods and goddesses, amulets and ceremonial buildings (Beteille, 1998; Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; McKenzie et al., 2001). Early Chinese beliefs appear to have become part of Taoism and Confucianism. Although some believe that the origin of Taoism is based on the teachings of Lao-tzu from sixth century B.C.E., many scholars believe that Taoism formed the core of the earliest Chinese spiritual beliefs. Since little is known about Lao-tzu, some scholars doubt that he existed as an historical person. According to legends, he was born about 50 years before Confucius and some stories say that they met. It was believed that Lao-tzu was the keeper of the royal archives in the court of the Chou dynasty but tired of court life. He left the court and was recognized as a wise man and was asked to record the wisdom he knew. This became the Tao Te Ching a book compiled around 100 B.C.E. It has been translated more often than any other book in the world except for the Bible. Following is an example of one of the sayings from Tao Te Ching, which means “Classic of the Way and Virtue”: Man models himself on the earth, The earth models itself after heaven,

54 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources The heaven models itself after Tao, But Tao models itself by that which is so by itself. (Tao Teh Ching, n.d., I, 25.)

A contemporary example of Taoist influence is in the idea of Feng Shui, the principle of energy flow within the elements of a living space, such as color, water, and design. Another indigenous Asian group is the Hmong, who originally inhabited the land that is now China, and follow a form of animism. Persecuted by different groups because of their beliefs and independence, the Hmong moved from place to place in Southeast Asia, eventually settling

Table 3.4.

Children’s Literature About Indigenous Chinese Religions

Communication with animals or inanimate beings appears in some stories from indigenous cultures. The Hunter, a Chinese folktale retold by Mary Casanova (2000) and illustrated by Ed Young, describes a young man’s desire to communicate with the animals. When the Dragon King grants his wish, he is told that he will turn to stone if he discloses the secret of his gift. Birds tell the hunter of an approaching flood and he warns the disbelieving villagers. Instead of running and saving himself, he reveals his secret and hardens to stone before their eyes. After the flood the villagers move the stone hunter to the top of a mountain where he is said to remain until this day. Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly to the Sky (1999) by author and illustrator Demi is a blend of traditional Chinese beliefs with Buddhism. The story features a painter who creates holy pictures that people buy to use as offerings to the gods and to Buddhas. One day he paints a dragon on a kite for a villager and immediately the other villagers ask to have their pictures on kites so that they can be seen in the heavens. Kites, such as Manjushri, goddess of wisdom, and Amitabha, the Buddha to overcome greed, were painted to appeal to gods and Buddhas for protection and blessings. The story can help children understand the spiritual origins of kite flying. In Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac (1995) Caldecott Medalist Ed Young tells a version of a Chinese folktale that explains the origins of the zodiac. The Jade Emperor of Heaven invites all of the animals in the kingdom to run in a great race through the dense forest and a wide river. The first 12 to finish will have a year on the Chinese calendar named for them. In the end Cat loses to Rat, which explains why today we have the Year of the Rat and not the Year of the Cat. The belief in zodiac is based on the idea that people can understand their personalities based on the personality of the animal that rules that birth year. The artwork is subtle and done in dark charcoal and pastels. The book features a chart with the signs of the zodiac and the corresponding years as a helpful reference. The Kite Rider (2001) by Geraldine McCaughrean is the story about Haoyou, a 12-year old boy living in thirteenth century China. The author draws the reader into this young adolescent novel with the following words: “Gou Haoyou knew that his father’s spirit lived among the clouds. For he had seen him go up there with a soul and come down again without one” (p. 3). Haoyou’s father had died after being strapped to a kite and sent up into the sky (kite riding) by the rulers in his town to determine whether or not the winds are right for a cargo ship to sail. Haoyou himself becomes a kite rider for the Jade Circus and seeks his father’s spirit every time he is sent up to the sky on a kite. Spirits of the dead, both good and bad, play an important role in the everyday life and decisions of people depicted in this story. It also gives insights into life at the time and the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol conqueror.

Indigenous Belief Systems 55

in the mountains of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos (Goldfarb, 1982). During the Vietnam War the Hmong fought with American soldiers against communist forces, but when the war ended, the communists took over the government of Laos and continued bombing Hmong villages. Those who did not die during or after the war fled to refugee camps in Thailand, and years later were allowed to emigrate to the United States, France, Germany, Australia, and other countries. Shinto is recognized as the earliest indigenous religion in Japan. From 1868-1945, it became the official religion of Japan and was connected to Japanese nationalism. It is practiced today in many Japanese homes along with Buddhism. Zoroastrianism, another religion with indigenous roots, began in ancient Persia (now Iran). It is based on the teachings of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) who lived around 600 B.C.E. Zoroastrianism is believed to be over 3,000 years old, and is perhaps the first religion that embraced one supreme being. The Gathas, written hymns based on the words of Zoraster, also give insights into the lives of the nomadic early inhabitants of Persia who believed in many gods (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; Rogers & Hickman, 2001).

Beliefs and Practices The beliefs and practices of selected Asian earlier religions are featured in this section: Taoism, Shintoism, and Ua Dab. A belief central to Taoism (“the Way”) is that the Tao is the underlying spiritual force of the universe. It is present in all things, but yet greater than all things. Central to Taoism is the paradox of the Yin and Yang, two balancing forces in the universe. The Yin represents darkness and femininity and the Yang represents brightness and masculinity (Rogers & Hickman, 2001; McKenzie, Prime, George & Dunning, 2001; Smith, 1991). At the core of Shintoism is the belief that spiritual powers exist in natural features (such as Mount Fuji), aspects of animism, and ancestor veneration. The traditional Shinto believed that the world was divided into many pieces, called kami or gods. The kami were spirits that could bless people, but offerings needed to be made to them in order to avoid disasters. One of the most important kami is Amaterasu, the sun goddess. The sun remains an important symbol in Japan and is featured on their flag. Shinto is similar to Taoism in that harmony with nature and maintaining a balance between the human and natural world are central beliefs. Followers, therefore, place more emphasis on the existing world than on the world beyond (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; Rogers & Hickman, 2001; Stack & Peterson, 2002).

56 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 3.5.

Children’s Books About the Hmong

Two books by Pegi Deitz Shea tell the story of Mai and her grandmother living in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand and their eventual emigration to the United States. The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee’s Story (Shea, 1995) shows Mai as a young girl spending her days in the Widows’ Store watching her grandmother and the other women embroidering pa’ndau story cloths. When Mai decides to create her first pa’ndau she searches within herself before depicting her own life story in which her parents were killed in an explosion and her grandmother carried her on her back as they escaped their home. Mai paused often in her work, holding the cloth to her ear and listening as it told her what part of her life story to stitch next. Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl’s Story (Shea, 2003) begins when Mai is nearly thirteen, still living in the refugee camp, and suffering from a stomach ailment. While she sleeps the shaman ties seven white cotton strings on her wrist to bind her life souls. Mai recovers, practices English and makes story cloths to sell. When she and her grandmother finally reach America, Grandmother has a difficult time adjusting to the different values and culture. She falls ill and her son calls an ambulance, but Mai requests a shaman, too, saying that her grandmother’s soul has shrunk to the ground. This book for middle school readers is a fascinating portrayal of the meeting of traditional Hmong beliefs with American culture.

The Hmong practice an animistic religion called Ua Dab, based on a spirit world (Goetz, 2001). They believe that most aspects of life are connected to supernatural beings and that humans coexist between the spirit and physical worlds. Spirits are believed to inhabit all corners of one’s house including the doors, stove, and especially the altar, the place where ancestors may return. Mountains, trees, streams, caves, and the wind contain the spirits of nature. The spirits dictate all aspects of life, including birth, death, and illness (Txong & Pfeifer, 2009/2010). Dabs, malevolent spirits, may cause an illness or disability as punishment for a person’s misdeed or that of one’s parents, and seizures are thought to be an indication that the soul has left the body (Fadiman, 1998).

Sacred Ceremonies and Festivals Ancestor veneration, Shinto shrines, Nyepi, Galungan, and Tet are all examples of ceremonies and festivals that have indigenous roots and that are celebrated in different parts of Asia today. Early people in China honored their ancestors at home or at special altars in temples where food, drink, incense, and money are brought in the form of offerings. These practices are found today as part of Confucianism and Taoism. Elaborate ceremonies are sometimes held on the anniversary of the ancestor’s death. Some more powerful ancestors are

Indigenous Belief Systems 57

believed to become deities (S. Arthur, personal communication, September 1, 2006). Shinto ceremonies are held to celebrate birth, coming of age, marriage, and harvests. At shrine festivals, a small portable shrine is sometimes carried down the street on the shoulders of a group of men in order to bless the households they pass. The kami are sometimes worshipped at home but are usually worshipped in nature with offerings of food such as rice, salt and wine (Stack & Peterson, 2002). Nyepi is the New Year celebrated on the Indonesian island of Bali during which no fires are lit, no work is done, and everyone is silent. These practices are designed to give the impression to any visiting demons that Bali is deserted. At nightfall, gongs and cymbals are sounded to scare the demons away. This celebration comes from the tradition of Shamanism. Another Indonesian festival is Galungan, which lasts for 10 days and honors the gods and ancestors who return to Earth with gifts left outside homes and temples (Berg, 1997). A festival reflecting Taoist beliefs is the Vietnamese holiday of Tet. The holiday is based on the belief that the kitchen gods, the good spirits that protect the household, return to heaven to report on the family. They are sent off with a special ceremony that generally lasts about a week. On the last day before Tet (the New Year) the spirits are welcomed back with fireworks and gunshots. Many people outside of Vietnam only know about Tet in reference to the Tet Offensive, a major battle of the Vietnam War that featured a North Vietnamese surprise attack on U.S. forces during this holiday (McKay, 1997).

INDIGENOUS SPIRITUALITY IN AFRICA History Because many diverse cultures have existed in Africa for thousands of years, there is no one idea about early religion that is universally shared. However, scholars often discuss the importance of these early beliefs, sometimes called African Traditional Religion (ATR), by tracing their influence on the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Baldick, 1998; Mbiti, 1975/1991; Thomas, 2005). In addition, because Africans were captured and brought to the Americas as slaves from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, these traditional beliefs and practices influenced American culture (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). One example is the message and rhythms found in gospel music. Traditional beliefs were also integrated with Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and

58 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

this influence is found in the culture of people in the Caribbean, Central and South America and the American South today. There are few written records of early African religions; what is known has been recorded by anthropologists and missionaries from Western cultures or told through oral tradition by contemporary Africans. Modern rituals found in some African cultures such as birth and death rituals have their origins with indigenous people. Physical evidence of traditional beliefs is found in the ancient masks, cave paintings/drawings, and in ivory, stone or wood carved sculptures. Specific examples include the carved fertility symbols found in the Sudan, imaginary images of spirits of the dead found in Tanzania, and cave paintings found in Kenya (Mbiti, 1975/1991). Stories handed down through the oral tradition and through “memory keepers,” such as shamans, give an insight into traditional spiritual beliefs about the creation of the Earth, the natural world and people. Creation stories from the Yoruba and Dogon peoples of West Africa, the Kono of Sierra Leone, the San of southwest Africa and the Kongo people of Zaire are examples of this rich tradition (Davis, 2005; Hopfe & Woodward, 2007).

Beliefs and Practices Traditional African beliefs are based on two main ideas: (1) all objects, living and nonliving, have a spirit and (2) the spirits of ancestors live on Earth. Because traditional beliefs are passed on through the oral tradition, there are no doctrines, theologies, claims to know the Truth, factions, or missionary intent. The following themes describe the nature of most African indigenous religions: 1. Religion, culture, and ceremonies are a seamless part of social life and include ancestors as spiritual forces as well as the existing members of a community. 2. Believers may have multiple explanations for what happens in their lives and multiple rituals with which to respond to events. For example, the Yoruba people in Nigeria believe that Shango is an ancestor who became the god of thunder and lightning. 3. Reciprocity is important between people and the spirits. Sacrifices or offerings are made in order to promote prosperity and harmony in everyday life. The spirits, in turn, provide material benefits such as corn, cattle, millet, fish and rain and protection from enemies. 4. Practitioners are open to other beliefs and blend other religions and deities into their own system of beliefs.

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5. Most traditional beliefs include a High God who is the creator as well as lesser gods who are assistants and run the daily events. Therefore, it is to the lesser gods such as the god of rain to whom people make their appeals (Berg, 1998; Cox, 2000; Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; Platvoet, 1993; Richardson, 2005; Rogers & Hickman, 2001). Traditional African beliefs hold that death is likely caused by a spiritual reason rather than a scientific one. Sometimes people put a curse on someone who has angered them, or people became sick because they have offended one of the lesser gods. A spiritual curer, believed to have special abilities and skills, uses a combination of spiritual power, offerings, and herbal remedies to drive away the curse or spell. In Uganda, the Acholi people believe that evil spirits can cause a person to become ill. The healer tries to draw the evil spirits up into the head of the patient through music and song. He then draws the spirits out, and they are put into a gourd and buried in the ground (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). Sacred Ceremonies and festivals Traditional African festivals are usually important occasions that celebrate the beginning of the rainy season, harvest time, marriage, the birth of a child, the life of a departed person, or a victory over enemies (Mbiti, 1975). In Uganda, Ghana, and other parts of West Africa, for example, the birth of a child is often celebrated with a naming ceremony. The name chosen will be a reflection of the personality of the child. In Nigeria festivals may last for many days and include wearing masks to honor the spirit of an ancestor, making offerings, praying, dancing the ancient dances of the Igbo people, and feasting. Rituals at the time of death are very important in traditional African cultures because of the belief that the departed family member will become a liaison between those still on earth and the spirit world (Knight & Melnicove, 2000; Mbiti, 1975/1991; Thomas, 2005). Rituals involving animal sacrifice sometimes take place on the most serious occasions in order to appease deities who are angry or to assure support from the deities when going to battle. In modern times, The Yoruba (Nigeria) god, Ogun, traditionally known as the god of iron, is now the god of cars and trucks. Some contemporary people who operate heavy machinery offer animal sacrifices to Ogun. Demographics Today African traditional religion is the primary one observed in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire,

60 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 3.6.

Children’s Literature on African Traditional Religion

Elsina’s Clouds (2004) written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is a story about a young Basotho girl. Elsina lives with her parents, who raise sorghum and goats, in the region of Freestate, South Africa and Lesotho. Her family is dependent upon the rainy season for their crops to grow and their animals to survive. Elsina helps her mother paint their house bright colors to attract the attention of the ancestors who will bring rain. Women have painted their houses in a similar manner for over hundreds of years in southern Africa. When the rain does come, the colors are washed away, the crops flourish, and new life begins with the birth of Elsina’s little brother. The story demonstrates the belief that the ancestors in the spiritual world provide what is needed in order for the cycle of life to continue on earth. The story is illustrated with the bright colors that the women use on Basotho homes to help bring rain. Lord of the Dance (1998), an illustrated poem, is an African retelling by author and illustrator Veronique Tadjo. It gives the reader a look into the spiritual beliefs of the Senufo people of West Africa. Tadjo, who is from Cote d’Ivoire, heard the hymn, “Lord of the Dance” in England and thought that the Mask, which is worshipped by the Senufo people, represented the Lord of the Dance. She creatively conveys the importance of the Mask, the natural world, and the spirits by punctuating the poem with drumbeats. The Mask dances to connect to the ancestors, to bring on the rains, to celebrate joys and to mourn suffering. Tadjo’s poem expresses a void in the modern, urban world in Cote d’Ivoire and tells the children that if they feel lost, they can return to the Mask as their traditional spiritual center. Fly, Eagle Fly! (2000) is an adaptation of an African tale from Ghana storyteller, by James Kwegyir Aggrey (aka Aggrey of Africa). It was collected by Episcopal minister Christopher Gregorowski and written as a children’s book for his daughter, Rosalind, who died in 1981 at the age of 9. The illustrator, Niki Daly, was one of the first to illustrate African children’s literature in full color. The book contains a forward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the story a farmer rescues a baby eagle and raises it as a chicken, but a friend encourages him to allow the bird to fly like an eagle. He argues, “You belong not to the earth, but to the sky.” The story is based on the traditional belief of harmony and balance in the natural world, and the wind that carries the young eagle is seen as a literal and symbolic spirit. The wind represents African people who have risen above oppression and demonstrated the power of the spirit. The story is an allegory for the universal theme of human transcendence to higher forms of existence. Paye and Lippert’s Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia (2002) is a traditional tale of creation and cooperation. In the beginning there was only head, rolling around eating what it could reach on the ground. When arms come along they can reach a little higher, but it is not until head, body, arms, and legs configure themselves into an upright position that they can reach the ripe mangoes they have been longing to eat. Bold, expressionistic paintings by Julie Paschkis make this a delightful and meaningful book for young children, and just right for storytelling.

Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Zambia. In the rest of Africa, the major religions are Islam (Northern Africa), Christianity (South Africa), or a mixture of Islam, Christianity, and traditional beliefs. Judaism is practiced in combination with traditional African beliefs in parts of Northern Africa and in parts of Uganda and South Africa (Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, 2001).

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TEACHING ABOUT INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS Earth-based or indigenous traditions can be addressed through the natural sciences by studying the seasons and cycles of the Earth, and through the social sciences by studying how these seasonal changes and natural phenomena affected the development of cultures. Early people, and those who practice indigenous religions today, honor the cycle of the year through rituals and celebrations. For example, the wreath represents the ancient sacred circle, symbolizing the earth, moon, and the circle of life. Children can learn about the history of the art of wreath-making using natural, seasonal materials (e.g., acorns, pine boughs, feathers, and pinecones) to create a wreath (Starhawk et al., 1998). Children of all ages can enjoy and learn from the celebrations of the Chinese New Year, which corresponds with the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The celebration was traditionally a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the household gods, and the family ancestors. Today it is celebrated by people of Chinese heritage around the world as a cultural and secular holiday. The calendar is also a way to introduce folktales that tell stories about the animals in 12year animal zodiac and help children understand a part of ancient culture that extends back to the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-206 B.C.). An excellent resource for the animal zodiac is Ed Young’s (1995) Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. There are many similarities between ancient pagan customs during the spring equinox and those celebrated by Christians today. Eggs may be the earliest symbol of rebirth and renewal known to humanity. Upper elementary and middle school students could use print and Internet resources to trace the origins of the egg hunt, dying eggs, or Easter hats, and the association of rabbits with spring. Students of all ages can learn about spring planting rituals used by ancient people that are still practiced today. The return of the light in spring is still celebrated by many cultural groups, including the Sami people who live at the northern tip of Europe within the Arctic Circle. Teachers can connect learning about the cultural geography of northern climates with religious customs and celebrations of those who live there. Jan Reynolds describes some of these traditions in the book Celebrate! Connections among Cultures (2006). Through photographs and short paragraphs, Reynolds explains ceremonial practices of seven cultural groups who continue to follow the ancient paths of their ancestors. Reynolds lived with each of these remote groups of people for a time and gained great insight into their religious and spiritual practices. Of course, the ancient tradition of storytelling fits perfectly with the study of indigenous religions. Both children and teachers can learn to tell

62 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

stories from collections cited in this chapter and using the resources in chapter two. The stories will give insights into the thoughts, traditions and beliefs of early people from around the world.

REFERENCES Adler, M. (1986). Drawing down the moon. New York, NY: Penguin. American Religious Identification Survey. (2008) Retrieved from http://www Arnold, C. (2003). Uluru: Australia’s Aboriginal heart. New York, NY: Clarion. Asatru. (n. d.). Retrieved from Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2003). Retrieved from /websitedbs/d3310116.nsf/cd7fca67e05fa605ca256e6a00171f24/ 844488cb18e68a61ca256ef600223f17!OpenDocument Baldick, J. (1998). Black god: The Afroasiatic roots of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Berg, E. (1997). Festivals of the world: Indonesia. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. Berg, E. (1998). Festivals of the world: Nigeria. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens . Berger, H. A., Leach, E. A., & Shaffer, L. S. (2003). Voices from the pagan census: A national survey of witches and neo-pagans in the United States. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. Beteille, A. (1998). The idea of indigenous people. Current Anthropology, 39(2), 187-191. Bowker, J. (2006). World religions: The great faiths explored and explained. London, England: DK. Carr-Gomm, P. (1991). The Druid tradition. Shaftesbury Dorset, United Kingdom: Element. Cox, J. L. (2000). Characteristics of African indigenous religions in contemporary Zimbabwe. In G. Harvey (Ed.), Indigenous religions: A companion (pp. 230-242). London, England: Cassell. Davis, K. C. (2005). Don’t know much about world myths. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Early Australasia religions. (n.d.). Retrieved from World_Religions/Ancient_religoins/Australia.htm Eliade, M. (1987). The encyclopedia of religion. New York, NY: McMillan. Fadiman, A. (1998). The spirit catches you and you fall down. New York, NY: Noonday. Fisher, M. (1999). Religion in the twenty-first century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Goetz, K. (2001, August 27). Ua Dab, the Hmong religion [radio broadcast on NPR]. Retrieved from 200108/27_goetzk_shaman/ Goldfarb, M. (1982). Fighters, refugees, immigrants: A story of the Hmong. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books. Green, J., & Arnold, B. (Consultant) (2008). Ancient Celts. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Indigenous Belief Systems 63 Griffiths, J. (1999). Festivals of the world: New Zealand. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. Grim, J. A. (2004). Introduction to indigenous traditions: Indigenous traditions and ecology. Retrieved from /indigenous/index.html Holland, E. (2005). The principles of Wiccan belief. In D. Daschke & W. M. Ashcraft (Eds.), New religious movements: A documentary reader (pp. 190-227). New York, NY: New York University Press. Hopfe, L. M. & Woodward, M. R. (2007). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Hume, L. (2000). The dreaming in contemporary Aboriginal Australia. In G. Harvey (Ed.), Indigenous religions: A companion (pp. 125-138), London, England: Cassell. Knight, M. B., & Melnicove, M. (2000). Africa is not a country. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. (I, M) Kung, H. (2002). Tracing the way: Spiritual dimensions of the world religions. London, England: Continuum. Lawlor, R. (1991). Voices of the first day: Awakening in the aboriginal dreamtime. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. Mbiti, J. S. (1975/1991). Introduction to African religion. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. McKay, S. (1997). Festivals of the world: Vietnam. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. McKenzie, M, Prime, R., George, L., & Dunning, R. (2001). Mythologies of the world: The illustrated guide to mythological beliefs and customs. New York, NY: Checkmark Books. Penyak, L. M., & Petry, W. J. (Eds.). (2006). Religion in Latin America: A documentary history. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. Platvoet, J. B. (1993). African traditional religions in the religious history of humankind. Journal for the Study of Religion, 6(2), 29-48. Richardson, H. (2005). Life in ancient Africa. New York, NY: Crabtree. (I, M) Rogers, K., & Hickman, C. (2001). The Usborne internet-linked encyclopedia of world religions. New York, NY: Scholastic. Smith, H. (1991). The world’s religions. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Smith, H. (1994). The illustrated world’s religions: A guide to our wisdom traditions. New York, NY: Harper Collins. Stack, P. F., & Peterson, K. B. (2002). A world of faith. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. Starhawk, Baker, D., & Hill, A. (1998). Circle round: Raising children in goddess traditions. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Studio D National Film Board of Canada. (1999). The burning times [video]. New York, NY: Wellspring Media. Swain, T. (1993). A place for strangers: Towards a history of Australian Aboriginal being. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Tao Teh Ching [J. Legge, Trans.]. Retrieved from taote.htm Thomas, D. E. (2005). African traditional religion in the modern world. London, England: McFarland & Co.

64 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Txong, P. L., & Pfeifer, M. E. (2009/2010). Building bridges: Teaching about the Hmong in our communities [presentation]. Retrieved from http://hmongcc .org/BuildingBridgesGeneralPresentation.pdf Vitebsky, P. (2000). Shamanism. In G. Harvey (Ed.), Indigenous religions: A companion (pp. 55-67). London, England: Cassell. Wicca: A Neopagan, earth centered religion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. (2001). Africa. Detroit, MI: Gale Group. York, M. (2003). Pagan theology. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Children’s Literature Cited Caro, N. (2003). The whale rider [video recording]. South Pacific Pictures, Apollomedia, Pandora Film present; producers, Tim Sanders, John Barnett, Frank Hübner; written & directed by Niki Caro Publisher Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Casanova, M. (2000). The hunter. New York, NY: Antheum. Demi. (1999). Kites: Magic wishes that fly to the sky. New York, NY: Crown. (I) Furlong, M. (1987). Wise child. New York, NY: Knopf. (I, M) Gregorowski, C. (2000). Fly, eagle fly! An African tale. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster). Ihimaera, W. (1987). The whale rider. Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand: Reed Books. (M) Jackson, E. (2005). Earth mother. New York, NY: Walker & Company. (P) Kanawa, K. T. (1989). Land of the long white cloud: Maori myths, tales and legends. London, England: Pavilion Books. McCaughrean, G. (2001). The kite rider. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (M) Morin, P. (1998). Animal dreaming: An aboriginal dreamtime story. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace. Napoli, D. J., & Furrow, E. (2009). Ready to dream. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Paye, W., & Lippert, M. H. (2002). Head, body, legs: A story from Liberia. New York, NY: Henry Holt. Reynolds, J. (1992). Down under: Vanishing cultures. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich. Shea, P. D. (1995). The whispering cloth: A refugee’s story (A. Riggio, Ill.). Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill Press. (I) Shea, P. D. (2003). Tangled threads: A Hmong girl’s story. New York, NY: Clarion Books. (M) Stafford, A. (2005). Aisha’s moonlit walk: Stories and celebrations for the pagan year. Boston, MA: Skinner House. (P, I) Tadjo, V. (1998). Lord of the dance. New York, NY: J. B. Lippincott. (I) Winter, J. (2004). Elsina’s clouds. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. (P) Wolkstein, D. (2004). Sun mother wakes the world. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Young, E. (1995). The cat and the rat: The legend of the Chinese Zodiac. New York, NY: Henry Holt. (I)

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Additional Children’s Literature on Indigenous Religions Argueta, J. (2006). Talking with Mother Earth, hablando con Madre Tierra. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Groundwood Books. (P, I) Written in the voice of a Pipil Nahua Indian child from El Salvadore, these poems express gratitude to Mother Earth for all of creation, including the sun, sacred water, corn's spirit, and sacred stones. The bright paintings evoke a feeling for the way nature is celebrated in this indigenous culture. Chengan, J. (1996). Laozi. Beijing, China: Dolphin Books. Laozi (770 B.C.-476 B.C.) was the founder of ancient Chinese Taoism. This book, in English and Chinese, vividly displays through pictures Laozi’s The Way and Its Power. (I) Curtis, C. M. (2005). All I see is part of me. Bellevue, WA: Illumination Arts. (P) Written in verse, this book describes a child’s discovery of his connection to all of creation. Demi. (2009). Tutankhamun. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish. (I) Incorporating the exquisite Egyptian style of painting the human figure and hieroglyphic symbols with story, Demi conveys the changing Egyptian vision of the sun god and the dramatic way this image was passed on through the lineage of kings. Huang, A. C. (1999). The Chinese book of animal powers. New York, NY: JoAnna Cotler Books. (I) This vividly illustrated book is written in the form of proverbs for children that blend Taoism and Buddhism traditions. Each animal is shown to represent chi, a type of primal force. Jackson, E. (2000). The autumn equinox: Celebrating the harvest. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. (P) Jackson describes harvest festivals from around the world, including the Jewish Sukkot, Indian Pongal, and Iroquois Green Corn Dance. Jackson, E. (1994). The winter solstice. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. (P) This picture book introduces rituals from many cultures honoring the return of the sun’s light after the shortest day of the year. Krasno, R., & Chiang, Y. F. (2002). Cloud weavers: Ancient Chinese legends. Berkeley, CA: Pacific View Press. (I) This book is a collection of authentic retellings of tales from China’s earliest history that reflect the beliefs of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. Kroll, S. (2009). Barbarians! New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books. (M) Because the Goths, Huns, Vikings, and Mongols could not read or write, their stories are told through their conquerors, stone carvings, and metal artifacts. Middle grade children will enjoy following the adventures of these groups and learning that, in spite of their reputations as barbarians, they all had well-established cultures. These belief systems were based on the cycles of the earth (Goths), shamans (Huns and Mongols), and gods and goddesses (Vikings). There is evidence,

66 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources in fact, that Genghis Khan allowed religious freedom within the Mongol Empire. Milligan, B. (2002). Brigid’s cloak: An ancient Irish story. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books. (P) Saint Brigid traveled back in time and shared her cloak with the holy mother of Jesus. Brigid’s day marks early signs of the return of the sun and warmer weather. Poisson, B. A. (2002). The Ainu of Japan. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner. (I, M) The culture, history and spirituality of the ancient Ainu, believed to be the earliest people to inhabit Japan, is described and illustrated with contemporary photographs of their descendents. Reynolds, J. (2006). Celebrate! Connections among cultures. New York, NY: Lee & Low. (P, M) Author/photographer Jan Reynolds shows how indigenous groups around the world commemorate religious and cultural events in their lives. She includes Tibetans and Sherpas of the Himalayans, the Tuareg nomads of North Africa, Aborigines of Australia, the Sami of Northern Europe, the Yanomami of the Amazon basin, the Inuit of North American, and the Balinese of Indonesia. Starhawk, Baker, D., & Hill, A. (1998). Circle round: Raising children in goddess traditions. New York, NY: Bantam Books. (P, I, M) Seasonal stories, crafts, songs, chants, rituals, and activities are included in each chapter of this book. Adaptations are made for children of different ages. Wood, A. (2002). When the root children wake up. New York, NY: Scholastic. (P) Stunning paintings by Ned Bittinger show root children (fairies) waking Aunt Spring, cavorting with Cousin Summer, and lulled by Uncle Fall, until Mother Earth sings them to sleep for the winter.


NATIVE AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. (Black Elk, 1932/2000)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE On a warm July evening we entered an outdoor amphitheater set in the beautiful foothills of the Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina to see a production of the Cherokee drama, Unto These Hills. According to the program, written by Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the play had been revised to be “more culturally authentic” (Unto these Hills, 2006). The production opened with the Creator calling a gathering of the Clan Spirits representing the seven Cherokee clans: Wolf, Blue, Long Hair, Bird, Paint, Deer, and Wild Potato. They were asked to remember Cherokee culture and history, and their memories became the scenes for the rest of the dramatization: Cherokees and their relationship with the Earth, the European invasion and Cherokee resistance, Cherokee removal and the Trail of Tears, concluding with the reuniting of the Eastern and Western Bands. Each story was told in a mythical and colorful way through music, dance and drama. Most of the Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 67–81 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


68 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

actors were Cherokee tribal members or descendents, including some tribal elders, who represented the Clan Spirits. After the finale, in which traditional Cherokee dances were transformed into contemporary dance, we left the outdoor amphitheater with a deeper appreciation of the enduring strength of the Cherokee people, their relationship to the land of their origin, and their spiritual traditions. HISTORY Long before the arrival of Europeans in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, spirituality was central to the lives of indigenous people in the Americas and remains central today. Evidence of spiritual beliefs and practices is found in the oral tradition and in physical artifacts. Two examples from the oral tradition include the stories of the Peacemaker, a spiritual leader, who united the Iroquois peoples of New York, and stories from the Maya that revere corn as the source of civilization. The physical evidence of spiritual practices includes burial sites, temple ruins, and rock art. Examples of these sites are the Cahokia Mounds burial site in Southwestern Illinois in the Mississippi Valley; the Great Kiva, located in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico; the pictographs of the prehistoric deity Kokopelli found on canyon walls in the American Southwest; the Teotihuacán pyramids (the City of the Gods) near Mexico City; and the ruins of Machu Picchu, the ancient sacred site of the Inka in the Andes Mountains in Peru. When Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they imposed their Christian beliefs on the indigenous people. The Spanish brought Christianity to Central America in the sixteenth century. From the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, missionaries from Spain and other European countries introduced Christianity into what is now the United States and Canada (Maestro, 1996; Martin, 1999). The Europeans discouraged participation in traditional rituals and destroyed artifacts, structures, and monuments that recorded or celebrated indigenous beliefs. This was especially true in Central and South America where the Spanish conquistadores conquered the Aztec, Maya, and Inka people as well as many other groups (Patent, 1996). In some areas of Mexico, the Spanish built Catholic churches on top of pyramids to show that “their God was more powerful.” Holy sites of indigenous people were often dismantled in order to use the stones to build cathedrals [C. P. Chiquito, personal communication, July 19, 2006]. In recent years indigenous groups such as the Chiapas in Mexico and the Maya in Guatemala have reasserted both their civil rights and their right to practice traditional beliefs. In the United States, Native American (American Indian) spiritual practices, such as the powwow, were deemed “offensive” and made illegal

Native American Spirituality 69

by the U.S. government in the 1880s. Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller proposed legislation that labeled ceremonial “dances” and “practices of medicine men” as offenses that would be punished by the U.S. government. Not until the 1970s, with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, did Native Americans receive the full benefits of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ” (Harvey, 2000). Some American Indian leaders, however, think that their traditional beliefs are not respected nor understood by Christian missionaries today. According to Vine Deloria, Jr. (1994), traditional American Indian beliefs should point the way to the future for all: “Religion cannot be kept within the bounds of sermons and scriptures. It is a force in and of itself and it calls for the integration of lands and peoples in harmonious unity” (p. 292). Today most Native people in the Americas practice a syncretization of traditional beliefs with Christianity. One example of this blending is the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. Remembering loved ones who have died combines traditions from Aztec and Mayan cosmology with Spanish Christian beliefs. Another example of syncretized beliefs and practices comes from the Apache reservation in the White Mountains of Arizona where both traditional healers and medical doctors and nurses may tend to patients. However, some First Nation people such as the Inuit from northern Canada and Alaska, Indians from the Southwest United States, and people from rural areas of South America practice traditional beliefs that have remained relatively unaffected by outside religious influence (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; Native American Spirituality, 2002). BELIEFS AND PRACTICES There is no one set of beliefs from the indigenous people of the Americas that represents all people, as each tribe or group has a unique cultural history, ranging from the Mapuches in Chile and Argentina to the Inuit in northern Canada and Alaska. Religious beliefs of Native people are com-

Table 4.1.

Native Americans in North America

In The People Shall Continue (1988) Simon Ortiz, an Acoma Indian from Southwest United States, tells the epic story of North American Indians. The story begins with Creation, extends through the arrival of the Europeans and ends with issues faced by Native Americans today. The book is illustrated with human figures and vivid colors that reflect the message of each page. Ortiz concludes with an appeal to the humanity of all people for balance in our relationships with each other and with the earth. In order for humanity to survive, Ortiz cautions the reader, “We must take great care with each other …” (p. 23).

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Figure 4.1. The children in this illustration represent different tribes. The artist has depicted them in traditional dress.

Table 4.2.

Day of the Dead

A second example of blended traditions is the Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s most important celebrations, which spans 3 days from October 31 to November 2. In Day of the Dead (2004) Linda Lowery clearly explains the history of the day and how the celebration is a blend of both indigenous Aztec and Mayan traditions with Christian traditions. She describes the celebration as both a remembrance of those who have lived and died and a recognition that death in the natural world during fall and winter leads to new life in the spring. Each autumn the ancient Aztecs invited their ancestors to visit them and honored their spirits by lighting candles, playing music and leaving them food. The Spanish who conquered the Aztecs also had a special holiday at the same time of year called All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Although the Spanish tried to end the Aztec Day of the Dead celebration in favor of their Christian practices, in the end the two holidays were combined (Lowery, 2004). Day of the Dead (1997) by Tony Johnston takes the reader through 1 day of the family holiday through the eyes of the children. Food, flowers and candles are featured in the colorful art. Skeletons in the form of sugar treats and toys (calacas) are enjoyed by children and adults. People of all ages remember and honor grandparents with marigolds left on their graves.

Native American Spirituality 71 Table 4.3.

Inuit Story

Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails (1993) by Michael Kusugak (Inuit) is the story of Kataujaq, a young girl whose mother has died. To comfort her, Kataujaq’s grandmother tells the Inuit legend of the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis, which can be seen in the night sky when it is clear and cold. Since soccer is a traditional game of the Inuit and because of the short days in winter, soccer is played by moonlight and sometimes by the northern lights. In fact the Inuit name for the northern lights means “the trail of those playing soccer.” Kastaujaq’s grandmother tells her that the northern lights are the spirits of their ancestors, including her mother, playing soccer. This book, attractively illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka, helps children understand how death is explained and understood by some families within the Inuit culture.

monly referred to as Native American spirituality. These spiritual foundations are based on “beliefs and practices [that] form an integral and seamless part of their very being” (Native American Spirituality, 2002, p. 1). Given that broad description, the following beliefs are shared by most Indians in the Americas: 1. A belief in or knowledge of unseen powers. 2. A belief in the interdependence of all things in the universe. 3. An understanding that worship is a personal commitment to life sources and bonds the individual with the community and great powers. 4. Sacred knowledge is stored in the memories of medicine men, priests, shamans, or caciques (indigenous leader). 5. These people who are knowledgeable about sacred traditions have a responsibility to apply those traditions to the teaching of morals and ethics. 6. Humor is a necessary part of the sacred (adapted from Beck, Walters, & Francisco, 1997, p. 8) Most Native Americans believe in a deity, either a supreme being or a dual divinity. The dual divinity is a creator and a mythical individual such as a hero or trickster. In addition there are spirits that control the natural world and may be perceived as one force with the creator (Native American Spirituality, 2002). Therefore, most natural structures (celestial bodies and mountains), life forms (plants and animals) and forces of nature (thunderstorms and volcanoes) have meaning or spirit. The contemporary Nahua of Mexico (Aztec descendants), for example, believe that all physical objects have a life force in the sense that they affect human thoughts and actions (Sandstrom, 1991). Long before the Europeans

72 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 4.4.

Crazy Horse and Spirit World

Crazy Horse’s Vision (2000) by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) and illustrated by S. D. Nelson (Lakota Sioux) is about a young Lakota Sioux boy named Curly who after a vision quest is named Crazy Horse. As an adult Crazy Horse helped defeat General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The explanation of a vision quest and the process through which young Indians receive new names are two important features of this book. As a young boy Curly is deeply affected by an attack on his village by U.S. soldiers and leaves on a vision quest without the guidance of a Holy Man. In his vision, Curly sees a lone figure on horseback that is untouched by lightning and bullets. Curly later learns that he is the rider and will grow up to defend and lead his people. Both the text and illustrations are written in the ledger-book style of Native Americans who were taken from their families and put into boarding schools and taught by non-native teachers. Because the giving of Indian names, in this case Crazy Horse, is part of a spiritual ceremony or a vision, teachers should be aware that traditional Native Americans believe that giving children Indian names as a classroom activity is similar to giving non-Catholic children confirmation names.

arrived, the Indians of the intermountain west in the United States had a deep spiritual connection to the beauty and power of the land that is now Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks (Before There Were Parks, 2010). Indigenous spiritualities in the Americas are also characterized by the idea of balance between people and the natural world; between men and women; between young and old; and between people who are different based on skin color, religion, and culture. To Native Americans, striving for balance in life means looking for the “right way.” Wilma Mankiller (1993), former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, states, “We were profoundly religious, believing that the world existed in a precarious balance and that only right or correct actions kept it from tumbling. Wrong actions could disturb the balance” (Sneve, 2003, p. 25). Striving for the “right way” should be viewed as openness to different ways of knowing. SACRED CEREMONIES AND FESTIVALS Although each culture has different sacred ceremonies, there are common elements to ceremonies and festivals to be found among most indigenous people in the Americas both past and present. In the past, some indigenous cultures such as the Maya, Aztec and Inka used animal and human sacrifice as a way to make an offering to the gods. But today, ceremonies are used as a time for “renewal and forgiveness,” for healing and restoring balance, to be thankful for the ripening of the corn, the changing of the seasons, or the abundance of the buffalo (Mankiller, 2004, p. 15). According to Rosalie Little Thunder (Lakota), “We hold buffalo sacred and for good reason. They were the center of our existence; we depended upon

Native American Spirituality 73 Table 4.5.

Stories About Native Americans and the Natural World

A Walk to the Great Mystery (1995) is written and illustrated by Virginia Stroud, a wellknown contemporary Cherokee artist. Two children, Dustin and Rosie have an outdoor adventure with their grandmother to learn about the Great Mystery. Grandma Ann is a modern-day Cherokee medicine woman who asks the children to examine carvings in stone, smell trees, and learn what butterflies symbolize. The children discover that the Great Mystery is “the spirit of all living things.” The bright colors and stylized images in Stroud’s illustrations connect Cherokee spirituality to the present. The history of the Inka (Inca) who lived in the Andes Mountains in South America is told in Machu Picchu (2000) by Elizabeth Mann. The author recounts Inka legends that include the story of the construction of Machu Picchu, a religious sanctuary built between 1460 and 1470 A.C.E. Spirituality was part of everyday Inka life, and their gods represent the phenomena and cycles of nature. “From the sun god, Inti, to Pacha Mama, mother earth, to springs and rocks and eggs with two yolks, all of nature was alive with religious meaning for the Inkas” (p. 19). The role of the mountains as part of the water cycle necessary to sustain life meant that mountains were “fervently worshiped” (p. 20). The buildings at Machu Picchu were placed with an eye to natural features, such as sacred mountain peaks and to natural cycles, such as where the sun’s rays fell during a solstice. Today Machu Picchu is studied and celebrated by archaeologists, modern descendants of the Inkas, architects, astronomers, stonemasons, anthropologists and tourists.

them in extremely harsh conditions for survival” (cited in Mankiller, 2004, p. 25). Wilma Mankiller explains, “The Creator provided us with ceremonies to remind us of our place in the universe and our responsibilities as human beings.” (p. 14). During these ceremonies participants make connections with the spiritual world; shamans sometimes play an important role; and masks are sometimes worn to represent certain spirits. The Kachina masks worn by Zunis and Hopis from the southwestern United States represent the physical form that a human person gives to a cosmic person whom they have encountered in their dreams (Jackson, 2000; Jermyn, 1998; Roraff, 1998; Tapahonso & Emerson, 1999). The circle plays a prominent role in many of these celebrations as a symbol of the way the world is. According to Black Elk (Lakota Sioux), Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars.… Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle…The life of a man is a circle form childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves (Black Elk, 1932, pp. 150-151)

The powwow is a common form of contemporary celebration with spiritual roots. Even though powwows today take place for many reasons such as graduations, competitions, or political rallies, giving thanks to the spir-

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its is still a central part of the ceremony. Powwows begin with the creation of a sacred space, a circle, which might be in a school gymnasium, on a football field, or in a park. Everyone present is invited into the circle through the rhythmic beats set by the drummers and singers. Over the period of time the powwow is taking place (from an afternoon to a weekend), dances are performed with various meanings. The dancing, as well as the whole powwow experience (e.g., socializing, competitions, vendors), is an “integrated event” for participants in which ordinary life and spiritual life are seamless (Miller, 1996).

DEMOGRAPHICS The indigenous people of the Americas include American Indians from the United States, Alaska Natives, First Nation people from Canada, and Central and South American Indians. Approximately 2.5 million people identify themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native in the United States with the two largest populations in the United States being the Navajo and the Cherokee. It is estimated that 40-49 million people in Central and South America are indigenous and belong to as many as 400 different groups or tribes. Based on census data published in 2001, approximately 103,000 people identify themselves as practicing a more traditional form of Native American spiritual beliefs in the United States (American Indians, 2004; Marder, 2005).

TEACHING ABOUT NATIVE AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY Some guiding principles for teaching about Native American spirituality are to find authentic voices, to represent a variety of cultures and geographic regions, to show how traditional spiritual beliefs are represented today, to avoid stereotypes that are often inadvertently reinforced around American holidays such as Thanksgiving, and to bring any study of Native Americans into the present. These and other guidelines for teaching about Native American beliefs and cultures can be found online (Oyate, 2009). This site also includes an extensive list of recommended children’s literature. The children’s literature we have selected represents the main indigenous cultures in the Americas today, and whenever possible, we have selected literature written by Indian authors. Teaching about Native American spirituality is most authentic when primary sources are used,

Native American Spirituality 75 Table 4.6.

Stories From South America

The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer: A Huichol Indian Story (Endredy, 2003) is vividly illustrated by María Hernández de la Cruz (Huichol) and Casimiro de la Cruz López (Huichol) in the traditional yarn art style. Tunuri is a young Huichol Indian boy from the mountains of western Mexico. During a walk with families from the village on a journey to the sacred mountain, Tunuri wanders off and encounters the magical Blue Deer. The Blue Deer leads him to the spirit world where he encounters Father Sun, Brother Wind, Sister Water, Mother Earth, and Grandfather Fire. Each of these spirits of “the family of nature” brings special gifts to the people of the Earth, and teaches Tunuri that by knowing them, he will never be alone. Eric Kimmel retells and illustrates an Aztec creation legend in Two Mountains (2000) about two young lovers, Ixcocauqui and Coyolxauhqui, who disobey the sun god and are forced to leave heaven. When they descend to Earth, they discuss the differences between heaven and Earth noting that things on Earth are transient but that “everything lives forever in the realm of the gods.” Their life on Earth is immortalized when the gods turn them into two mountains, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, which can be seen today overlooking the Valley of Mexico. The story is vividly illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher and includes a pronunciation guide for Spanish words.

including actual words from Native Americans. One such work is Enduring Wisdom: Sayings from Native Americans (2003), a collection of Native American sayings collected by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Rosebud Sioux) and represents many Indian cultures in North America. Sneve is careful to document the source of the sayings to underscore their authenticity. The sayings clearly show the importance of the natural world in Native American spirituality both in the past and the present. One example are the words attributed to Pontiac, Ottawa chief in 1760, when he refers to a Creator who has made heaven and the natural world of earth for Native people. Contemporary author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Scott Momaday (Kiowa) echoes the same belief: We must preserve our sacred places In order to know our place in time, Our reach to eternity. (Momaday, 1993)

Although there is much more authentic children’s literature available about Indian cultures in the United States and Canada, it is important to try to represent all of the Americas. To encourage representation of different cultures and geographic regions, we have included books from the Inuit (Northwest Territories), Mohawk (Northeast United States), Cherokee (Southeastern U.S.), Navajo (Southwestern U.S.), Lakota Sioux (Western United States), Huichol (Mexico), Aztec (Mexico and Central America), Maya (Central America), and Inka (South America). Teachers might also use books from the Festivals of the World series to teach about

76 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 4.7. Festivals in the Americas (Christianity and Native American) A series of information books entitled Festivals Around the World (1997-1999) are examples of the blending of spiritual traditions in the Americas. The text describes major holidays and festivals and explains how these occasions are based on traditions from indigenous, European (Spanish, English, German, Portuguese, French), and West African cultures. Colorful photographs and maps help children understand that today’s celebrations have roots in the past. An example of a festival that features intertwined spiritual traditions is Carnival, a blend of indigenous and Catholic traditions. It is celebrated in many South American countries and Haiti. Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated just before the Catholic practice of Lent, the giving up of carnal pleasures for 40 days. But some scholars believe that the wearing of masks during Carnaval is an indigenous ritual used to as protection from evil spirits (Ngcheong-Lum, 1999; Furlong, 1999; Roraff, 1998). Other examples of such festivals in the Americas are found in Brazil (McKay, 1997); Canada (Barlas, 1997); Costa Rica (Fisher, 1999); Jamaica (Barlas, 1998); Peru (Jermyn, 1998); and Trinidad (Ellis, 1999).

spirituality from different Native American tribes as well as those that blend Native American spirituality and Christianity. The countries represented in these books include Canada; island nations in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti), and the Central and South American countries of Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Chile. Teaching about Thanksgiving can be made more authentic by including alternative views from Native Americans about giving thanks. In Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message (1995), author Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk) and illustrator Erwin Printup (Cayuga and Tuscarora) address thanksgiving from a Six Nations (Iroquois) perspective. The people of the Six Nations live in New York and Canada. The book is an adaptation for children of the Mohawk Thanksgiving Address, which acknowledges and thanks all aspects of Creation including the morning, food, the sun, the Four Winds and the Great Spirit. Swamp explains that for traditional Native Americans, giving thanks is not something that is done on the fourth Thursday in November, but is part of every day: “To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life” (Swamp, 1995, p. 1). Another resource that acknowledges a more universal view of giving thanks for life and beauty around us is Jorge Argueta’s (El Salvador—Nahua) Talking with Mother Earth, a picture and poetry book (Argueta, 2006). Stories about Native American culture and spirituality should be brought into the present. Too often children are left with the idea that Indians only lived in the past, and sometimes they have been even overheard to say, “I thought all Indians were dead.” Sharing stories about con-

Native American Spirituality 77 Table 4.8.

A Contemporary Maya and Christian Story

Angela Weaves a Dream: The Story of A Young Maya Artist (1997) written by Michele Sola and illustrated by Jeffrey Jay Foxx, ethnographic photographer, tells the true story of a young contemporary Maya girl who is learning to weave. The story is told through photographs, narrative, and stories about the Earth Mother (Xpiyacoc) and Earth Father (Xmucane). In ancient times Xpiyacoc and Xmucane assigned each village a set of seven sacred designs and a sacred mountain, which was known as the weaver’s saint. With her grandmother’s support, Angela weaves the seven sacred designs (ancestors, butterfly, flowering corn, scorpion, snake, toad and universe) of San Andres (her village) into her cloth. But instead of visiting a mountain as in ancient times, she prays to Santo Rosario, the weavers’ saint in her local Catholic Church.

Table 4.9. Contemporary Celebrations Based on Traditional Ceremonies Following are examples of celebrations held by Native Americans today: • Celebration of Green Corn (Iroquois, NE United States; Cherokee, SE United States); • Shiprock Fair honoring the Holy Ones (Navajo, SW United States); • Wild rice ceremonies (Chippewa, Minnesota/Wisconsin); • Sun Dance (Sioux and Cheyenne, Western United States); • Inti Rayme—Festival of the Sun (Inka, Peru/Boliva); and • Ngillatun—Prayer ceremony to the spirit Pillan (Machupe, Chile)

temporary Indians will help non-Native children see that there are Indian children very much like them. A wonderful resource for teaching about contemporary Native Americans is A Rainbow at Night: The World in Words and Pictures by Navajo Children (Hucko, 1996), a collection of prose and art created by contemporary Navajo children aged 5-12. The children tell about their homes, families, relationship with the earth and sky, and spiritual beliefs reached through visual creations. Rainbows are important symbols to Navajo. “When they appear it means that the spirits who guard over them are present. When you see a rainbow after a summer rain they say it’s a blessing from the spirits because water in the desert means life” (Hucko, 1996, pp. 1-2). A number of children write about Yei-bi-chei, the grandfather spirits, but with their own creative twist. For example, Tyrone Thomas, age 10, drew a picture using tempera in which he depicts the Yei-bi-chei, but instead of the gods doing a traditional dance, he depicts them “working out” with barbells (Hucko, 1996, p. 25). Because the words and artistry are from Navajo children, it makes it easier for children from other cultures to connect to the perspective of an Indian child.

78 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

REFERENCES American Indians and Alaska Natives: A demographic perspective. (2004). Population Resource Center. Retrieved from /amindiansaknatives/amindiansaknatives.html Beck, P., Walters, A. L., & Francisco, N. (l995). The sacred: Ways of knowledge, sources of life. Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College Press. (Original work published 1977) Before there were parks: Yellowstone and Glacier through Native eyes. (2010). [PBS documentary]. Montana Public Broadcasting System Black Elk, with Neihardt, J. (2000). Black Elk speaks: Being the life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska. (Original work published 1932) Deloria, V. (1994). God is red: A native view of religion. Golden, CO: Fulcrum. Fisher, M. P. (1999). Religion in the twenty-first century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Harvey, G. (2000). Indigenous religions: A companion. London, England: Cassell. Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2007). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Jackson, E. (2000). The autumn equinox: Celebrating the harvest. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. Maestro, B. (1996). The story of religion. New York, NY: Clarion books. Mankiller, W. (2004). Every day is a good day: Reflections by contemporary indigenous women. Golden, CO: Fulcrum. Marder, W. (2005). Indians in the Americas: The untold story. San Diego, CA: Booktree. Martin, J. W. (1999). Native American religion. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (M) Miller, J. (1996). American Indian festivals. New York, NY: Children’s Press. Momaday, S. (1993, November). Cry of the Earth [Speech to United Nations]. Retrieved from _nsm_complete.htm Native American Spirituality. (2002). Retrieved from NgCheong-Lum, R. (1999). Festivals of the world: Haiti. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. Oyate. (2009). Retrieved from Patent, D. H. (1996). Quetzal: Sacred bird of the Cloud forest. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. Sandstrom, A. R. (1991). Corn is in our blood: Culture and ethnic identity in a contemporary Aztec Indian village. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Sneve, V. D. H. (2003). Enduring wisdom: Sayings from Native Americas. New York, NY: Holiday House. Tapahonso, L., & Emerson, A. E. (1999). Song of Shiprock Fair. Walnut, CA: Kiva. Unto these hills. (2006). [Brochure]. Cherokee, NC.

Children’s Literature Cited Barlas, R. (1997). Festivals of the world: Canada. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M)

Native American Spirituality 79 Barlas, R. (1998). Festivals of the world: Jamaica. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Bruchac, J. (2000). Crazy Horse’s vision. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books. (P, I) Ellis, R. (1999). Festivals of the world: Trinidad. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Endredy, J. (2003). The journey of Tunuri and the blue deer: A Huichol Indian story. Rochester, VT: Bear Cub Books. (P, I) Fisher, F. (1999). Festivals of the world: Costa Rica. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Furlong, A. (1999). Festivals of the world: Argentina. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Hucko, B. (1996). A rainbow at night: The world in words and pictures by Navajo children. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (I, M) Jermyn, L. (1998). Festivals of the world: Peru. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Johnston, T. (1997). Day of the Dead. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace. (P) Kimmel, E. A. (2000). The two mountains: An Aztec legend. New York, NY: Holiday House. (I, M) Kusugak M. A. (1993). Northern lights: The soccer trails. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Annick Press. (P) Lowery, L. (2004). Day of the Dead. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books. (I) Mann, E. (2000). Machu Picchu. New York, NY: Mikaya Press. (I) McKay, S. (1997). Festivals of the world: Brazil. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) NgCheong-Lum, R. (1999). Festivals of the world: Haiti. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Ortiz, S. (1988). The people shall continue. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press. (I) Roraff, S. (1998). Festivals of the world: Chile. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens. (I, M) Sola, M. (1997). Angela weaves a dream: The story of a young Maya artist. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. (I) Stroud, V. (1995). A walk to the great mystery. New York, NY: Dial Books. (I) Swamp, J. (1995). Giving thanks: A Native American good morning message. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books. (P, I)

Additional Children’s Literature About Indigenous Spirituality in the Americas Ancona, G. (1993). Pablo remembers: The fiesta of the Day of the Dead. New York, NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. (I) Pablo and his family are shown in photographs preparing for the Day of the Dead celebration, which has become personal for Pablo, who recently lost his grandmother. Argueta, J. (2006). Talking with Mother Earth: Poems. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Groundwood Books. (P)

80 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources This picture book features a young boy named Jorge or Teti (as called by his grandmother) who becomes proud of his heritage. The illustrations and poems are about giving thanks for the four directions and for the beauty that surrounds us all. It also includes messages about overcoming hurt and racism. The author is a Pipil Nahua Indian from El Salvador. Bruchac, J. (1996). Between earth and sky: Legends of Native American sacred places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace. (I) An American Indian named Old Bear tells his nephew, Little Turtle the legends of 11 different sacred places found in the North, South, East and West as well as Above, Below and Within. Bouchard, D., & Willier, S. (2008). The drum calls softly. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Red Deer Press. (I) This book is about a spiritual journey with an unnamed seeker. Written as a poem, the story enables the reader to actually experience the rhythmic drumming and singing of a Cree drum circle. The seeker learns about the significance of family and the continuous cycle of nature that forms the foundation of Cree spirituality. Castillo, A. (2000). My daughter, my son, the eagle, the dove: An Aztec chant. New York, NY: Dutton Books. (M) Castillo recreates ancient Nahuatl chants into modern verse for a daughter and a son. The chants celebrate rites of passage in a young person’s life and respect for all living things. Eboch, C. (1999). The well of sacrifice. New York, NY: Clarion Books. (M) Set in a ninth century Mayan city, the story pictures ancient Mayan life, spirituality, the decline of Mayan power, and human and animal sacrifice. Lattimore, D. N. (1989). Why there is no arguing in heaven: A Mayan myth. New York, NY: Harper & Row. (I, M) This creation myth shows the main Mayan gods competing to win a place of honor next to the creator, Hunab Ku. The corn god plants seeds that result in the creation of mankind and wins the honor. North American Indians Today. (2003-2004). Broomall, PA: Mason Crest. (M) This set of reference books is a good resource for both teachers and middle grade children who want to learn more about specific tribal cultures. Each book profiles the culture and history of a different tribal nation, addresses the spiritual beliefs of the tribe, and brings readers up to date about issues faced by the tribe today. The tribes featured in the 10-volume set are: Apache, Cherokee, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, Pueblo, Seminole, Cheyenne, Sioux, Navajo, and Iroquois. Patent, D. H. (1996). Quetzal: Sacred Bird of the Cloud forest. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. (M) The quetzal is viewed from many perspectives: the ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a source of valuable feathers, the most beautiful and colorful rain-forest bird, and an endangered species. Phillip, N. (1997). In a sacred manner I live: Native American wisdom. New York, NY: Clarion Books. (M)

Native American Spirituality 81 Familiar, inspirational passages from Black Elk, Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle are featured along with quotes from other lesser-known Native Americans. Sneve, V. D. H. (2003). Enduring wisdom: Sayings from Native Americas. New York, NY: Holiday House. (M) Wise sayings from Indians of many nations concerning spirituality, enduring values, respect for the land, and acceptance of other cultures are featured. Strauss, S. (1998). When woman became the sea: A Costa Rican creation myth. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words. (P, I) This creation story is from the Cabecar and Bribri people of Costa Rica and explains the interdependence of trees and water in the rainforest. Tapahonso, L., & Emerson, A. E. (1999). Song of Shiprock Fair. Walnut, CA: Kiva. (P, I) The Shiprock Fair is a Navajo celebration of the harvest and an example of the blending of a traditional spiritual celebration to honor the Holy Ones with a contemporary community fair. Whetung, J. (1996). The vision seeker. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Stoddart. (I) A young Anishinaabeg boy goes on a vision quest to the top of a mountain where he fasts and dreams. His vision reveals the origins and meaning of the Sweat Lodge, an important ritual for many Native Americans. Yerxa, L. (2006). Ancient thunder. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Groundwood Books. (P) Leo Yerxa, an artist with Ojibway ancestry, uses colorful and whimsical images of horses to convey the important role of horses in the history of First Peoples and the reverence native people have for all creatures and the natural world.


HINDUISM I am the Self, O Gudakesa, seated in the hearts of all creatures; I am their beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings. —The Bhagavad Gita As it Is (Prabhupada, 1972, p. 519)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE We remove our shoes and leave them on the porch before following our host through a vestibule into a large, sunlit room at the Hindu Center. On this Saturday morning about thirty worshipers have gathered at one side of the room, standing or sitting on the carpet as they chant and bow to the floor in prayer. The priest, wearing loose-fitting white dhuti (pants) and no shirt chants in a robust voice as he pours first water, then milk over a 3-foot high murti (statue) of Ganesh, the male god with the elephant head. Our host explains that in a city with approximately 1,500 Hindu residents, this center serves followers of many branches of Hinduism, as well as Jainism. These groups use the buildings at different times during the week and celebrate festivals originating in the region of India from which they or their ancestors immigrated. Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 83–100 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


84 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 5.1. Hindu children in prayer.

The murti in the main hall represent gods and goddesses worshipped by each of these communities—Shiva, Radha-Krishna, Durga, and Mahavir Jain. We stand in front of each elaborately dressed marble image for a moment then walk on, careful to walk around offerings of sweets, fruit, flowers, and decorations placed in front of each deity. A bell rings and we join the worshipers standing in a circle in front of the statue of Ganesh, ready to receive a blessing. The priest stands in front of us holding a tray of five small candles (arti). Following the example of our host, we glide our hands over the flames then over our heads. Next the priest moves around the circle pouring a little saffron water into each of our hands. We drink the water to complete the blessing while those around us chant mantras (holy words) and bow low in prayer. HISTORY The roots of Hinduism date back over 4,500 years to the early inhabitants of the Indus valley, where Pakistan is today. Around 2,700 small agricultural villages began to crystallize into a great civilization, popularly known

Hinduism 85

as the Indus culture, which thrived until approximately 1,500 B.C.E. About 70 cities have been unearthed, giving evidence of a rich culture. Archeologists have located terra cotta figurines from this time period in the form of broad-hipped women, representing goddesses of life and creation that are similar to the later mother goddess of Hinduism. These female figures suggest the sacred power of female reproduction and pre-date depictions of male gods. Some scholars believe there may have been an extensive culture based on a Mother Goddess (Basham, 1989; Ganeri, 2003b; Muesse, 2003). Aryans from central Asia migrated in waves to the Indus valley around 1,500 B.C.E. They were not as progressive as the earlier civilization in that they did not live in cities or have a written language. As nomads they moved about, eventually settling near the banks of the Ganges River in Northeast India. The Aryans had many gods and goddesses to whom they sang hymns of praise. These hymns were later written down as the Rig Veda, a sacred text of Hinduism. This era is known as the Vedic period, the period in which the Vedas were collected. Over time Arya Dharma (the religion of the Aryans), merged with the religion of the earlier inhabitants of the region and spread across India (Bhaskarananda, 2002; Ganeri, 2003b; Keene, 1993). By 400 B.C.E., Hinduism was practiced in much the same way it is practiced today. In 1947 this region experienced an event that led to a major conflict between Hindus and Muslims which continues today. The British partitioned India into new states, including Pakistan, based primarily on cultural and religious traditions. India (primarily Hindu) and Pakistan (primarily Muslim) have fought for 60 years over control of Kashmir, a disputed region, which lies between them. This conflict, based partially on hostility between two major world religions, is especially significant because both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons (Bhatt, 2001). Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was a spiritual, as well as a political leader of the Indian people. Born into a family with roots in both Hinduism and Jainism, Gandhi advocated commitment to active nonviolent peaceful resistance, based on the principles of his faith and ideas from Russian author Leo Tolstoy and American philosopher Henry David Thoreau. He led Indians in civil disobedience against British rule during the 1920s through the 1940s and was imprisoned for many years during that time. Gandhi lived a life of truthfulness, love, and simplicity; he owned few possessions, wore a plain white garment, and ate only a little vegetarian food. The Academy Award-winning film, Gandhi (Attenborough, 1982), depicts the remarkable life of a man who lead his country to independence and gained the admiration of people around the world.

86 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 5.1.

Biographies of Gandhi

Gandhi: India’s Great Soul (Shaw, 2004) introduces younger children to both the life of this great leader and concepts they can apply to their own lives. Gandhi’s theory of satyagraha, the force of love, illuminated the power of nonviolent protest to India and the world. As a child, Gandhi’s mother taught him about both Hinduism and Jainism, the religions of his family that formed the basis of his later work for social justice. Demi’s Gandhi (2001) for middle elementary students concentrates on the spiritual and political leader’s ethical decisions, his respectful defiance, and the “insatiable love of humankind that guided his life” (Demi, 2001). All stages of Gandhi’s life and work are shown in the pictorial biography, Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation (Wilkinson, 2005). Written for upper elementary and middle school students, this biography includes many historical photographs and a timeline at the bottom of most pages. Both Demi and Wilkinson’s books provide descriptions of the salt march, the protest to allow Indians to spin their own cotton, and Gandhi’s fasting and peaceful protests. Both books also mention Gandhi’s study of sacred writings from Christianity and Islam, as well as Hinduism, and the influence these texts had on his work.

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES The word “Hindu” is of Persian derivation, originally meaning “India” (Muesse, 2003). Hindus have long referred to their tradition as sanatana dharma, Sanskrit for “eternal teaching.” Hinduism covers a range of spiritual paths originating in India and having a common basis in the Vedic writings (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Most Hindus view themselves either as individuals or members of communities dedicated to a particular deity, such as Lakshmi, Shiva, or Sita (Muesse, 2003). Hindus living in various parts of India and the world may celebrate festivals and worship in varying ways, or pray to different gods and goddesses. Hindus believe that their souls have existed since time began (de la Chaumiere, 2004). The main life goal for Hindus is to achieve moksha, or liberation from the body and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth through God-realization. When divinity is realized in a person, he or she has attained moksha. “This divinity is the true Self of man” (Bhaskarananda, 2002, p. 8). Hinduism is foundational and pervasive to all aspects of life—including art, medicine, and music—especially for those living in India. It is a “lived reality,” rather than a set of doctrine or beliefs. For many Hindus, ritual is more important than belief. Daily rituals may include murmuring the name of one’s personal deity, taking a ritual bath, uttering a mantra, and applying devotional markings to one’s body. Hindus who live near a temple may stop there for daily prayers, but also pray before altars in their homes (Muesse, 2003).

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Figure 5.2. The altar in this young woman’s home contains images of several Hindu deities.

When westerners see the many images of deities within Hinduism they may think that Hindus believe in thousands of gods and goddesses. However, Hindus believe in “one world spirit, or god, that is eternal and everywhere” (Keene, 1993, p. 24). Brahman, the absolute and boundless spirit can take many different forms, including the human form, called an avatar. For example, Vishnu, the most important avatar, is believed to have come to earth in various forms on ten occasions, as a fish, tortoise, boar, dwarf, and in human form as Rama and Lord Krishna. Each of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism represents some aspect of the Brahman. The three main forms of Brahman are: • Brahma—the creator; • Vishnu—the preserver who maintains life; and • Shiva—the destroyer who has power over life, death and rebirth. Hindus believe that God is present in everything and in all people, but is not equally manifest in all things. For instance, God is more present in a

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holy person than in a cow. Animals are respected, but are not considered holy. The sacred syllable Om or Aum represents the oneness of the universe. It is composed of three sounds signifying Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. It also symbolizes the three Hindu holy Vedas and the elements of earth, atmosphere, and heaven. Worshipers repeat this syllable before meditation and prayer, as it is believed to “hold the key to understanding the universe” (Keene, 1993, p. 41). Mantras, words or phrases repeated during meditation, are also important to Hindu worship. By quieting the mind and senses through meditation, “the door to the infinite dimension can be unlatched” (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005, p. 72). Dharma, karma, and reincarnation are three important themes of Hinduism. The cosmic law of dharma refers to the social order or one’s duty in living a life of virtue, truthfulness, and nonviolence (Renard, 2002; Rosinsky, 2010). Dharma can also be understood as the order of a virtuous society; one that is harmonious with the universe (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Karma refers to personal and cosmic cause and effect. The law of karma is the belief that thoughts, words, and actions in this life should be carried out without the expectation of a physical reward in this life (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Hindus believe that each decision is a free act that will eventually have a consequence. Actions, such as acting selfishly, that result from inappropriate motivation, result in the person becoming stuck in the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth known as samsara, rather than achieving moksha. Reincarnation is the belief that after death people are reborn into this world or another world in human or animal form (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Through reincarnation individuals have the opportunity to evolve spiritually, as a result of the experiences they gain in each incarnation (Bhaskarananda, 2002). God-realization, or moksha, is attained when one reaches the peak of spiritual development and the soul is liberated. Hindus believe that there are four paths to communion with God: • Bhakti Yoga—the path of devotion or love; • Jnana Yoga—the path of knowledge or rational inquiry; • Raja or Ashtanga Yoga—the path of meditation or mental concentration; and • Karma Yoga—the path of right action or work. Just as people have different approaches to learning or interacting with others, they may choose to follow these different paths toward spiritual development (Bhaskarananda, 2002).

Hinduism 89 Table 5.2. A Children’s Book about a Hindu Temple Children can imagine what a Hindu temple would look like by reading in What You Will See Inside a Hindu Temple (Jani & Jani, 2005). Striking photographs by Neirah Bhargava and Vija Dave and concise, but thorough descriptions by the authors give young readers clear insights into Hindu religious practices. The authors provide a clear explanation of the multiple forms of God that are represented by the murti in Hindu temples. One picture show a family at home performing puja, worshiping God in front of a small home altar with objects that represent the divine force of life. Teens are shown at the temple, gathering canned goods to share with community members in need.

Followers of Hinduism worship in a mandir (temple) and in their homes, where they often have small altars to a god or goddess that has particular meaning to their family. During worship Hindus might make offerings of fruits or flowers to a murti (a holy image of a deity), read from sacred scriptures, light candles or oil lamps, and play drums or other instruments. During worship in temples Hindus sing hymns and offer the sacrifice of fire to the gods and goddesses. They also believe they receive power from the deities by running their hands over five small flames held by a priest, then passing their hands over their heads (Keene, 1998).

SPIRITUAL WRITINGS/SACRED TEXTS The sacred writings of Hinduism can be divided into the Shruti or Vedas, “that which is heard,” and the Smriti, “that which is remembered.” Most Hindus believe that the Shruti came directly from Brahman and were heard and memorized by early gurus (wise men). These writings are generally read and interpreted by priests. The Vedas, considered revealed divine truth, are a collection of hymns, prayers, and instructions for living that date back to the time of the Aryans. They are composed of four books: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. They were originally written in the Sanskrit language, which is believed to be so powerful that it is used to communicate with the gods. Of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda, or “Song of Knowledge,” is the most sacred. “The most important message of the Vedas is that everything and every being is divine” (Bhaskarandanda, 2002, p. 13). The Upanishads, philosophical portions of the Vedas, provide an exploration of the core beliefs of Hinduism. They describe “the relationship between Brahman, the great soul, and atman, a person’s individual soul, and how the two merge and become one” (Ganeri, 2003b, p. 17). The concept of karma and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth are clarified in these writings.

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The Smriti were composed by humans, then memorized and passed down orally for hundreds of years before they were written. These are more popular writings that are often read daily by contemporary Hindus. Prayers and poems may be memorized and used in rituals (Bhaskarananda, 2002; Ganeri, 2003). An example of a well-known morning prayer is: May all in this world be happy, may they be healthy, may they be comfortable and never miserable. May the rain come down in the proper time, may the earth yield plenty of corn, may the country be free from war, may the Brahmans be secure.

The Smriti include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, two epic tales; Sutras, short sayings; Puranas, scriptural teachings, stories, and parables; and law books. Scholars believe that the Ramayana was composed in the second century B.C.E. by a wise man named Valmiki after he was visited by the god Rama, who told him the story of his life. Storytellers passed on the epic tale for hundreds of years before it was written as a 24,000 verse poem. The essence of the Ramayana is the battle between good and evil forces. Lessons of love, loyalty and duty are also included. The marriage of Rama (a human form of Lord Vishnu) and his wife Sita, provide a model of the ideal Hindu, which is one in which each partner is a complement of the other. The man and woman represent two halves of the divine body without superiority or inferiority between them (Rajhans, n.d.) The Mahabharata is the world’s longest poem, containing 100,000 verses in 18 books according to legend. It was composed by a man named Vyasa, who dictated the poem to the elephant god Ganesha, who broke off his trunk and used it as a pen to write the poem (Ganeri, 2003b). The poem tells of a war between two royal families, both descended from King Bharata. The wisdom of this epic has been conveyed to Hindus through drama, storytelling, puppetry, and the arts (Keene, 1993). The Bhagavad Gita, “The Song of the Lord,” is the most popular, influential, and widely read part of the Mahabharata (Basham, 1989). It depicts a dialogue on a battlefield between Arjuna, a prince, and his charioteer, Lord Krishna. Throughout the conversation Lord Krishna conveys many of the basic teachings of Hinduism, such as the concept of Atman, or soul. Many Hindus read portions of the Bhagavad Gita for daily inspiration (Ganeri, 2003b; Keene, 1993; Rosinsky, 2010).

Hinduism 91 Table 5.3.

Traditional Stories of Hinduism

Stories about the gods and goddesses and their adventures on earth have been an important part of Hindu tradition since ancient times. Children are told these stories with the hope that the moral values will be conveyed. Today many Hindu stories are being written and illustrated by adults who heard the tales in traditional ways. Harish Johari and Vatsala Sperling have retold several classic Hindu myths for children. The well-loved god Ganesh is a chubby little boy with an elephant head who flies about not on a magic carpet, but on a little mouse. How Ganesh Got His Elephant Head (2003) tells the story of the creation of Ganesh, his unwavering loyalty to his mother, the goddess Parvati, and her fierce love of her son. At the climax of the story a battle takes place which ends with restoring the balance of the universe. The book introduces young readers to some of the most important Hindu deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Brahman, Kali, and Nav Durga. An end note by illustrator Pieter Weltevrede describes the complex process he used to create the intricate watercolor paintings that bring the story to life. Additional stories about the god with the elephant head can be found in The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha, retold by Uma Krushnaswami (1996). Seven ancient tales are retold by Anita Ganeri in Hindu Stories (2006), beginning with a two-page creation story, “How the World Came to Be.” Three of the myths, “The God and the Wicked Witch,” “Rama Rescues Sita,” and “Durga and the Buffalo Demon,” explain the origins of Hindu festivals of Holi, Diwali, and Durga Puja. “How the Holy River Fell from Heaven” is the myth of the origin of the river Ganges. Boxed inserts entitled, “Did you know?” provide additional information about Hindu deities, celebrations, and holy places. The stories are short and uncomplicated, providing easy independent reading for most upper elementary students. They could be read aloud or told to younger children.

The Puranas, compiled between 50 C.E. to 1500 C.E., are comprised of creation stories and tales of gods and goddesses. They also include prayers and sacred texts used in worship and festivals. Myths and stories provide understanding of values and traditions to Hindus, as they do in most religions. The stories are told or read to children to provide role models of morality, ethics, and spirituality (Bhaskarandanda, 2002).

HOLY DAYS/FESTIVALS Hinduism is a religion with many festivals that have been celebrated throughout the centuries. In fact, almost every day on the Hindu lunar calendar represents some celebration. Of the thirteen major festivals, three of the most important are Navaratri (also known as Durga Puja and Dusshera), Diwali, and Holi. Hindus throughout India and the world celebrate the Goddess Durga, a warring form of the mother goddess, during September or October (depending on lunar calendar dates). The celebration commemorates the time when Durga fought and killed an evil demon, representing the triumph of good over evil. Depending on the region, Hindus celebrate this

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festival in different ways. Some Hindus fast during this time while others participate in nightly dancing around statues of the goddess Durga.Today, this holiday is celebrated by Hindus living all over the world. Hindus from different traditions now living outside of India may merge their celebrations and adapt to local customs. For example, the authors visited the Hindu community in Charlotte, North Carolina during their celebration of Durga Puja and Narvati that was adapted to last two weekends, rather than the traditional consecutive nights. We observed the progression of dances from the unhurried women’s dances to the frenzied dances of both women and men tapping bamboo sticks and swirling rapidly around a central altar. The sight of women dancing in bright dresses and men swinging their scarves and tapping their sticks to the energetic movement was electrifying. Diwali (also spelled Diwaali or Divaali) is a celebration of light lasting four or five days and the largest of the many Hindu festivals. It likely began centuries ago as a harvest festival; today it is celebrated in November. As Hindu legends evolved, the holiday took on different meanings in various parts of India. The story of the exile of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman and the vanquishing of the Demon King Ravana is commemorated during Diwali. People celebrate Rama’s return after 14 years in the forest by lighting oil lamps and placing them in their

Table 5.4.

Children’s Books About Holidays and Festivals

The Story of Divaali (Verma, 2002) recounts one of the Hindu myths that underlie India’s national festival of lights. In this tale Lord Vishnu comes to earth in human form as the son of King Dashratha. In a contest he wins the beautiful Princess Sita, daughter of King Janaka, for his bride. When King Dashratha is dying and Rama is about to become the ruler, the king’s second wife becomes jealous, wanting her own son to be the next king. Rama, Sita, and Rama’s brother Lakshmana are banished to the forest for fourteen years. At the end of a fierce battle in which Rama and Lakshmana are aided by an army of monkeys, they kill the Demon King Ravana and return to their kingdom on the back of a giant flying monkey. To celebrate their homecoming the people light oil lamps and welcome them with sparkling fountains and flowers. The detailed illustrations by Nilesh Mistry expand the meaning of this long myth that is appropriate for upper elementary or middle school students. Lights for Gita (Gilmore, 1994) is realistic fiction book for younger readers about a little girl who recently immigrated to a northern city in the United States. Rather than the fireworks she remembers from Diwali celebrations in her native New Delhi, she is stung by icicles on her way home from school. Celebrating in her new home helps Gita see that Diwali is about filling the darkness with light and having hope. Hindu Festivals Throughout the Year (Ganeri, 2003a) provides photographs and a brief overview of fourteen important days in the Hindu calendar. Directions are given for making craft activities, such as jewelry commonly worn for certain celebrations. A more complete festival calendar and glossary are provided at the end of the book.

Hinduism 93

Figure 5.3.

A Hindu child standing in front of the statue of Durga Puja.

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windows and setting off firecrackers to ward off the darkness of winter. Hindus also celebrate by eating sweets and wearing new clothes. The third day of Diwaali is a time to worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, by making business transactions or gambling. Account books for the old year are closed and new ones are opened the following morning. The festival of Holi occurs in February or March, marking the early signs of spring. It is based on a story of a wicked king who wanted his subjects to worship him instead of God. When his son, Prahlad, refused to follow this order, the king tried several ways to kill him, but none of his evil plans worked because Lord Vishnu always protected the son. Finally, Holika, the evil sister of the king tricked Prahlad into walking into a bonfire with her. Holika thought she would not be burned because of her magic powers. Lord Vishnu saved Prahlad and took away Holika’s powers, so that she perished in the flames (Ganeri, 2003a). To this day bonfires are lit on the first night of Holi to remind people of this story. People may throw offerings, such as popcorn, coconuts, or rice into the bonfire as offerings to God. Holi festivals usually last two or three days. Hindus clean and sometimes paint their homes in preparation for spring. Holi is literally a vibrant, energetic and colorful celebration. Children and adults spray each other with bright powders called gulal and water until their clothes and bodies are drenched in a rainbow of colors. After washing they may visit friends, exchange gifts, and eat desserts (Ganeri, 2003a).

DEMOGRAPHICS There are approximately 750 million Hindus living in South Asia, mainly India (Teaching about Religion, 2006). Large Hindu communities are also found throughout the United Kingdom, Canada (especially Ontario) and the United States. Within the United States the states with the largest Hindu populations are in New York and California. It is estimated that there are more than 2 million Hindus in the United States of Indian or Indo-Caribbean descent and as many as one million of non-Indian descent (Hindu American Foundation, 2008).

Related Belief Systems Hare Krishna

Those who adhere to the form of Hinduism known as Hare Krishna believe that that the true identity of humans is a spiritual one. The soul of each person is eternal and filled with happiness and knowledge, like God,

Hinduism 95

Krishna. Unlike God, humans must live in the material world and thus experience suffering, illness and death. The most effective method for moving toward enlightenment and freeing one’s soul from the material world is by chanting the name of God, the Hare Krishna mantra (Krishna, n.d.) The Hare Krishna movement, within the Bhakti tradition, traces its lineage to Lord Krishna, but includes devotion to all the gods of Hinduism. Each of its leaders has been part of that lineage. The International Society of Krishna Consciousness was founded by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who wrote over forty volumes of commentary and translations of ancient scriptures. He wanted to convey the natural, authentic meaning of these writings on human life, the soul, consciousness, and God. Srila Prabhupada came to the United States in 1965, at the age of 69, to share his teachings (His Divine Grace). Followers of the Hare Krishna movement believe that Krishna is the Godhead and source of all. The words of Krishna are written in the Bhagavad-gita, which is the primary book of wisdom for his followers (Krishna, n. d.). Hare Krishna followers aim “to re-awaken our original pure love for God, Krishna” (Goal of Life). Some of the basic premises of this belief system include: • • • •

The belief that an absolute reality exists; There is a reality beyond the realm of scientific explanation; God has been revealed to humans primarily through scripture; and Religion refers to human’s eternal relationship with God

One of the basic premises of Hinduism is that the goal of human life is to reawaken the original pure love for God, Krishna. According to this tradition, souls exist to have an intimate loving relationship with God. People cannot be happy by rejecting that relationship and denying their true nature. The Hare Krishna movement began in New York in 1965 and has approximately 250,000 followers and 10,000 full members. “The Hare Krishna came under criticism during the anti-cult movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and still remains under the watchful eye of anti-cult organizations today” (Religion Facts, n.d.). These allegations included abuses by leaders and isolation and brainwashing of adherents. Jainism

Jains shares many beliefs with Hindus and Buddhists, including the belief in karma and the goal of achieving moksha. Unlike other Asian religions, the Jain interpretation of karma “is more like a material coating

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that covers souls as a consequence of action based on desire and thereby condemns them to the suffering incumbent upon material existence” (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005, p. 113). The quietness and abstraction of meditative practice can have a positive effect on reversing worldly suffering by calming the mind and body. Jains also believe that the universe consists of a series of layers with no beginning or end. Souls that have achieved liberation inhabit the highest layer. Celestial beings live in the heavens of the upper world, the earth and the rest of the physical universe are in the middle world, and the nether world consists of hells where there is misery and punishment (Jain Dharma, n.d.). Mahavira, an Indian man who lived about the same time as the Buddha, is a central figure in the Jain religion. He is believed to have been the last of the Tirthankaras, men who attained moksha, or liberation. His process of spending twelve years in deep silence conquering his feelings and desires through meditation and fasting is a model for Jain monks and nuns today. The Jain religion existed before Mahavir’s time; he was a reformer rather than a founder of Jainism (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005; Lord Mahavir and Jain Religion, n. d.). Jains believe that three “jewels” are keys to this release: right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). The five vows that guide Jain behavior are: nonviolence (causing no harm to living things); truthfulness; non-stealing; chastity (not indulging in sensual pleasures); and detachment from people, places, and material things. Most Jains are strict vegetarians and very respectful of all forms of life. Some refrain from eating root vegetables because it kills the whole plant, cover their mouths and noses to avoid swallowing insects, and sweep insects out of their path to avoid harming them. There are 24 symbolic deities or idols found in Jain temples. Most followers of Jainism worship at home in the morning through prayer and washing the image of a deity, bowing before it, and making offerings. Those who live near temples may worship there and make offerings of flowers, grains, fruit, and sweets. The most important festival for the Jains is Paryusana Parva, an 8-day celebration held in August or September. It is a period of repentance when Jains shed their karmas and aim to be free of sensual pleasures in the year to come. Jains also celebrate Diwaali as the day when Mahavir attained Moksha. Like Hindus, they light oil lamps and wish each other a happy New Year. There are approximately four million Jains worldwide, mainly in India. About 75,000 Jains reside in the United States. and 25,000 in the United Kingdom.

Hinduism 97

TEACHING ABOUT HINDUISM The practice of Hatha Yoga, the most widely known of the four Hindu yoga systems, is a way to calm the mind and develop physical strength. Yoga is sometimes part of the curriculum in health and physical education courses. Because it has become so popular in the United States in recent years, many resources are available on the Internet and in libraries and bookstores. Students could use these resources to research the spiritual significance of Hatha Yoga to Hindus and to learn yoga poses and teach them to other students. In most communities it would not be difficult to locate a yoga instructor who might volunteer to teach a group of students about this practice (Hinduism, n.d.). Check with school administrators and families before inviting a yoga instructor to your school. In some communities yoga is considered a religious practice and might not be acceptable. However, yoga is often practiced as a form of exercise and not as part of any religion. Hindus believe that God is everywhere, within nature and within humans. Brahman, the Supreme Being or Universal Spirit, has many forms or manifestations. To understand the deities of Hinduism, students could collect information on some of the gods and goddesses, including pictures, and explain to their classmates what each deity represents to Hindus. When learning about symbolism in literature, students could study the myths of the Hindu gods and goddesses and the values inherent in the stories. In Hindu scriptures, when the world is nearing disaster, Lord Vishnu takes on human form and comes to earth as an avatar to save humankind. Today’s middle school students have probably played computer games in which they are represented by a figure called an avatar. The popular movie by the same name depicts aliens with blue skin, the same color skin as Krishna and Rama in Hindu art (CNN Go, 2009). Students might become interested in the connections between the ancient and modern use of the term. To Hindus, food has a very important connection to fitness, moods, and longevity. The practice of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient system of healthcare, which includes the effects of food on the body, has become popular in the West. Middle school students could research the scientific basis of this system and invite a practitioner of Ayurveda to visit the class. Many Hindus are vegetarians, and middle school students might find research on this topic of interest, perhaps analyzing their own diet based on issues that vegetarians raise. Many Indian recipes, traditional to Hindu celebrations, are readily available and could be adapted for classroom preparation (Hinduism, n.d.).

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Mahatma Gandhi is the martyred spiritual and political hero in India who protested British rule, led his nation to independence, and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. A major guiding force for his beliefs came from his Hindu heritage blended with some Christian beliefs as well. Gandhi’s life and contributions would fit well with themed lessons on “people who made a difference” or as an exemplar for truth, nonviolence and simplicity, virtues that children are often taught in school. Gandhi: India’s Great Soul (Shaw, 2004), Demi’s Gandhi (2001), and Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation (Wilkinson, 2005) all provide materials and pictures about Gandhi for children in upper grades and middle school.

REFERENCES Attenborough, R. (Producer & Director). (1982). Gandhi [Motion picture]. Hollywood, CA: Columbia Pictures. Basham, A. L. (1989). The origins and development of classical Hinduism (K. G. Zysk, Ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Bhaskarananda, S. (2002). The essentials of Hinduism. Seattle, WA: Viveka Press. Bhatt, R. K. K. (2001). Kashmir and the partition of India. Retrieved from www CNN Go. (2009). The religious backdrop of James Cameron’s Avatar. Retrieved from de la Chaumiere, R. (2004). What’s it all about? Sonoma, CA: Wisdom House. Ellwood, R. S., & McGraw, B. A. (2005). Many people, many faiths. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Ganeri, A. (2003a). Hindu festivals throughout the year. London, England: Smart Apple Media. Ganeri, A. (2003b). Sacred texts: The Ramayana and Hinduism. London, England: Smart Apple Media. Hinduism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Hindu American Foundation. (2008). Retrieved from http://www demographics Jain Dharma. (n. d.) Retrieved from Keene, J. (1993). Seekers after truth: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Krishna. (n. d.). Retrieved from Lord Mahavir and Jain Religion. (n.d.) Retrieved from ~malaiya/mahavira.html Muesse, M. W. (2003). Great world religions: Hinduism. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company Limited Partnership. Prabhupāda, A. C. B. (1972). Bhagavid-gītā: As it is. New York, NY: Collier Books. Puja. (n.d.). Retrieved from .htm

Hinduism 99 Rajhans (n.d.). Ideals of Hindu marriage. Retrieved from http://hinduism.about .com/library/weekly/aa111602a.htm Religion Facts. (n.d.) Hare Krishna (ISKCON). Retrieved from Renard, J. (2002). The handy religion answer book. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press. Rosinsky, N.M. (2010). World religions: Hinduism. Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books. Teaching About Religion. (2006) Hinduism. Retrieved from http://www

Children’s Literature Cited Demi. (2001). Gandhi. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I) Ganeri, A. (2003a). Hindu festivals throughout the year. North Manakato, MI: Smart Apple Books. (P, I) Ganeri, A. (2006). Hindu stories. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books. (P, I) Gilmore, R. (1994). Lights for Gita. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House. (P) Jani, M., & Jani, V. (2005). What you will see inside a Hindu temple. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths. (P, I) Johari, H., & Sperling, V. (2003). How Ganesh got his elephant head. Rochester, VT: Bear Cub Books. (P, I) Keene, J. (1993). Seekers after truth: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. (M) Krushnaswami, U. (1996). The broken tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha. Little Rock, AR: August House. (I, M) Shaw, M. D. (2004). Gandhi: India’s great soul. Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths. (M) Verma, J. (2002). The story of Divaali. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books. (P, I) Wilkinson, P. (2005). Gandhi: The young protester who founded a nation. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (I, M)

Additional Children’s Literature About Hinduism Johari, H., & Sperling, V. (2004). How Parvati won the heart of Shiva. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. (I) In this traditional Hindu tale, Shiva and Parvati are an eternally married couple who come to earth, discover each other in human form, and after many obstacles, marry again. Krishnaswami, U. (2003). Holi. New York, NY: Scholastic. (P) This small book for early readers describes the joyful spring holiday of Holi, when people clean and paint their houses, throw colored powders on one another, and promise to be kind to others. Parker, V. (2003). The Ganges and other Hindu holy places. Chicago, IL: Raintree. (P, I)

100 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Through photographs of Hindu deities and holy sites, along with clear captions and text, this brief information book could be used as a general introduction to Hinduism for young children. Rosinsky, N. M. (2010). World religions: Hinduism. Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books. (I, M) The stunning design of this book will appeal to young readers. It provides up-to-date information, dramatic photographs, and inserts that answer common questions. Sperling, V. (2007). Karna: The greatest archer in the world. Rochester, VT: Bear Cub Books. (I, M) Karna’s unusual birth and adoption lead to insecurity over his identity and loyalty. Through a complex array of characters, both gods and human, this fascinating, dreamlike traditional Hindu story of evolves. In the end Karna loses his life, but the forces of good prevail. Vishaka. (1996). The Bhagavad-Gita for children. Badger, CA: Torchlight. (P) The message of Lord Krishna, known as the Bhagavad-Gita (song of God), is clearly described for young readers and illustrated with stunning photo collage and paintings.


JUDAISM I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20: 2-3)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE From the beginning of the service on Friday evening (Shabbat) to the celebration on Saturday morning, the Bat Mitzvah we attended at a Reform Jewish temple in Asheville, North Carolina was an inspiring mixture of Jewish history, lilting music, the strength of Jewish womanhood, and the exuberance of a contemporary teen. At 13, Rebecca was impressive in her ability to read from the Torah in Hebrew and in her composure to speak in front of a temple filled with family, friends, and members of her Jewish community. But we smiled at her “typical teen” behavior before the service, as she laughed with her friends circled around her and during the service when she pushed her long bangs out of her eyes as she leaned forward to read. The service was especially poignant and some tears were shed when she and her mother talked about Rebecca’s aunt who was struggling against cancer. On Saturday, the children in the congregation got to participate in the ceremony. Candy was passed around to those present, a signal was given, and everyone threw the candy at Rebecca. We felt privileged to witness such a powerful, moving, and joyous rite of passage! Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 101–117 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.



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HISTORY The ancient religion of Judaism originated among the nomadic Hebrew people in the land of Ur, now Iraq. To understand the early days of the Jewish people, it is necessary to examine both Biblical and academic history. “Throughout its history, Judaism has always sought to understand God through history” (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007, p. 270). In the first five books (the Torah) of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament in Christianity) stories of patriarchs and matriarchs, covenants between patriarchs and God, wandering in exile, and redemption are the primary themes (Robinson, 2000). The most important Biblical story is that of Abraham, a Hebrew, who is considered to be the father of Judaism. In the book of Genesis we learn the remarkable story of Abraham, his wife Sarah and her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. With Sarah and Abraham both in their 80s, Sarah is unable to conceive, and she gives Abraham permission to mate with Hagar. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael, who is later acknowledged in both Jewish and Muslim tradition as the father of the Arab tribes. However, when Sarah and Abraham are in their 90s, Sarah miraculously conceives and later gives birth to Isaac, who becomes the next patriarch of the Jews. Abraham agrees to follow a belief in one God, creator of all that exists, a concept that distinguished the Jews from the polytheistic belief systems of the time. Jews believe that God made a covenant (binding agreement) with Abraham that if Abraham’s descendants followed God’s laws, they would possess the Promised Land. Part of the covenant required that every male child be circumcised, a practice which continues today and binds the newly born to 4,000 years of Jewish history. In addition to making the covenant with Abraham, God tested Abraham’s faith when He told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But when Abraham prepares to do so, an angel intervenes and tells him not to hurt the boy (Blatner & Falcon, 2001). A second major Biblical story in Jewish history is the Exodus from Egypt. As God promised, a great nation rose from Abraham and his descendants, including Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. Abraham’s son Isaac fathered Jacob (Israel), who fathered twelve sons who become ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. In an important story, Isaac’s son Jacob wrestles with an angel of God who blesses him and renames him Yisrael (Israel), and, in turn, his descendents become “children of Israel.” The name Israel literally means “one who wrestles with God” (Blatner & Falcon, 2001). Later, Jacob’s 11th son Joseph is sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. But Joseph impresses the pharaoh with his ability to interpret dreams and with his wisdom, and he is ultimately made viceroy. His brothers and father and their families were all invited

Judaism 103 Table 6.1.

Noah’s Ark

The epic story of salvation is the theme of Noah’s Ark, one of the most important stories for Jewish people. Jerry Pinkney won a Caldecott Honor for his exquisite illustrations of Noah’s Ark (2002). Noah’s Ark tells the story of the large flood that God sent because He was displeased that people were not being good to each other, did not love God, and did not take care of the Earth. Noah, a good man, was instructed by God to gather his family, two of every animal, and enough food for all of them to eat. He was also told to build an ark for the people and the animals. After everyone was on the ark, the rains began and continued for 40 days and nights. Finally a dove came back to the ark with an olive branch, an indication that dry land was found and that all were saved. Pinkney’s rendition of this classic story is written in poetic style with rich, detailed illustrations. Pinkney emphasizes that once Noah and his family were safe, they were told to plant seeds and to grow and prosper and to take care of the Earth. Teachers can connect to contemporary environmental concerns and the role of people as stewards of the Earth.

Table 6.2.

Women in the Hebrew Bible

The legendary women of the Bible are featured in Marlee Pinsker’s In the Days of Sand and Stars (2006). These Bible stories are made contemporary with dialogue and humor that middle grade children can understand. One well-known story is that of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, who bears a child in her 90s. But Pinsker brings the story up-to-date when the women who see Sarah at the well whisper “She’s pregnant? How? At her age?” (p. 33). Other women from the Old Testament who are featured in a contemporary light include Eve, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. Eve, for example, is depicted as a woman who asks many questions as she tries to understand why she and Adam were removed from the Garden of Eden. In another story, sisters Rachel and Leah suffer from jealousy and trickery when they are both married to the same man, Jacob. Pinsker’s goal, to make “all the old stories … live for us again,” is achieved with her creative, contemporary approach to these classic stories.

to live in Egypt and prospered even in a time of famine. At this point academic history and Biblical history overlap. By the time the Pharaoh Ramses II took the throne, Egypt was not very prosperous. Ramses enslaved many people, likely including the Hebrews, for his numerous building projects. This fits with the Biblical story of the Israelites becoming enslaved by the Egyptians. According to Biblical history, around 1250 B.C.E., Moses pled with the pharaoh to free the Israelites. When the pharaoh refused, God punished the Egyptians and Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. The Exodus is commemorated by the Jewish holiday of Passover (Neusner, 2006). The experience of the enslaved Hebrews in the Exodus story is the foundation for the Jewish tradition of striving for social justice today. On their journey out of Egypt into Canaan (now Israel, Palestine and Lebanon), a significant event occurred. God parted the Sea of Reeds so the

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Israelites could pass to the other side, and then the waters rose and drowned their oppressors. When they came to Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the Torah, which included the Ten Commandments, 10 absolute laws that stress reverence toward God and good treatment of other members of the community. These laws remain basic to Jewish life today. In addition to these laws, the Jewish people built the Ark of the Covenant, an elongated box that contained the sacred relics of the Exodus. Replicas of the Ark of the Covenant remain an important part of Jewish services today (Neusner, 2006). Another important story is about the heroism of David, the first effective king of the Israelites and his son Solomon, who built the first temple. At this time, worship evolved to include respect for the role of prophets such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Micah, who advocated living a moral life and returning to God’s ways. Their messages were preserved by their followers and eventually became part of the Hebrew Bible. The kingdom ended about 586 B.C.E. and the temple was destroyed. A second temple was built but eventually destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. (Neusner, 2006). More changes in worship were necessitated between the seventh and fifteenth centuries (C.E.), because of the exile of the Jews and the Diaspora. The Diaspora is characterized as Jews (a) being widely scattered and far from Israel, (b) living under the cross (Christianity) or later the Crescent (Islam), and (c) developing new ideas about God and worship. Because there was no temple, as called for in the Torah, they had to develop local centers for prayer and study called synagogues, which literally means assemblies. Out of these assemblies came the need for someone, a scholar or master, to study and interpret the Torah for those who were gathered. This person became known as the rabbi (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007; Robinson, 2000). The dominant stories of the last 500 years of Jewish history run the gamut of human experience from hope to persecution. The Enlightenment, with its focus on the common bonds of all humanity and tolerance towards people of other religions, brought a relative period of peace to many Jewish people in parts of Europe and the Middle East. In general, they were better accepted in Muslim lands than in Christian lands (Blatner & Falcon, 2001). Throughout their history, Jews have been persecuted by the Romans, during the Crusades, and during the Spanish Inquisition. But the nationalistic movements in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe brought a new level of anti-Jewish violence. Many French, Russian, German and Spanish nationalists saw the Jews as outsiders, a people without a homeland who had different languages, customs, and dress. There was also jealousy over the success and prosperity of some Jews. Anti-Jewish policies reemerged in Western and Eastern Europe that led to the pogroms (massacres) of Jews in Russia and eventually to the Holocaust. Hitler and the

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Nazis systematically killed over six million Jews in an effort to rid Europe of the Jewish people. For the Jews who survived, the Holocaust evoked questions about why God allowed the Holocaust to happen such as “Was God punishing them?” “Why were some allowed to survive and others to perish?” Understanding why the Holocaust happened and what it means for Jews is a major focus of Jewish scholarly work and literature today (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). The next chapter in Jewish history, which is unfolding today, involves the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. By the early twentieth century, many European Jews believed that they would never be fully accepted where they lived, and they needed to have a country of their own. This movement was called Zionism. After WWI, Jews began buying land and moving back to Palestine with hopes of establishing a Jewish state. The pressure for Jews to immigrate increased because of the growing persecution of Jews in Germany and other European countries (Neusner, 2006; Robinson, 2000). After World War II, the British, who controlled Palestine, were supported by a United Nations resolution to set aside part of Palestine for a Jewish homeland, Israel (Smith, 1994). Many, but not all, Jews claim Israel as the “promised land” given to them by God. They believe that after 2,000 years of wandering, exile, and oppression, Israel finally offers the safety and peace promised them. However, Palestinians also believe that history gives them claim to this region as their homeland. Today the people of Israel and Palestine remain involved in a major conflict over rights to the land; both claim academic history and Biblical history on their side.

Table 6.3.

A Jewish-Arab Folktale

One City, Two Brothers (C. Smith, 2007) is both a Jewish and Muslim folktale based on the wisdom of Solomon. As the author notes, it is not part of the holy books of either Islam or Judaism, but it illustrates a common culture and a desire to live in peace. The story involves two brothers who are in dispute over inheritance of their father’s lands. King Solomon tells them a parable about two brothers, one with a family and one without, who are concerned about each other’s welfare. Each thinks the other should have a larger portion of the grain harvested from their two fields. Each tries to add to the other’s grain storage in the dark of night. One night they meet halfway, each carrying a sack of grain to the other, and they realize the love each of them has for the other. The place where they meet, a hill between two villages, is the site where Jerusalem began. Muslim children are invited to add “May peace be upon him” when Solomon’s name is read. The tale encourages children to discuss why Jews, Christians and Muslims all view Jerusalem as a holy city today. The illustrations by Aurelia Fronty are rustic and colorful with fields illustrated as a quilt pattern, evoking folk art that fits well with this tale.

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BELIEFS AND PRACTICES The central beliefs of Judaism are one God, covenant, and Torah (Jewish history and law). Jews believe that there is only one God who created the world and all of the people, no matter what their religion. Jews believe that they have a special relationship with God through the covenant, the agreement that was made between God and Abraham thousands of years ago. Jews do not believe that they are privileged because of this covenant but that they have a responsibility to fulfill the commandments by doing service for the betterment of the world (Keene, 2006). The Torah is God’s revelation and the foundation and laws that govern Jewish life (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). Based on a passage from Genesis, the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) begins on Friday at sundown and continues until sundown on Saturday, “there was evening and morning, the first day” (Genesis, 1:5). Some Jews strictly observe the Sabbath; some are unobservant; and some choose when and how to observe. The practice of a day of rest and worship comes from both Middle Eastern and Jewish traditions. As Shabbat begins, the best meal of the week is often served at home on Friday night, and the Shabbat is blessed by the lighting of candles by the women of the house. Sabbath services traditionally include these words from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is your god, the Lord alone.” Prayers, both formal and informal, are an important part of Jewish life. There are specific prayers for different times of day, for the Sabbath, and for holy days, as well as individual prayers communicated directly to God. Jews worship in synagogues, generally on Friday evenings and/or Saturday mornings and follow a lunar calendar for religious holidays (Rogers & Hickman, 2001). Depending on the type of Judaism, the services are led by rabbis, the teachers within the Jewish community; cantors, who lead

Table 6.4.

Rites of Passage

Ceremonies marking life transitions are very important to Jewish families. Blessings: Our Jewish Ceremonies, by Melanie Hope Greenberg (1995), offers brief descriptions of 13 ceremonies, including Brit Milah (welcome for a baby boy), Simhat Bat (welcome for a baby girl), marriage, divorce, and burial. The author's bright, cheerful illustrations and short descriptions make this a good introduction to Judaism for primary-age children. Two companion books for middle-grade readers, Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish Girl's Coming of Age (Goldin, 1995) and Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy's Coming of Age (Kimmel, 1995), present detailed information about adolescents preparing for these ceremonies and the structure and meaning behind the rituals. Bat Mitzvah is divided into two parts: Jewish women's place in history and the events leading up to the ceremony, in which a young woman's talents and interests are highlighted. Bar Mitzvah addresses study of the Torah and the Talmud, the role of prayer, and ways that an ancient ritual is modernized for today's youth.

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the community in prayers that are sung; and lay men and women. In addition, rabbis and cantors are also the main teachers for Bar and Bat Mitzvah students (Robinson, 2000). B’nai Mitzvah is the coming of age celebration for Jewish children at age 13 when they become young men and women and are responsible for following the commandments. For boys it is called Bar Mitzvah, while for girls it is called Bat Mitzvah. These young people study Hebrew for at least a year, and on their special day, they read and chant from scripture at a synagogue or temple. They usually receive presents from family and friends. After the ceremony, the young person is considered a Jewish adult (Fine, 2001; Keene, 2006). Another important ritual for many is a visit to the holiest shrine in the Jewish world, the Western Wall or “Wailing Wall.” It is an enormous stone wall in Jerusalem that is the only structure still standing from the Temple Mount, which was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Over time so many people have cried and prayed at the wall that it has become known as the Wailing Wall. Today many people continue to come to the wall to pray, to read from the Torah, and to place written prayers into cracks in the wall. It is a popular place for boys to have their Bar Mitzvah ceremonies (Falcon, 2001).

SPIRITUAL WRITINGS AND SACRED TEXTS The Tanakh or Hebrew Bible is the most important sacred text, and the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is the primary source of Jewish history, law, beliefs, and worship. Christians refer to the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament, something most Jews would not do because this implies that there is another testament (Robinson, 2000). Based on the teachings of the Torah, there are hundreds of Jewish laws, but the Ten Commandments, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, form the core of Jewish values. The Talmud, an important source for legal and spiritual guidance, is a record of discussions and interpretations by rabbis for over a thousand years about Jewish law, customs, and history. The Talmud gives guidance to rabbis and practicing Jews for applying scripture to issues they face in their everyday lives. The tradition of study is another hallmark of Jewish life. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thyself a graven image. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

108 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 6.1. A rabbi is helping these young people learn to read the Torah.

Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet.

TYPES OF JUDAISM The three main branches of Judaism—Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative—differ in their beliefs and practices. Orthodox Jews believe that God gave the Torah directly to Moses and that it has come to them unchanged. They uphold traditional practices: dietary (kosher) laws, separation of men and women in synagogue, and reciting prayers in Hebrew. Reform Jews also believe the Torah is the foundation of Jewish life; however, they

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believe the Torah was written by different people, and is, thus, subject to interpretation. In addition to Hebrew, they also worship in the native language of their countries and may or may not follow strict dietary laws. They strive to bring justice, freedom, and peace to the world through good works. Conservative Jews, primarily from the United States, believe Jewish scripture came from God, but was transmitted by people and contains human elements. Conservative Judaism combines elements of Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Conservative Jews include Hebrew in their services, believe that laws and traditions may change with the times, and are committed to Jewish observances. Within Reform Jewish synagogues and in some Conservative Jewish synagogues, women may also be rabbis (Neusner, 2006).

HOLY DAYS, FESTIVALS, AND CELEBRATIONS The Jewish religion includes many holy days and celebrations, which commemorate acts of God. These events, while often celebrated in homes, are also important because they bring the Jewish community together and foster a sense of identity. These special days are based on a lunar calendar and, therefore, are not celebrated on the same solar calendar date each year. The High Holy Days are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. • New Year (Rosh Hashanah)—Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs in September or October and begins a 10-day period of penitence, known as High Holy Days or Days of Awe. It is both a solemn Day of Remembrance and a celebration of the day God created mankind. The day is commemorated with candle lighting, special prayers, and a festive meal. The blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn, is the highlight of Rosh Hashanah services. • The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)—This day is the holiest of all Jewish holidays. Occurring 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, it is traditionally observed by abstaining from work, food and drink and by going to the synagogue to pray. The purpose of the fast is threefold. First, it is penance for deeds that may have caused harm; second, it is a symbol of self-discipline; and third, it focuses the person on the spiritual world. It is also an important day for giving to charity. Another group of festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, are called “pilgrimage festivals” because historically Jews were expected to make pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem in order to make the sacrifices commanded in the Torah:

110 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 6.5.

Jewish Holy Days

Days of Awe (Kimmel, 1991) combines a brief description of the High Holidays, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with three folktales about these special days. These tales illustrate the Jewish themes of repentance (“Rabbi Eleazer and the Beggar”), prayer (“The Shepherd”) and charity (“The Samovar”), all of which are given special emphasis during the High Holidays. Each story illustrates repentance, prayer and charity in real life settings. For example, an old couple who give freely of their food when they have little to eat, experience the true meaning of charity: giving without expecting something in return. Through poetry, songs, plays, and art, Wonders and Miracles (Kimmel, 2004) provides a wealth of information about Passover. Dramatic illustrations represent work from four continents spanning 3,000 years. Stories from the Torah and midrash (rabbinical legends that explain Torah stories) are interspersed with modern accounts of Soviet and American families celebrating Passover. Clear explanations about ritual prayers and foods included in the Seder celebration make this book appropriate for both Jewish and non-Jewish students. Told from the perspective of 9-year-old Micah, Celebrating Passover (Hoyt-Goldsmith, 2000) provides a photographic glimpse into the way one American family commemorates the holiday.

• Pesach (Passover): Passover lasts for 8 days and occurs in March or April. It commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. On the first two nights families gather for a ritual meal called Seder. The food, such as unleavened bread, represents the kind of food and experiences the people had during their exodus from Egypt. • Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks): This festival, celebrated in May or June, commemorates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and is historically tied to the first grain harvest. • The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot): Five days after Yom Kippur, this festival is celebrates the autumn harvest. It is also connected to the Exodus and the time the Israelites wandered in the desert and dwelled in temporary shelters. The Jewish festival of Chanukah (or Hanukkah), the Feast of Dedication, is historically a minor festival. Observant Jews light a candle each day for 8 days to commemorate the temple lamp that miraculously stayed lit for 8 days when it only contained enough sacred oil for 1 day. For many contemporary Jews, Chanukah is also a time for exchanging presents. This holiday is best known by people outside the Jewish faith because it occurs close to Christmas, and this proximity has led to the misconception that Chanukah is comparable to the significance of Christmas in the Christian faith. (Fine, 2001; Robinson, 2000).

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DEMOGRAPHICS The Holocaust had a major impact on the demographics of the Jewish population. In 1939 there were 17 million Jews in the world; today there are approximately 13.3 million. The large Jewish population centers in Europe and western Russia before World War II were decimated. In Europe where approximately 6 million Jews were killed, only 1.6 million Jews reside today. The largest Jewish population center has shifted to the United States, where approximately 6.5 million Jews live, particularly in large cities such as New York. The second largest center is Israel, which is home to about 5 million Jews. It is predicted that by the year 2020, however, more Jews will live in Israel than in the United States. Also, the number of Orthodox Jews is growing at a faster rate than that of Conservative or Reform Jews (American Jewish Yearbook, 2005).

TEACHING ABOUT JUDAISM A vast wealth of excellent children’s literature is available to teach about Jewish history, Bible stories, the Holocaust, famous Jews, Jewish celebrations and holidays, and Jewish stories set in modern times. Judaism fits well in the social studies curriculum with topics such as (1) major world religions, (2) the history of the Middle East, Europe, and Northern Africa, (3) World War II and the Holocaust, (4) the formation of Israel, (5) immigration and settlement in the United States, and (6) current events relat-

Table 6.6.

A Contemporary Holocaust Story

Hana’s Suitcase (2002) by Karen Levine is actually two true stories. One story is about Hana, a Jewish child from Czechoslovakia, who dies during the Holocaust. The second story is about Fumiko Ishioka, a contemporary Japanese teacher, who is determined to make the Holocaust real for her students. She is also the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre. Since the Holocaust took place over 60 years ago on the other side of the world and involved people of the Jewish faith, her students had no authentic way to understand the story. Through perseverance Fumiko obtains several actual artifacts from the Holocaust, including Hana’s suitcase. Readers will be compelled to follow the story as the suspense surrounding the mystery of the suitcase unfolds. The children learn that Hana had an ordinary childhood until her family was persecuted based on their religion. Hana became particularly upset when she was no longer allowed to attend school. Her family is eventually forced to leave their home for concentration camps, and the children are separated from their parents. We learn what happens to Hana and her family based on Fumiko’s research on the story behind the suitcase. Fumiko continues to expand the number of artifacts and programs at the Tokyo Museum for the Holocaust with the goal of helping people understand the need for world peace.

112 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

ing to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Teachers can also connect to Judaism in literature, the arts, and in science, by giving tribute to Jewish authors, musicians and scientists. In addition, children can participate in many cultural activities such as tasting typical Jewish foods, listening to music, and creating crafts related to Jewish celebrations. Teachers might invite guest speakers from the Jewish community who can share family stories from the Holocaust. And guest speakers who have lived in or traveled to Israel might help children understand the history and culture of Israel as well as conflicts between Israel and other countries in the Middle East. Another recommendation is to choose stories that represent the realities of the lives of contemporary children. Many children today live in families in which more than one religion is honored and celebrated. Stories that involve children who are trying to understand what it means to be Jewish in these blended circumstances might be helpful to all children who come from families in which two or more cultures come together. An example is Rebecca’s Journey Home (Sugarman, 2006), a contemporary story involving a baby from Vietnam who is adopted into a Jewish family in the United States. Children could be encouraged to talk their understanding of adoption and to explore what it means to be both Jewish and Vietnamese. Another story that reflects contemporary realities is Kaddish for Grandpa: In Jesus’ Name Amen (Howe & Stock, 2004) in which a young child, who lives in a home where one parent is Christian and one is Jewish, attends the Christian funeral of her grandfather.

Table 6.7.

Families With Combined Religions

Although the title may be startling, Kaddish for Grandpa: in Jesus’ Name Amen (2004), James Howe and Catherine Stock’s book captures two realities for many contemporary children. One reality is that of losing a grandparent. The other is living in a family with more than one religious tradition. When Emily is 5 years old, her beloved grandpa dies. Grandpa and Emily’s dad are Christians. Emily and her mother are Jewish (Judaism is traditionally transferred through the mother’s side of the family). At the Christian funeral Emily hears songs about angels and prayers that end “in Jesus’ name amen.” When her family returns home after the funeral, they hold a Jewish remembrance for her grandpa. A special candle is lit, people gather at their home, and the rabbi comes to lead them in the Kaddish, a Hebrew prayer for the dead. Children can identify with the sadness at the loss of a grandparent and with a child who experiences two different religious traditions in her family. In Rebecca’s Journey Home (Sugarman, 2006) Rebecca is a child from Vietnam who is adopted into a Jewish family in the United States. She is welcomed by two brothers, Gabe and Jacob, who puzzle over her identity. At the end of the story, they learn, “She was Vietnamese, American, and Jewish.” This story helps children understand the steps involved in an international adoption and address questions about a child from another culture coming into their family.

Judaism 113 Table 6.8.

Jewish Baseball Star

Hammerin’ Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg (McDonough, 2006) is a biography of the first Jewish baseball super star. The author sets the tone and message of the book in the first paragraph when she states that many people thought that Jews like other minorities “weren’t ‘real’ Americans.” Henry was born in 1911 in New York City into an Orthodox Jewish family. As a child he loved playing baseball, which led to a place in the minor leagues and in 1933 he was called up to the Detroit Tigers. He was immediately faced with anti-Semitism when some fans called him names. More than once Hank was faced with the dilemma of whether or not to play baseball on Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, prompting Edgar Guest, the poet to write in 1934: “We shall miss him in the infield and shall miss him at the bat, But he’s true to his religion—and / honor him for that!” (Guest, 1934). But Hank was very talented and determined to succeed in spite of these challenges. He was so successful that in 1935 he was voted most valuable player in the American League. When playing for the Pittsburg Pirates late in his career, Hank encountered Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball star, who also had to overcome prejudice and barriers in order to succeed.

Children may also enjoy reading biographies of famous Jewish people, past and present who have made important contributions to fields such as music, entertainment, science, and sports. Examples include Itzhak Perlman, violinist; Adam Sandler, actor; Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York; and Albert Einstein, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921. Another example is Hank Greenburg, a Jewish baseball star (McDonough, 2006), who faced discrimination in much the same way as Jackie Robinson, the first major league African American baseball player. Teachers and parents of young adolescents can help both Jewish and non-Jewish teens understand the rites of passage of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah by sharing books such as Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy’s Coming of Age (Kimmel, 1995) and Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish Girls’ Coming of Age (Goldin, 1995). These books are especially helpful if there are Jewish children in class who are inviting non-Jewish classmates to these ceremonies. There are a number of misconceptions about Jews that teachers and families should avoid when teaching about Judaism. One is mentioning Judaism only in reference to Hanukah, giving children the idea that Hanukah is the “Jewish Christmas.” Another misconception is that “The Jews killed Jesus” when in fact the Romans, under Pontius Pilate, crucified Jesus. Although in the 1960s the Second Vatican Council rejected this idea, it remains an issue today because Pope Benedict XVI recently lifted the excommunication on four bishops who deny the Holocaust and believe the Jews killed Jesus (Poggioli, 2009). And finally, teachers and families should avoid talking about Judaism only in the context of the Holocaust, which leaves children with the impression that Jews only lived

114 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

in Europe during World War II or that Jews are always victims of genocide (Hubbard, Hatfield, & Santucci, 2007). Holocaust stories should be balanced with stories about the contributions of Jewish people from the past and in the present, stories about heroes and heroism, and stories about fighting for justice to give children a more complete picture of followers of this ancient faith tradition.

REFERENCES American Jewish Yearbook. (2005). World Jewish population. Retrieved from Blatner, D., & Falcon, T. (2001). Judaism for dummies. New York, NY: Hungry Minds, Inc. Fine, L. (Ed.). (2001). Judaism in practice: From the Middle Ages through the early modern period. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Guest, E. (1934). Speaking of Greenberg. Retrieved from http://www.jewishsports .net/biopages/HenryGreenberg.htm Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2007). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Hubbard, B., Hatfield, J., & Santucci, J. (2007). America’s religious beliefs and practices. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Keene, M. (2006). Judaism. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library. Neusner, J. (2006). Judaism: The basics. London, England: Routledge. Poggioli, S. (2009, January 28). Pope’s stance on bishops draws critics. Retrieved from Robinson, G. (2000). Essential Judaism: A complete guide to beliefs, customs, and rituals. New York, NY: Pocket Books. Rogers, K., & Hickman, C. (2001). The Usborne Internet-linked encyclopedia of world religions. New York, NY: Scholastic, Retrieved from www.usborne-quicklinks .com Smith, H. (1994). The illustrated world’s religions. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Children’s Literature Cited Goldin, B. (1995). Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish girl’s coming of age. New York, NY: Viking. (M) Greenberg, M. H. (1995). Blessings: Our Jewish ceremonies. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society. (I) Howe, J., & Stock, C. (2004). Kaddish for grandpa: In Jesus’ name amen. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (P, I) Hoyt-Goldsmith, D. (2000). Celebrating Passover. New York, NY: Holiday House. (P, I) Kimmel, E. (1991). Days of awe: Stories for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. New York, NY: Viking. (I, M)

Judaism 115 Kimmel, E. (1995). Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish boy’s coming of age. New York, NY: Viking. (M) Kimmel, E. A. (2004). Wonders and miracles: A Passover companion. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I) Levine, K. (2002). Hana’s suitcase: A true story. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Second Story Press. (I, M) McDonough, Y. Z. (2006). Hammerin’ Hank: The story of Hank Greenburg. New York, NY: Walker & Co. (I) Pinkney, J. (2002). Noah’s Ark. New York, NY: SeaStar Books. (I) Pinsker, M. (2006). In the days of sand and stars. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Tundra Books. (M) Smith, C. (2007). One city, two brothers. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books. (P, I) Sugarman, B. O. (2006). Rebecca’s journey home. Minneapolis, MN: Kar-Ben. (P, I)

Additional Children’s Literature About Judaism Beneduce, A. K. (2004). Moses: The long road to freedom. New York, NY: Orchard Books.

(I, M) The author tells the Biblical story of Moses, one of the greatest prophets in Jewish history, with all of the elements of a great adventure story, full of intrigue and surprises. The story begins with his mother hiding the baby Moses in a basket along the Nile River; he is then rescued by an Egyptian princess and brought up as an Egyptian prince; and he eventually defies the pharaoh, who raised him, by leading the Hebrew people out of slavery. Excerpts from Scripture are used to support her retelling of the story. Berger, G. (1998). Celebrate! Stories of the Jewish holidays. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I) Eight of the Jewish holy days are explained through short stories and a time line of their origins within Jewish history. The authors provide recipes for holiday foods and craft ideas, such as Purim puppet heads and matzah covers for Pesach (Passover). Clark, K. (2009). Guardian angel house. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Second Story Press. (I, M) In this true story, Kathy Clark reconstructs the experiences of her mother and other Jewish children who pretended to be Catholic in order to escape the Nazis. The children were raised by the Sisters of Charity in Budapest, Hungary. Their story features danger, anguish, sacrifice, and respect between two religions. Cooper, I. (2002). Jewish holidays all year round. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. (I) The author explains the history behind the holidays that includes more than just the facts. The book is illustrated with photographs of religious objects used during holidays and pen and ink drawings. Of

116 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources special interest are activities and recipes that can be used with the holidays. Heiligman, D. (2007). Celebrate Passover with matzah, maror, and memories. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (I, M) The story of Passover is told through an engaging narrative and is beautifully illustrated using photographs from around the world of contemporary families celebrating Passover. Hesse, K. (2003). The stone lamp: Eight stories of Hanukkah through history. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. (I, M) This is a picture book of powerful stories for older children. The eight Hanukkah stories are told from a child’s eyewitness perspective and include major tragedies in Jewish history such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Kristallnacht, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel. The content is that of the persecution but the message is one of survival and hope. Kimmelman, L. (2000). Dance, sing, remember: A celebration of Jewish holidays. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (I) Organized around the Jewish lunar calendar, the author describes Jewish holidays, Israeli national holidays, and the observance of the Sabbath. The explanations of the holidays and use of their Hebrew names connect contemporary Jewish children to the people who came before them. Recipes, music and directions for playing dreidel are included. Michelson, R. (2008). As good as anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s amazing march toward freedom. New York, NY: Alfred Knopf. (I, M) The theme of this book is summarized in King’s words, “bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.” While Martin Luther King was experiencing racial prejudice in the American south, Abraham Heschel was experiencing religious prejudice in Warsaw, Poland under the Nazis. This story shows the two men of faith, one Christian and one Jewish, joining hands to march at Selma, Alabama, for the cause of justice for all. Musleah, R. (2000). Why on this night? A Passover Haggadah for family celebration. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (P, I) This book leads a family through the 8-day Passover celebration and includes ways in which young children can be part of the Seder. It also includes recipes and ideas for decorations. New ideas for the celebration such as singing songs set to tunes that children know connect the past to the present for young children. Silverman, E. (2003). When the chickens went on strike: A Rosh Hashanah tale. New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books. (I) This humorous folktale is about an old Jewish custom (Kapores) that involves twirling chickens overhead to get rid of a person’s bad deeds. Needless to say, the chickens rebel from this custom. They inform a young boy that people can be good based on their own moral choices. Whelan, G. (2009). After the train. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Judaism 117 Peter, a young teen in Germany in the 1950s, discovers that his Christian parents are not his birth parents. In fact, his Jewish birth mother gave him to the mother who raised him as she was being sent to Dachau. Peter then struggles with his identity and learns that being Jewish can be a heritage, a culture, and/or a religion. Readers will also learn that anti-Semitism remained alive in postwar Germany. Wiseman, E. (2004). No one must know: A novel. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Tundra Books. (M) Thirteen-year-old Alexandra is being raised Catholic in a Canadian city in the 1950s. Her life becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to a Jewish boy, Jacob, and at the same time learns about anti-Semitism. Alexandra’s world unravels when she learns that her parents were Holocaust survivors who are hiding their Jewish heritage to protect her from the cruelty of prejudice.


BUDDHISM The Metta Sutta May all beings be happy! May their hearts be whole! Whatever beings they are— Those who are weak or strong, Tall, short, or medium, Small or large, Beings seen or unseen Those who live near or far away, Those who are born, And those who are yet to be born. May all beings be happy! (in Ganeri, 2003)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE We drive up and down streets in a residential neighborhood several times before we realize that the sprawling old house with chipped paint is the Buddhist monastery. Prayer flags wave on an archway above the driveway entrance and two monks clad in orange robes and mustard-colored T-shirts gather fallen branches and rake leaves on the front lawn. After we introduce ourselves, the younger monk smiles and agrees to talk with us about our research on religious diversity. He leads us behind Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 119–138 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


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the house to a large outdoor area adorned with statues and cloth paintings of Buddha, where people from the community come to meditate during warm weather. We walk into a long room lined on one side with meditation rugs and cushions. At the end of the room are statues of Buddha from many different traditions. The monk points out a chubby laughing Buddha that he calls a “Restaurant Buddha,” but is actually a Chinese monk. Between the images are three types of offerings: vases of flowers, incense, and candles. We are told that the images themselves mean nothing; they are only wood or stone. What is important is the essence of the Buddha that they represent. Bowing or prostrating, he tells us, is a western idea; Buddhists bow when they are ready to bow. We are soon joined by the second monk, head shaven and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, who sits cross-legged on a mat in front of us. He explains that Buddhism encourages peacefulness, acceptance, openmindedness, and the freedom for people to seek truth for themselves. Buddhism, we are told, is a “way of thinking” not a religion. What is important is how it changes people. Those who practice Buddhism never “push” it on others; rather people learn about Buddhists by observing the way they live.

HISTORY According to scholars, Siddhartha Guautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in India around 563 B.C.E. to an aristocratic Hindu family. Following the custom of the time, his mother, Queen Maya, set off on a journey to her parents’ home for the birth of her child. Before reaching her destination, she delivered her son in the city of Lumbina, in what is now southern Nepal. Queen Maya died when her son was 1 week old (Gedney, 2005). Legend tells us that several signs occurred around the time of Siddhartha’s birth. One sign was a dream his mother had in which a white elephant with six golden tusks touched her with a lotus flower that contained a precious jewel. Wise men said the dream foretold the birth of prince who would either remain in the household and become a great king, or leave the palace confines and become a holy man, a savior of the world (Demi, 1996). In one story, a holy man told Prince Siddhartha’s father, the king of the Shakya tribe, that his newborn son would either be a king or would give up his possessions and become an important monk. Wanting his son to live a royal life rather than follow a religious path, the king confined his son to the grounds of the palace and instructed the guards to shield him from the suffering in the outer world. It is likely that Siddhartha lived a

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life of opulence, cared for by servants, learning from tutors, eating rich foods and wearing the finest clothes. He married at a young age and had a child soon after (Gedney, 2005). Despite his wealth and status, Siddhartha was not satisfied with his life. Some stories tell of how he escaped from the palace and observed the tragedy of human suffering. First, he saw an old man; second, a man who was sick and in pain; third, a dead man on a funeral pyre; and finally, a monk who appeared to be happy and at peace (Ries, 2000). After contemplating these signs, he decided to leave the luxuries of his home and become an ascetic. Carrying a begging bowl and wearing the robes of a monk, he began a strict life of self-discipline and fasting (Eckel, 2002; Pauling, 1997). He was not alone in his search for meaning. “The world into which Siddhartha launched himself was technologically primitive by our standards, but philosophically it was very rich—far more so than the modern West” (Pauling, 1997, p. 6). There were many people at this time seeking answers to deep, fundamental questions about human life and purpose. It is believed that Siddhartha Gautama wandered for 6 years, meditating, studying Hindu scriptures with religious scholars and denying his physical needs through severe fasting. It is likely that he learned the physical postures of yoga during this time, including the “lotus position” in which he is depicted in many statues. According to legend, when Siddhartha had fasted to the point where he could feel his backbone through his stomach, a little girl fed him a bowl of rice. He realized that wisdom could not be attained through starvation. On a spring day in the month of May, Gautama sat under a Bo (or Bodhi) tree and swore that he would not move until his questions about life were answered. In meditation he saw his previous lives and understood the eternal justice of the law of karma, a belief that actions in this life will affect one’s destiny in the next life. He remained under the tree for 49 days. When he moved from that place (which was later called the Immovable Spot), he realized that desire causes suffering and understood how to free himself and humanity from suffering (Gedney, 2005). From that point on he was known as “The Buddha,” which means “The

Table 7.1.

The Four Noble Truths

1. All life includes suffering, or samsara, an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. 2. We suffer because of our desire for material things and pleasure and our avoidance of what is difficult. 3. One can end suffering by becoming free of desires and selfishness. 4. To eliminate suffering and desire one must act with kindness and compassion and by relaxing and focusing the mind through meditation.

122 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Awakened One.” Within weeks after his enlightenment the Buddha began walking from town to town in northern India sharing what he had learned with others. He taught others what he had learned about suffering, doing away with desires, and reaching the state of enlightenment. Many Buddhists describe enlightenment as being like a lotus flower “blossoming ” into wisdom (Eckel, 2002). The purpose of the Buddhist tradition is to help others attain “this same awakening and liberation for themselves” (Pauling, 1997, p. 7). The village where the Buddha meditated became known as Bodh Gaya, after the Bodhi tree. During the Buddha’s life and after his death pilgrims began traveling to Bodh Gaya, hoping they, too, would attain enlightenment there. Asoka, an Indian ruler, built a shrine at the site of The Buddha’s awakening; the village grew into a city with monasteries and stupas (Buddhist temples) (Ross, 2003). Among the early followers of the Buddha were many of his family members, including his wife, son, and cousins who came to hear him speak. His aunt Pajapita established the first community of Buddhist nuns (Gedney, 2005). The Buddha continued to teach until his death at the age of 80. After his death, the monks who had followed him agreed on his teachings and set about memorizing them. The first scriptures were written in 83 BC in the Pali language and are known as the Tipitaka. At about the same time, Buddhism divided into subgroups, which will be discussed later in this chapter. Today Buddhism flourishes worldwide and is one of the fastest growing religions in the West. It continues to be an egalitarian tradition with prominent leaders such as Mae chee Khunying Kanitha Wichiencharoen, who is the founder of an emergency shelter in Bangkok, Thailand, that has served over 44,000 abused women and children. Another example of a Buddhist woman leader is Khun Mae Dr. Siri Krinchai, a well-known teacher of meditation who trains other meditation masters and speaks internationally on insight meditation (Outstanding Women in World Buddhism, 2008).

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES The Buddha did not set out to create a new religion, nor did he initiate philosophical debate. Instead, he introduced a new way of thinking about the challenges of life and practices that would help followers live in harmony with themselves and others. Within Buddhism “nirvana is the highest destiny of the human spirit” (Smith & Novak, 2003, p. 52). When the state of nirvana is reached, there is no more greed, hate, or delusion; it is boundless life without desire. The Buddha did not address the concept of

Buddhism 123

a personal, creator God. However, the idea of nirvana is similar to the Godhead, supreme reality, or universal truth found in many mystical traditions. It is the highest spiritual destiny of humans (Smith, 1991; Smith & Novak, 2003). Within Buddhism each individual has the freedom and responsibility to determine his or her vision of life. Buddhism is an “unfolding of the full potential of human consciousness” (Pauling, 1997, p. 3). The goals of Buddhism are for followers (1) to come to know themselves, (2) to understand their true nature, and (3) to learn about Buddhist teachings (George, 2004). Many Asian Buddhists do not speak of Buddhism, but of Buddha-Dharma or Dharma, “which means both the truth itself and any teaching that helps us to realize this truth in our lives and in ourselves” (Pauling, 1997, p. 5). Buddhists believe there are three universal truths about human existence: • Anicca is the constant change or impermanence in the world that leads to human suffering; • Dukkha is usually translated as suffering (Smith, 1991); and • Anatta is the concept that each person is composed of a physical body, feelings and sensations, awareness of the outer world, thoughts and ideas, and consciousness, but not a soul or essential self (Keene, 1993). A basic expression of faith for Buddhists is referred to as the “triple refuge,” also known as “The Three Jewels”: I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma (the teachings of Buddha); I take refuge in the Samgha (the Buddhist community) (Cantwell, 2010; Eckel, 2002). The Three Jewels are also considered an initiation rite for Buddhists. Taking refuge means that the person understands the cause of suffering and has confidence that the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha can provide help. Respect is paid to symbols of Buddhism, such as statues of the Buddha (Cantwell, 2010). It is important to note that Buddhists do not worship the Buddha, but honor him as a great teacher and seek to emulate his life and the state of awareness he attained. After Gautama meditated under the Bo tree for 49 days, he proclaimed his primary conviction, “The Four Noble Truths” that he later taught to his disciples in a deer park in Sarmath, India (Smith, 1991; Winston, 2003). The Buddha did not claim divine origin of these truths, but implied that the truths came to him during nighttime meditation. It is likely that his 6 years of earlier ascetic practice influenced his thinking as well (Mishra, 2004).

124 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 7.2.

The Eightfold Path

1. Right understanding—awareness of Buddha’s teachings 2. Right thoughts or intentions—uncovering and uprooting unhealthy emotions 3. Right speech—abstaining from gossip, lying, and harsh language 4. Right action—avoiding destruction of life, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxicants. 5. Right livelihood—making an honest living that hurts no living thing 6. Right endeavor—striving to end unwholesome states of mind 7. Right mindfulness—awareness of bodily processes, feelings, states of mind, and thoughts 8. Right concentration—practicing meditation that leads to enlightenment

Table 7.3.

The Five Precepts

1. Help others; avoid harming or killing living things. 2. Be generous; do not steal or take things that are not given to you. 3. Be content with what you have; do not be greedy. 4. Speak the truth; do not tell lies or speak unkindly of others. 5. Keep a clear mind; avoid alcohol and drugs.

The Eightfold Path guides Buddhists as they seek an end to suffering through right belief, right conduct, compassion, and meditation. It is actually part of the Fourth Noble Truths and is often depicted as a circle with eight spokes, with each spoke having a separate identity, but working together to give strength to the wheel. It offers guidance for daily living and helps Buddhists overcome greed, anger, and ignorance (known as the three poisons). Diana Winston calls it “an eight-point prescription for healthy spiritual lifestyle” (p. 54). The term “right” as it is used in the eight-fold path refers to practices that free people from suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path is also called The Middle Way, referring to the path taught by the Buddha, leading to enlightenment. The Buddha encouraged his followers not to indulge themselves in material possessions and not to punish themselves by giving up food or caring for their bodies (he experienced both extremes in his life), but to take a middle path by living moderately. This practice can bring Buddhists a sense of peace, but does not result in any external reward, either in this life or the next. Buddhists adhere to five precepts or promises, based on beliefs about life and the universe. These are often repeated during meditation to help focus on their importance. Many Buddhists, in following the first precept,

Buddhism 125 Table 7.4.

Stories About the Buddha

Author Whitney Stewart and illustrator Sally Rippen, creators of Becoming Buddha: The story of Siddhartha (2005), combined their expertise to design a stunning biography of Siddhartha Gautama. The bold paintings, fabric, and gold outlines are dramatic against a black background, enriching the text and providing the reader with additional appreciation for the life and teachings of the Buddha. The seamless story recounts the life of the Buddha from prophesies of his birth to his enlightenment and his early teaching. The book ends with a meditation lesson by the Dalai Lama appropriate for young readers. Author and illustrator Demi initially became intrigued with Buddhism at the age of three when she purchased a statue of the Buddha at a five-and-dime store. As an adult she continued her interest by studying art in India, collecting books on Buddhism from many countries, and becoming a practicing Buddhist. Her portrayal of the life of Siddhartha Gautama in Buddha (1996) reflects her depth of understanding for the religion, the culture in which it developed, and artistic traditions of China and Tibet. Buddha Stories (Demi, 1997) is a collection of animal fables that teach moral principles of Buddhism. The striking illustrations, painted in gold on indigo paper, were inspired by ancient Buddhist texts. In combination, these stunning books convey to young readers the history, stories, and beliefs of Buddhism. Stories from a variety of Asian countries are included in The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist Tales (Chodzin & Kohn, 1997) and exemplify different aspects of Buddhist wisdom. “The Foolish Boy” is an example of Tibetan humor similar to western “noodlehead tales.” Other stories include gods and goddesses, demons, human and animal characters who illustrate the profound truths of Buddhism. The richly colored illustrations and borders created by Marie Cameron, portray Buddhist art from the country in which the story originated. The Mouse and the Buddha (Price, 2006) is the story of a hungry little mouse that lives with a family in the mountains of India. One night he sneaks into a temple where he sees cookies, chocolate, butter, and other treats in front of a golden Buddha. While the mouse eats, the Buddha shares wisdom in words that the little mouse (and young children) can understand. The final pages of the book show the mouse applying Buddhist concepts, such as helping friends and being kind to everyone (including cats!). Even prekindergarten children could relate to the Buddhist beliefs portrayed in this book.

choose to become vegetarians. However, vegetarianism is not required of Buddhists. In some countries Buddhist monks eat meat, and the Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. Meditation is a central practice in Buddhism. During meditation, Buddhists sit still and quiet their minds yet remain awake and alert. When thoughts enter their minds they simply let them pass away. Through meditation, Buddhists try to lose the focus on self and develop compassion for others. Many Buddhists choose to focus on a word (mantra) or an image that is meaningful for them. Concentrating on images helps followers train their minds and control negative thoughts (Miller, 1987). Some Buddhists say that meditation nurtures their “Buddha nature,” the innate quality of enlightenment that all people possess (Winston, 2003). Statues or pictures of the Buddha, and sometimes other religious leaders, are

126 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

always present in Buddhist temples and home altars. Other Buddhists practice “mindfulness meditation” by focusing on the present moment and ordinary tasks of living, such as washing dishes, walking, or driving a car. Westerners were made aware of mindfulness meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese author and Buddhist monk. As a monk during the time of the war in Vietnam, he felt a conflict between the traditional nonpolitical stance of Buddhist monastics and the suffering he saw around him. He and the monks and nuns with whom he served decided that they could both practice mindfulness and serve others by rebuilding villages destroyed in the fighting. “Socially engaged Buddhism brings Buddhist teachings, practice and wisdom together with action for progressive social change” (Winston, 2003, pp. 256-257). Buddhism in the United States can be traced to the mid-1800s when Henry David Thoreau translated a French copy of the Saddharma Pundarika (“Lotus of the True Teaching) into English. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 to study world wisdom traditions and human spirituality. In 1893 the World Parliament of Religions met in Chicago. Though most attendees represented various forms of Christianity, several Asian countries and religions were also represented (Smith & Novak, 2003).

TYPES OF BUDDHISM The two main Buddhist traditions in practice today are Theravada (Path of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“Great Vessel”). Theravada is predominantly practiced in south Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Mahayana is predominantly found in northern Asian countries of China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, Vietnam, and parts of India and Russia (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Those who follow the Theravadist path believe that it is the original form of Buddhism, following a lineage of monks back to the Buddha himself. They are a conservative branch emphasizing individual enlightenment, a rather literal interpretation of Buddhist teachings, the historical Buddha, and the monastic path. They believe that humans are self-reliant and must save themselves and that progress or failure is individually determined (Smith & Novak, 2003). The temples of the Theravada Buddhists are elaborate and ornate, with curved pitched roofs, and decorated with statues of mythological beings guarding the gates. In front of the images of the Buddha within the temple, devotees place offerings of flowers, fruit, incense, and water. The statues of the Buddha may be in three forms: seated, representing

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Figure 7.1. It is customary in some places for young Buddhist men to spend a year in a monastery.

enlightenment; standing, representing teaching; and reclining, representing nirvana, the state of bliss attained by those who have reached enlightenment. “In Buddhism, Buddha is not worshiped as a god. Instead, Buddha statues are used to remind us of the wise and compassionate Buddha nature within ourselves” (Marsden & Niem, 2008, author’s note). It was the custom in the past, and is still the custom in some places, for young men from Theravada communities to spend a year as monks to strengthen their religious beliefs and initiate them into manhood. Theravada monks wear saffron robes and shave their heads. To show humility they leave the cloister in the morning and walk silently from house to house with a begging bowl, accepting whatever offerings are placed inside. The monk’s main task is to meditate, for in doing so he is emulating the life of the Buddha. The monks and monastic life are a central part of Theravada Buddhism that is strongly supported by the laity (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). The Mahayana branch of Buddhism began as a reform movement about a century after the Buddha’s death. Unlike the Theravadas, this

128 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 7.5.

Jataka Tales

Many traditional Buddhist stories are based on previous lives of the Buddha, when he demonstrated his wisdom and compassion, either in human or animal form. One type of traditional Buddhist tale is the Jataka, a collection of stories and poems from Southeast Asia, originally written in the Pali language (Martin, 1997). The Monkey Bridge (Martin, 1997) is an excellent picture book example of a Jataka tale in which a monkey king shows his loyalty to his tribe by saving them from a human king who is threatening to have them all killed. By showing strength, kindness, and generosity the little monkey inspires the human king to be more compassionate. Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (Conover, 2005) contains both Jataka fables and anecdotes, alternating between the two forms. The following is an example of one anecdote: A penniless man Who will readily give whatever he has Is said by the wise To be the noblest and richest on earth (p. 100). The 32 fables in Kindness are often told from the perspective of the Buddha himself or from that of a Buddhist monk or nun.

group believes that Buddha was a perfect being who lived on earth and that a boundless power propels everything (Smith & Novak, 2003). This concept is summarized in the famous quotation, “There is a Buddha in every grain of sand.” Mahayana Buddhists accept both the Tipitaka and the Sanskrit scriptures called Sutras. The sutras propose a “universal true reality everywhere” (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005, p. 146), variously known as Nirvana, Buddha-nature, or dharmakaya. According to this belief, all humans are actually unrealized Buddhas, on deep level. One of the most important Mahayana traditions is the “bodhisattva ideal.” A bodhisattva is a “Buddha-to-be” or future Buddha, someone who has reached Enlightenment but returns to earth to help others along the path (Eckel, 2002). Lay people, as well as monks and nuns, can become bodhisattvas, eventually reaching Buddhahood themselves. Two virtues essential to the bodhisattvas are compassion and wisdom, which guide them in working with people seeking enlightenment. In Mahayana beliefs, the lessons taught by the bodhisattvas are responsible for much of the expansion of Buddhism. Mahayana temples look different from Theravada temples because of the many images and poses of the Buddha. Images of monks may be present, as well. Mahayanas accept a range of individual paths to enlightenment, including the Pure Land Buddhists who chant words that they hope will bring them closer to their Buddha-nature and the Zen tradition in which monks meditate in silence for long periods of time. Popular in the

Buddhism 129 Table 7.6.

Children’s Books on Zen Buddhism

In Zen Shorts Jon Muth (2005) uses humor and fantasy in telling the story of a giant panda bear named Stillwater who pays a visit on the home of three children. Each child, in turn, goes to Stillwater’s home, drinks tea, and hears a short, humorous story (two from the Zen tradition, one Taoist). Each story teaches a gentle lesson by challenging the child to think about something in his or her life. The whimsical, soft watercolors used in telling the main part of the story have a calming effect on the reader. Pen and ink is used to illustrate the short traditional tales embedded in the main story. A second book by Jon Muth, Zen Ties (2008) follows Stillwater and the children on a visit to a crabby old lady who helps one of the children prepare for a spelling bee. Through the experience the panda Zen master helps the children see beneath outward appearances and develop a deeper understanding of their new friend. Zen and the Art of Faking It (Sonnenblick, 2007) provides a lighthearted look at Buddhism for today’s middle school students. San Lee, a newcomer from California, has already learned about Buddhism in his previous school. When the social studies teacher assigns projects on world religions, San takes off for the library to increase his expertise on the subject. He impresses a pretty guitar-playing girl by practicing zazen in the snow before school and invents new reputation as a Zen master. His façade can only last so long; when classmates discover the truth, both they and San learn some of the important lessons of Buddhism.

United States, Zen Buddhism deemphasizes philosophical teachings and stresses depth of experience and moment-by-moment awareness of one’s surroundings (Smith & Novak, 2003). Zen, a sect of Mahayana, is the form of Buddhism most popular in the United States. Originating in China, where it is called Ch’an, it spread to Japan. Zen traces its roots to Siddhartha Gautama’s “Flower Sermon,” in which the Buddha used no words, but simply held up a golden lotus blossom, symbolizing that a single flower can convey more than words. It is characteristic of Zen that some experiences cannot be described verbally, a concept that has been difficult for some Westerners to comprehend. Zen is a noncreedal tradition that refuses to encase itself in language (Smith, 1991). Zazen refers to seated meditation, which generally takes place in meditation halls for hours at a time. Monks may meditate for days, weeks, or years. Koans, used in the Rinzai school of Zen, are the riddle-like problems given by a teacher working closely with a student. The most well known example is the question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” When a monk is contemplating a koan, he may spend short times each day consulting with a master in a process known as sanzen. The outcome of this process often occurs in a flash, described as seeing one’s own nature or coming to understand the infinite beauty and goodness in the world. One no longer thinks dualistically, but comes to feel three things expressed by one Zen teacher in this way:

130 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Infinite gratitude to all things past, Infinite service to all things present, Infinite responsibility to all things future (Smith & Novak, 2003, p. 102).

The third Buddhist path, Vajarayana, is a branch of Mahayana that originated in India, but today is practiced primarily in Tibet. An essential characteristic of Vajarayana is a collection of Tantric texts that focus on the interrelatedness of people and things (Smith & Novak, 2003). Tantric texts acknowledge the universal energies present in all living beings, including sexual energy, which is seen as a spiritual force. Unlike their Zen cousins, Tibetan Buddhists are always moving their bodies. Both monks and lay people perform a foundation including thousands of different postures, hand gestures, visualizations, and guttural chants to channel their energies into spiritual paths. In their spiritual practice Tibetan Buddhists make use of: • mantras—deep, holy sounds; • mudras—ritualized hand gestures, pantomime, and sacred dance; and • mandalas—visualizations of deities. Tibetan Buddhism rose to almost instant fame in 1989 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent work to free Tibet from Chinese rule. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has resided in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, since 1960. For several centuries, a Dalai Lama has been a spiritual leader within Tibet. They are believed to be bodhisattvas through whom the compassionate tenets of Buddhism are channeled (Smith & Novak, 2003; Worth, 2004). The current Dalai Lama has visited Europe and the United States many times and has written several popular books on Buddhist thought. The schools of Buddhism appear quite different to many observers. Five common threads unite the different strands. 1. They trace their historical roots to Siddhartha Gautama; 2. They believe that self-centeredness and the desire for material possessions bring unhappiness; 3. They assert that freedom from desire and self-centeredness relieves one of suffering; 4. They emphasize the importance of interrelatedness and helping one another; and 5. They all view life as impermanent (Smith & Novak, 2003).

Buddhism 131 Table 7.7.

Children’s Books about Tibetan Buddhism

Learning from the Dalai Lama (Pandell, 1995), a brief biography of the fourteenth Dalai Lama describes the way in which he was discovered to be the great leader of Buddhism, his training, and the rituals surrounding this spiritual and artistic endeavor of creating a mandala on a trip he took to New York. The photographs provide children with a visual image of Tibetan Buddhism. Far Beyond the Garden Gate: Alexandra David-Neel’s Journey to Lhasa (Brown, 2002) depicts the travels of the first western woman to travel to the ancient city of Lhasa, home of the Dalai Lama. At age 43 Alexandra David-Neel, a French woman, left her home and comfortable life to set out on an exploration she had always dreamed of taking—a trip to Tibet in search of Buddhist books and manuscripts. She studied the Tibetan language with a scholarly hermit who lived atop a mountain, then trekked 2000 miles to a monastery in northern Tibet to study and translate ancient texts. Accompanied by her adopted Tibetan son, she continued her journey by foot across frozen wastelands, rivers, and mountain passes to fulfill her dream. Our Journey from Tibet (Dolphin, 1997) is a modern day heroic journey of a Tibetan girl named Sonam, and her two sisters. As Buddhists, Sonam and her family have not been able to attend school or practice their religion since the Chinese invaded their country over 50 years ago, destroying monasteries, temples, and sacred texts. When Sonam’s brother, a monk who has escaped to India, returns for a visit, he tells his sisters that if they can flee, they will be able to attend school in the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala. The three sisters ride for days on the back of a salt truck, hiding in sacks of salt at check points. They also walk with a guide through a snowy mountain pass, finally arriving at the last checkpoint, where their guide bribes a guard. After reaching at their destination, the children are introduced to their new home and school. The last page shows photos of the sisters meeting the Dalai Lama.

SPIRITUAL WRITINGS/SACRED TEXTS Different branches of Buddhists have their own scriptures, or sacred texts. Some of these texts contain words believed to have been spoken by the Buddha, and others are written by holy people who have followed him. The Tipitaka are the sacred writings of the Theravada Buddhists. Mahayana Buddhists follow the teachings of both the Tipitaka and the Mahayana sutras (Ganeri, 2003). The monks who followed the Buddha memorized his teachings after his death and recited them at festivals and in villages where people gathered. In the first century B.C.E. the teachings of the Buddha were compiled and written in the Pali, the ancient language of India, and became known as the Pali Canon. Later texts were recorded in Sanskrit. The two languages account for the dual spellings of some words, such as “dhamma” and “dharma.” The Pali Canon is also called the Tipitaka, meaning “three baskets,” because it was originally written on palm leaves that were often woven into baskets. The Vinaya Pitaka, the first basket, is a listing of 227 rules for

132 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 7.8.

Children’s Books About Buddhist Writings

Buddhist Stories (Ganeri, 2001) are important and dramatic stories adapted from the Tipitaka. These tales recount the life and teachings of Buddha, including a story from his childhood about the way he saved a swan that his cousin had shot. Boxed inserts provide added information about Buddhism, such as the symbolism of the lotus flower. The Tipitaka and Buddhism (Ganeri, 2003) provides a brief overview of the history of Buddhism, information on the way the sacred texts of Buddhism were first collected and written down and descriptions of the sacred writings of each branch of Buddhism. Quotations from the various texts are included, as well as pictures of monks studying in monastery libraries.

basic conduct, etiquette, confession, and training that the Buddha gave to monks and nuns, along with reasons for the rules and penalties for infractions. One example of proper behavior from the Sekhiya is “I will go and sit speaking with lowered voice in inhabited areas.” The Sutta Pitaka, or second basket, contains the principal teachings of the Buddha, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Abhidhamma Pitaka, or third basket, contains commentaries on and analysis of Buddha’s teachings written by Buddhist scholars. The Tipitaka is studied by monks and nuns, rather than lay people. However, the Dhammapada, a collection of 423 of Buddha’s sayings, is a popular part of the Sutta Pitaka read by lay people who are seeking guidance for their lives (Ganeri, 2003). The Jatakas are a collection of 547 stories about compassion, friendship, generosity and wisdom. The Mahayana sutras (or suttas) were originally written in Sanskrit about 600 years after the Buddha’s death and later translated to other languages. They consist of short teachings that are easy for lay people to understand. The Lotus Sutra, one of the most important Mahayana texts, tells readers that giving from the heart, as a child presents flowers to the Buddha, is more important than the proud efforts of those who are selfcentered. The Lotus Sutra depicts the Buddha as a rain cloud covering the earth and watering on us all equally (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005; Ganeri, 2003). The following is an example from the Manakama Sutta: He who abandons conceit, who has a tranquil mind, and who has wisdom, is free from attachment to all existence. A forest-dweller leading a lonely life, if he practices mindfulness, can cross over the planes of existence where death prevails to the other shore (which is Nibbana). (Yangon, 1998)

HOLY DAYS/FESTIVALS The most important Buddhist festival is known as Wesak, Vesak, or Vaisakha. In the West is called Buddha Day. According to Buddhist belief, Siddhartha Gautama was born, attained enlightenment, and died on the

Buddhism 133 Table 7.9. Children’s Books About Buddhism in the United States Buddha Boy (Koja, 2003), a novel for middle school readers, is the story of the growing friendship between Justin, a reserved student whose goal is to complete school without being noticed, and Jinsen, a devout Buddhist. As the boys work together on a school project, Justin learns of Jinsen’s previous acting out behaviors, his devotion to Buddhism, and the death of Jinsen’s parents. Jinsen renounces most material objects (including a coat), but uses his inherited money to purchase paints and drawing materials to support his artistic talents. Values of Buddhism, such as peacefulness and nonmaterialism, are illuminated in Jinsen’s choices, demeanor, and relationships with other students. Taneesha Never Disparaging (Perry, 2008) is about a middle school African American girl whose parents are devout Buddhists. Whenever a problem arises in Taneesha’s life her parents encourage her to chant in front of the family alter, a solution that does not always seem practical to her. She comes to know herself and her mother better, when they spend the day together at the hospital where her mother works. The knowledge and values she gains through that experience, as well as her Buddhist faith, give her the confidence needed to face a school bully. In the introduction to Buddha in Your Backpack: Everyday Buddhism for Teens, Franz Metcalf (2003) defines spirituality as “the individual person’s relationship with the sacred” (p. xv). He explains that spirituality is often intense for teens because their experiences are so vivid and because they are searching for meaning in their lives. Many teens are acutely aware of the “big questions” in life—questions about religion, philosophy, and spirituality. Buddha in Your Backpack acknowledges this search and speaks to teen concerns from a Buddhist perspective, without trying to “convert” the reader to Buddhism. Questions about homework, divorce, puberty, bodyweight, dating and sex, friends, and drugs are addressed. The book concludes with practical exercises and a “how to” guide for meditation.

same date. Therefore, Wesak is celebrated on the full moon day in May, with processions and rituals commemorating Buddha’s life and teachings (Keene, 1993; Schools Buddhism, n.d.). The celebrations begin early in the day when followers arrive at temples to meditate and listen to monks chanting the sutras. In some places, statues of the Buddha are bathed in water, representing devotees’ need to purify their hearts and minds. Offerings of candles, flowers, and incense are made as symbols of the impermanence of life and as signs of respect for the Buddha and his teachings. In some countries, birds are released from cages, representing the release from suffering and the hope that all beings will be healthy and happy. In other places, origami cranes are floated down rivers. Buddhists refrain from any kind of killing during Wesak, eating only vegetarian foods. Wesak is a colorful and joyful occasion, regardless of where it is celebrated. During Wesak, donations are made to monks and nuns and sometimes gifts are exchanged among lay people. It is also a time to visit homes for the aged, orphanages, or charitable agencies, bringing gifts to those in need. In some countries, the day of enlightenment is celebrated sepa-

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rately with lighting of lamps and candles. Pieces of cloth with prayers written on them—prayer flags—are flown from the roofs of Temples during Wesak. In small villages the temple is a center of community activities where services are held four times in the lunar month during the main phases of the moon. Dharma Day commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon to the monks in Deer Park on the full moon in July. Sangha or Kathina Day is celebrated during the rainy season in some Asian countries. It is a time of honoring monks and nuns who have been on retreat, by bringing them food, flowers, and new robes (George, 2004). The Buddhist New Year is celebrated in Theravadin countries 3 days after the first full moon in April. In Mahayanan countries it begins on the first day of the full moon in January or early April. In Tibet, where the New Year is most important, it occurs about a month later and is called Losar. It is a time of purification and bringing in the new. During Losar, Buddhists may visit a guru or lama, paint their homes, wear new clothes, and settle quarrels or debts. Lamps are lit and some people decorate with flour paintings of the sun and moon. At night torches are lit to ward off evil spirits, sickness and misfortune (Losar—Tibetan New Year, n.d.). Ullambana Sutra, the festival of deliverance from suffering, is believed to be the day when ancestors visit their loved ones on earth. Offerings are made to the spirits of the dead to appease the “hungry ghosts” and prayers are offered both to departed ancestors and to living parents and older relatives (Ullambama, n.d.). Although it is celebrated throughout the world, Ullambana Sutra is most popular in China and Japan, and the dates for this holiday vary depending on the calendar that is used.

DEMOGRAPHICS Estimates of the number in Buddhists worldwide vary between 230 and 500 million, with most estimates around 376 million or about six percent of the world’s population. The countries with the highest number of Buddhists are China (102 million), Japan (90 million), Thailand (55 million), and Vietnam (50 million). In Thailand 95% of the population is Buddhist, and 90% of Cambodians adhere to this tradition (Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents, 2007). It is estimated that there were more than 1.5 million Buddhists living within the United States in 2004 (Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America, 2007), representing .5% of the population. Buddhism grew 170% between 1990 and 2000. This growth is attributed to both immigrants from Asian countries and those who have embraced the tradition through reading and study.

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About two thirds are immigrants who have brought their home religion with them, but the other one third are converts. Zen is the oldest and largest branch of Buddhism in the United States, with Zen meditation centers having a prominent place on the religious landscape, particularly on the west coast. Smith and Novak (2003) characterize the new American Buddhism as (1) meditation centered, (2) a mainly lay phenomenon, (3) a gender-equal movement, (4) a phenomenon in which different movements intermingle, and (5) engaged in the struggle for social change. Many American Buddhists have found a balance between the quiet calm of meditation and an active role in community work. It is also common today for people to practice Buddhist meditation alongside other religion practices (Cantwell, 2010).

TEACHING ABOUT BUDDHISM In A Faith Like Mine (Buller, 2005) an 11-year-old boy describes his life in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, a mountainous country that is located between two ancient civilizations, China and India. Students could research the lives of young monks in this book and others. Some might want to voluntarily try eating the simple foods that the novices eat for one day (with parental permission). Monks have almost no material possessions. After learning about the dhamma (Buddha’s teachings), students could also try to give up something that is important to them (e.g., television or computer) and see how they feel. Buddhists values novel approaches to questions that, on the surface, may appear to have a predictable answer. The paradoxical stories or statements of the Rinzai school of Zen, called koans, are a good way to encourage students to “think outside the box.” After reading and thinking over some of these stories in books such as The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist Tales (Chodzin & Kohn, 1997) and Internet collections, students can create their own koans. In Buddhism, the koans are given to students to meditate on for long periods of time, so teachers should not expect or encourage quick responses. Middle school students could learn about both the historical and current conflict involving China and Tibetan Buddhists. China has long claimed political sovereignty over Tibet, but the Tibetans have tried to retain religious autonomy. However, the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India for almost 60 years. Despite the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama continues his commitment to a peaceful resolution with the Chinese, even encouraging his followers to learn the Chinese language to enable them to communicate with their rulers. Teachers can invite students to research current political strife based on religious differ-

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ences and work together to think of peaceful, yet realistic solutions to the problem. This is also an opportunity to read biographies and visit the websites of Buddhist leaders, like the Dalai Lama, to learn how they are working for world peace.

REFERENCES Buller, L. (2005) A faith like mine. London, England: DK. Cantwell, C. (2010). Buddhism: The basics. New York, NY: Routledge. Demi. (1996). Buddha. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. Eckel, M. F. (2002). Buddhism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Ellwood, R. S., & McGraw, B. A. (2005). Many people, many faiths. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Ganeri, A. (2001). Buddhist stories. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Ganeri, A. (2003). The Tipitaka and Buddhism. London, England: Smart Apple Media. Gedney, M. ((2005). The life and times of Buddha. Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane. Keene, J. (1993). Seekers after truth: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Losar—Tibetan New Year. (n.d.). Retrieved from losar/index.html Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America. (2007). Retrieved on from html Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents. (2000). Retrieved from Marsden, C., & Niem, T. P. (2008). The Buddha’s diamonds. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. Martin, R. (1997). The monkey bridge. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Miller, L. (1987). The black hat dances: Two Buddhist boys in the Himalayas. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, & Company. Mishra, P. (2004). An end to suffering: The Buddha in the world. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Outstanding Women in World Buddhism. (2008). Retrieved from http://www Pauling, C. (1997). Introducing Buddhism. Birmingham, England: Windhorse Publications. Ries, J. (2000). The many faces of Buddhism. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House. Ross, M. (2003). Bodh Gaya and other Buddhist holy places. Chicago, IL: Raintree. Schools Buddhism. (n.d.) Retrieved from buddhism/buddha_day.shtml Smith, H. (1991). World’s religions. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Smith, H., & Novak, P. (2003). Buddhism: A concise introduction. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Ullambama Sutra. (n.d.). Retrieved from /ullambana/index.html.

Buddhism 137 Winston, D. (2003). Wide awake: A Buddhist guide for teens. New York, NY: Penguin. Worth, R. (2004). Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House. Yangon, U Tn U. (Trans.), Burma Tipitaka (Myanmar) Association Editorial Committee (Eds.). (1998). Accenti Sutta. Retrieved from tipitaka/tipilist.htm.

Children’s Literature Cited Brown, D. (2002). Far beyond the garden gate: Alexandra David-Neel’s journey to Lhasa. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. (P, I) Chodzin, S., & Kohn, A. (1997). The wisdom of the crows and other Buddhist tales. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press. (I) Conover, S. (2005). Kindness: A treasury of Buddhist wisdom for children and parents. Cheney: WA: Eastern Washington University Press. (P, I). Demi. (1996). Buddha. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. (P, I) Demi. (1997). Buddha stories. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. (P, I) Dolphin, L. (1997). Our journey from Tibet. New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books. (P, I) Ganeri, A. (2003). The Tipitaka and Buddhism. London, England: Smart Apple Media. (I, M) George, C. (2004). What makes me a Buddhist? Farmington Hills, MI: KidHaven Press. (I) Koja, K. (2003). Buddha boy. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. (M) Martin, R. (1997). The monkey bridge. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. (P) Metcalf, F. (2003). Buddha in your backpack: Everyday Buddhism for teens. Berkeley, CA: Seastone. (M) Muth, J. J. (2005). Zen shorts. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I) Muth, J. J. (2008). Zen ties. New York, NY: Scholastic. (P, M) Pandell, K. (with B. Bryant). (1995). Learning from the Dalai Lama. New York, NY: Dutton. (I) Perry, M. G. (2008). Taneesha never disparaging. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. (I, M) Price, K. (2006). The mouse and the Buddha. Sarasota, FL: Little House Press. (P) Sonnenblick, J. (2007). Zen and the art of faking it. New York, NY: Scholastic. (M) Stewart, W. (2005). Becoming Buddha: The story of Siddhartha. Torrance, CA: Heian. (P, I) Winston, D. (2003). Wide awake: A Buddhist guide for teens. New York, NY: Penguin. (M)

Additional Children’s Literature Gedney, M. ((2005). The life and times of Buddha. Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishers. (P)

138 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources This biography of Buddha, from a series called “Biography from Ancient Civilizations: Legends, Folklore, and Stories of Ancient Worlds,” provides in-depth information for upper-elementary on the history of Buddhism. Photographs, timelines, and “FYI” pages supplement the historical facts. George, C. (2004). What makes me a Buddhist? Farmington Hills, MI: KidHaven Press. (P, I) Pictures of children praying, drinking tea, and celebrating Buddhist festivals add to the appeal of this clearly written information book for young readers. It includes sections on contemporary Buddhism and western adaptations. Gershator, P. (2007). Sky sweeper. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. (P) Takeboki, the flower keeper in a Japanese Buddhist monastery, finds great satisfaction in doing his simple work well. It is not until he has gone on to the next life that the monks come to appreciate the beauty and calm he brought to them. Marsden, C. & Niem, T. P. (2008). The Buddha’s diamonds. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. (I, M) Tinh, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy, is torn between family responsibility and rescuing his cousin’s favorite American toy. Buddhist concepts and values are woven throughout the story.


CHRISTIANITY Orthodoxy and Catholicism

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” —John 14:6

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE Although the Greek Orthodox service we attended was in contemporary North Carolina, we felt as though we had been transported back to the Byzantine Empire in the fourth century. It was easy to imagine that Orthodox services centuries earlier would have been very similar to our experience in the twenty-first century. The windows, walls, and ceiling of the church interior were richly and colorfully decorated with icons, images of Jesus, Mary and the saints revered in the Orthodox tradition. The priest wore a long white vestment embellished with decorative needlework, and the congregation, many of Greek heritage, dressed formally, with men in coats and ties, women in dresses, and children in their Sunday best. The liturgy was conducted in Greek, and the service featured the Eucharist, which is part of every Divine Liturgy. We learned that the litReligious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 139–161 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


140 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 8.1. Greek Orthodox children proceeded slowly around the sanctuary carrying icons.

urgy was repeated throughout the morning, so that whatever time you entered, worshipers could participate in the full ritual. The theme of this service, Sunday of Orthodoxy, was based on the Orthodox calendar and followed by all Orthodox churches. Incense, candles, chanting, and responsive readings were important elements of the service. The service took a contemporary turn when the children assembled in front of the church with their favorite icons, most in the form of framed pictures, in their hands. Following the priest as he walked through the congregation, they became a miniature parade of icons. HISTORY Christianity began in the Middle Eastern country of Palestine, then called Judea, where the ruler, King Herod, supported the policies of the Roman Empire. Many people of the empire held spiritual and philosophical

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beliefs about the world based on the Greek and Roman gods. However, monotheism espoused by the Jews and others coexisted with the popular Greek and Roman polytheistic religion (Woodhead, 2004). Christians adopted the monotheism of Judaism but also believed that God sent his son Jesus to Earth as a savior. The Christian chronicle begins with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth about 2,000 years ago (around 4 B.C.E.). Although biblical scholars debate the story of Jesus’ birth and little is known outside of the Christian Gospels, the Christmas story is a source of wonder and joy to many people. According to the Christian Gospels, an angel appeared to a young virgin named Miriam (Mary in English) and told her that she would give birth to a son, who would become “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 26-38). The infant Jesus was born in a stable in the town of Bethlehem (now part of Palestine) where his mother and her husband, Joseph had traveled to register for the census (Luke 2: 3). Angels announced Jesus’ birth and a brilliant star shone in the sky to guide shepherds and three wise men to the stable to pay their respects to the newborn and his mother. This legend inspires people all over the world and conveys the spirit of Christian peace and good will (Mitchell, 2002). Historians believe that Jesus, a Jew, probably took up the trade of carpentry like his father and had an extensive knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. When he was about thirty years old, Jesus became a follower of his cousin, John the Baptist, a desert hermit and prophet. John baptized Jesus in the waters of the river Jordan, signifying a washing away of sins and beginning of a new life (Mayer, 1999; Mitchell, 2002). Jesus was also a talented teacher, conveying his message of peace and equality through stories, called parables, to groups of people who came to hear him speak. His language had a sense of urgency and an exaggerated style that invited his audience to see the world in a new way and change their behavior as a result of his messages. Jesus’ storytelling style worked “with peoples’ imaginations more than their reason and their will” (Huston, 2009, p. 325). The stories often told of “God’s Kingdom” and included everyday experiences of the people of that time, such as sowing seeds and losing sheep (Keene, 2001; Smith, 199). One parable tells of two men who built houses, one upon rock and the other upon sand. When a storm came, wind blew against the houses and rain pelted the roofs. The house that was solidly built on the rock remained sound, while the house built in the sand lost its roof and the foundation collapsed. Jesus told his followers that having a firm belief in God is like building one’s house on a rock; it will keep you safe (Matthew 7: 24-29). Based to this parable, those who hear God’s message, but do not follow his teachings, will not have the support in life that they need (Hoffman, 2000).

142 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 8.1.

The First Christmas

There is no shortage of books about the first Christmas. The following five stories are unique interpretations of Jesus’ birth, all illustrated with exceptional artwork. Jan Pien’kowski combines eighteenth century style silhouette art with bold backgrounds and golden designs in Christmas (1984). The visually enchanting illustrations stray from traditional interpretations of the gospels by including men, women and children scurrying through a darkened wood to see the baby and the wise men boarding a ship on the back of an elephant. The large font text is taken from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Spirit Child: A Story of the Nativity (1984) was translated from Aztec by John Bierhorst and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. The author’s note reports that the story was composed by a missionary with the assistance of Aztec poets. While the basic story line comes from the gospels, it also contains medieval legend and traditional Aztec lore and figures of speech. Cooney’s illustrations portray the characters as native people in traditional garments and feathered head decorations. Mary’s First Christmas (1998) written by Walter Wangerin, Jr., and illustrated by Timothy Ladwig, imparts the nativity story from the perspective of Mary, telling the young boy, Yeshi (Jesus), the chronicle of his remarkable birth and early life. The author adds his own twist to the traditional story, giving details of Mary’s visit to the home of her cousin Elizabeth, Joseph’s reaction to the news of Mary’s pregnancy, a female shepherd, and Jesus’ personality as a little boy. Marianna Mayer drew on several ancient manuscripts in writing Young Jesus of Nazareth (1999). The opening of the story includes several unusual events that occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth; a geyser erupted in Rome, a statue of Venus spoke, and the Emperor Augustus saw a vision of the virgin mother surrounded by a rainbow. These phenomena were reported in a book written by a friend of St. Augustine. Details of the holy family’s escape to Egypt, including an encounter with a lion that was tamed by the baby’s gentle touch, were derived from the visions of the Venerated Anne Catherine Emmerich. The story of Jesus’ life in Egypt and Nazareth was attributed to the non-canonical Gospels. This distinctive portrayal of the early years of Jesus’ life is accompanied by paintings by well-known artists, including many of works by James Tissot. Joy to the World (Pirotta, 1998) is a collection of five Christmas stories from Syria, Malta, Mexico, Ghana, and Russia. Embedded in regional geographic settings, each story blends some part of the Biblical Christmas story with a unique cultural twist. For example, “Baby in the Bread,” the story from Malta, builds on Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt to escape King Herod’s men. They take refuge in the home of a baker woman, who hides the baby in a large bread bowl when they hear a knock at the door. After the soldiers leave she finds that the sheet of dough covering the bowl has risen to twice its original size. Since that time, bakers have always set their dough aside for a time, and it has made more to feed the hungry people of the world.

According to the New Testament, Jesus also performed miracles during the three years that he was teaching. Some of the stories of miracles are that Jesus walked on water, cured the sick, fed thousands with only a few pieces of food, and even returned a dead man to life. One story tells of a time when Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples when a storm suddenly churned the water and created huge waves. Jesus stood on deck and calmed the waves and stopped the wind. Many of

Christianity 143 Table 8.2. Parables and Stories of Jesus Two books by Mary Hoffman convey the lessons and miracles of Jesus’ ministry. In Parables: Stories Jesus Told (2000), Hoffman adapts the stories slightly to make them more understandable to twenty-first century children. For example, in a parable Hoffman calls “Fair Play” a vineyard owner offers each of three groups of men $75 to pick grapes for the whole day, the afternoon, or only an hour. At the end of the day, those who worked the longest hours complained that they thought they should receive more. Hoffman quotes Jesus’ words from the Bible “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” The author acknowledges that this story is challenging to understand and invites readers to draw their own conclusions. In Miracles: Wonders Jesus Worked (2001) Hoffman retells eleven of the most well-known stories in the Bible. In a brief forward to each story Hoffman explains the setting and context in which the story takes place. For example, in “Saying Thank You” she explains leprosy in such a way as to help elementary children understand the importance of a cure. “The Biggest Picnic in the World” tells the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with only five small loaves of bread and two fish. Hoffman contrasts the situation on the Sea of Galilee with a modern-day festival, where fast food is plentiful.

Jesus’ miracles were observed by his followers, men and women who fervently believed in his teachings and accompanied him during his travels. The Sermon on the Mount, contained in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7, is probably the best-known message attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. The sermon begins with the Beatitudes or blessings, the first being, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew, 5, 3). To many, it conveys the essential tenets of Christianity. The Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, a command to resist evil, and the warning to “judge not that you be not judged” are other important concepts. Some Roman politicians thought Jesus was a threat to their power and Pontius Pilate, a Roman prefect for the region, ordered that he be crucified (nailed to a cross) (Johnson, 2005). On each side of him, a thief was nailed to a cross. Jesus lived only a few hours on the cross before he died and his disciples removed his body from the cross and placed it in a tomb. His mother and other followers witnessed his agony during the final hours. As each gospel attests, Jesus was resurrected after being dead for three days and appeared to some of his followers before ascending to heaven. Today these events are commemorated by Christians on Easter. Some of the disciples went on to become apostles (meaning “those who are sent”) after Jesus’ death, spreading Jesus’ message of Christianity, first in the Middle East and then throughout the Roman Empire. Early Christians were Jews by birth who read a Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures called the Septuagint. Within the first century after Jesus’ death small groups of Jesus’ followers around the Mediterranean area met in synagogues or in “house churches.” Many early Christians experienced

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persecution and had to practice their faith away from the gaze of Roman authorities. Paul was a Pharisaic Jew, meaning that he was strict observer of the law and religious ceremonies. On his way to Damascus to arrest Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem, he saw a bright light and believed he heard the voice of Jesus. The light blinded him for 3 days (Acts 9: 5). Upon recovering his sight, he became a Christian missionary preaching throughout the Mediterranean region and starting churches in many of the places he visited. Paul was influential in allowing pagan Gentiles (nonJews) to join Christian churches without requiring them to follow Jewish law. He also wrote letters, called epistles, to many of the churches he began; some of these letters are books in the New Testament (Keene, 1995). After many years of extensive travel, legend says Paul was executed in Rome for his role in spreading Christianity. The leaders of the Christian movement, first called bishops and “presbyters” and later known as priests began to specify the elements of the new religion. Peter and Paul, two leaders in the early church, were among those who disagreed about the extent of Jewish law to maintain. “The ‘founding’ of Christianity was far less the result of a clear one-time decision than the gradual evolution of a set of views and practices that the leaders representing the various local communities judged consistent with their emerging identity” (Renard, 2002, p.127). One example was the extent to which Jewish law continued to be followed within the widespread early Christian communities. Christianity thrived in some of the major cities of Eastern Europe within a few centuries after Jesus’ death. At the end of the third century C.E., Constantine became the Roman Emperor. Legend says he converted to Christianity when he saw a vision of a flaming cross on the night before a battle. In 313 CE, the Emperor Constantine granted religious tolerance for Christianity in the Edict of Milan. By the end of the fourth century, when Christianity was the established religion of the Roman Empire and spreading rapidly, the persecution of Christians decreased significantly (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). The Middle Ages refers to a stormy period of European history between approximately 500 and 1400 C.E. After the fall of the Roman Empire, barbarians invaded Europe, plagues killed a large portion of the population, and a strict class system emerged with 90% of the population being peasants who worked the land. Christianity had been spreading since 381 CE. It became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius, and it provided stability and a dominant force in the dangerous and disorderly world of the Middle Ages (Sherrow, 2001). As Christianity spread and became formalized, legends developed about Christians who had performed heroic deeds for their faith. The

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term “saints” was originally used by Paul to refer to all other Christians (Armstrong, 1995). The Catholic Church later used the word to describe martyrs who chose death over renouncing their beliefs to describe the monks who replaced the martyrs at the end of the period of persecution. As time passed, legends evolved about the saints, based on their courageous lives and devotion. One of the most honored saints of all times is Mary, the mother of Jesus, who plays a vital role in the story of Christianity by connecting the human and spiritual realms (Wilkinson, 2006). During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, artists often painted pictures of saints, which included symbols connecting them to their legends. Some of the saints, like Saint Patrick, became the patron saint of the country they helped to convert to Christianity. Many Catholics pray to saints or ask the assistance of saints in carrying their prayers to God (Hinds, 2004). In Latin American and Caribbean countries, most neighborhood or village churches contain carved and painted images of Santos (saints). Worshippers revere these images and often pray to the saints because they believe in their spiritual power to mediate on their behalf (Penyak & Petry, 2006; Renard, 2002). Different perspectives on theology and Christian writings developed, culminating in a clash in Constantinople in 1054. While all Christians believed in the concept of God as a Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit), some thought that the Spirit emanated directly from the Father, while others believed that the Spirit came from both the Father and Son. This conflict was known as the “filioque controversy.” Those following the belief that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone belonged to the Orthodox, or Eastern, Christians. The other group, mainly from Western Europe, was known as Roman Catholics (Elwood & McGraw, 2005; Renard, 2002). A time of turmoil and violence began at the end of the eleventh century when Pope Urban II, assisted by Emperor Alexis of Constantinople, started the Crusades. The specific purpose of the Crusades, to take Jerusalem from the Muslims, was not successful. But from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, armies of men carrying the cross made territorial gains for the church and terrorized and displaced Jews and Muslims. Some Christians today distance themselves from this period by saying that the Bible does not tell them to spread Christianity through force but by the words and deeds of believers (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). Challenges to the power of the Catholic hierarchy and some doctrines led to the Protestant Reformation (see chapter 9). Starting shortly after Columbus’s foray into the Americas, the Catholic Church began sending missionaries to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. The story of Christian missions has been one of complexity and controversy by both those sending and receiving this message (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). Sometimes there is gratitude for medical, educa-

146 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 8.3. Books About Saints The following books present the lives and deeds of saints through art and story. In Lives and Legends of the Saints, Armstrong (1995) includes full-page reproductions of famous classical paintings to accompany engaging stories of the lives and heroic deeds attributed to the saints. For example, Armstrong writes about Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of philosophers, ministers, students, wheelwrights, millers, and young women. According to legend, Catherine was a fourth century Christian noblewoman. Hearing that the Roman emperor Maxentius was persecuting Christians, Catherine protested. A cadre of philosophers was unable to sway Catherine from her Christian beliefs. The emperor ordered the execution of the Christians and asked Catherine to be his bride. She refused, saying she was already the bride of Christ. Catherine was tortured on a spiked wheel, later beheaded and her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai. Armstrong describes the symbols in a painting of Catherine from the early 1500s. She also includes an index to artists and paintings at the end of the book, making it an excellent resource for art history lessons. The Miracle Child (Land, 1985) is the story of a well-known Ethiopian saint named Tekla Haymanot, illustrated with traditional style art from that country. Ethiopia was one of the earliest Christian countries, but until recently was geographically isolated. With little influence from the outside world they worshiped in their own way and some Christian stories evolved that were unique to the culture. Similar to many traditional stories, this one involves a married couple who are unable to have children. After a harrowing adventure with a cruel king, the couple is blessed with a miraculous child who provides food for the village during a famine, rescues a child from a leopard, orders wild animals to stay away from farmers’ fields, and sometimes brings the dead back from life. Sister Wendy Beckett, author of Sister Wendy’s Book of Saints (1998) is a member of the Notre Dame order of teaching nuns and an art historian. The images of the saints reproduced in this book were selected from exhibits of manuscript art. The lovely borders in the book remind the reader of the designs in early Christian manuscripts. Sister Wendy recounts the legends of the saints with a clarity and humor to which children can easily relate. One vignette begins this way: “You may think that you do not know anything about the saints, but you know about this one—St. Nicholas” (Beckett, 1998, p. 84). Sister Wendy’s biographical sketches of the saints are so compelling that children might wish they could invite these fine people to their homes for dinner. Students who are interested in saints might like to learn more about them at Diane Stanley thoroughly researched her picture book version of Joan of Arc (1998) using the record of Joan’s trial that was meticulously transcribed. In answering questions Joan gave an account of her childhood, her visions, and her courageous leadership in battle. Stanley provides upper elementary and middle school readers with maps, a guide to French words, and enough historical background on the hundred-year war to understand the setting of Joan’s remarkable story. In reading this account one comes to know Joan’s personality as well as the motivations and weaknesses of the French king, Charles, the focus of Joan’s quest. An author’s note at the end of the book describes the events that followed Joan’s death until she was awarded sainthood by the Catholic Church. (Table continues on next page.)

tional, and spiritual assistance; at other times missionaries have been seen as destroyers of indigenous religions (see chapter 3.) Within 100 years after Columbus first landed, soldiers had conquered many Native American civilizations throughout Central and South America. “In the wake of

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Author and Illustrator Tomie dePaola became acquainted with stories of St. Patrick when he went to church with his Irish grandfather. His biography Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland (1992) begins with Patrick’s birth into an aristocratic English family, his kidnapping and time as a slave in Ireland, and his eventual return to the island as an educated priest who built the first church in Ireland and baptized many into the faith. Following the biographical segment, dePaola tells several short legends about the saint: driving the snakes from Ireland with drumbeats, explaining the Holy Trinity using a shamrock, and floating across the sea on an altar stone. The Secret World of Hildegard (Winter, 2007) tells the story of one of the most fascinating women of all time, Hildegard von Bingen. Although she lived 900 years ago, at a time when few women had power or were known for accomplishments outside the home, Hildegard succeeded as a composer, scientist, writer and mystic. Her 77 vocal works are played widely today and her book on alternative medicine continues to be a reference in that area of study. This short biography focuses on Hildegard’s early life and visions at home and in a monastery where she spent most of her life. Her disturbing, but illuminating visions are depicted with vibrant, folk art paintings by the author’s mother, Jeanette Winter.

Table 8.4.

Books About Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the first and most beloved of the saints. Some historians believe that the adoration of Mary embodies the essence of the earlier all-powerful Mother Goddess worshiped by the pagans. Her place in the Roman Catholic Church provided a central female figure for personal devotion (Mayer, 1998). Young Mary of Nazareth (Mayer, 1998) elucidates the legends of Mary found in the Apocrypha, the Gospels, and writings of Catholic mystics. Mayer adds her own flare and imagination to some of the stories which are accompanied by works of well-known classical artists. One legend tells that Mary was taken to the Temple on her third birthday to receive her education, overseen by the chief priest Zaccharia. The old priest and all the people who had gathered were overcome by the little girl’s wisdom and gentleness. As Mary climbed the steps to the Temple a golden halo surrounded her head. Demi’s Mary (2006) was inspired by a variety of sources including the King James Bible, The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics, and The Lost Books of the Bible. The text and detailed illustrations follow the story of Mary’s life from her conception to her coronation as Queen of Heaven. Demi’s paintings for this book are painted with vibrant colors such as rich gold and deep blues. Each illustration is framed with an ornate border reminiscent of Renaissance artwork. The Lady of Guadalupe (dePaola, 1980) is the legend of the patron saint of Mexico. Through folk art watercolor paintings depicting sixteenth century Mexican art and architecture, dePaola tells the story of Juan Diego, an Aztec farmer who was converted to Catholicism and given his new name by Spanish priests. He sees a vision of the Mother of God on Tepeyac, a hilltop, and she tells him, in his native Indian tongue, to build a church in her name on that site. After several setbacks, Juan Diego convinces the Bishop of Mexico to build a chapel in her honor. The chapel is now the second cathedral on that site in which the cloth work by Juan Diego carrying the image of Our Lady is prominently displayed.

armies, missionaries baptized thousands daily, bringing the naïve masses nominally under the cross” (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005, p. 354). Immense churches were built in these outposts, sometimes contiguous to pre-Christian temples that were destroyed for their building materials. Priests and monks utilized paintings, drama, hymns, and processions to supplement

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and explain the Mass. During this period of history, missionaries continued to spread Christianity to Asia and Africa, sometimes immersing themselves in the language and culture before bringing the message of their faith (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005; Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). There are noteworthy examples of Catholic priests remembered in history for their selfless service to those in greatest need. The United States is unique in that many immigrants arrived here because of religious persecution. During the colonial period, Maryland became home to many of the Catholic faith and those who settled there, practiced tolerance of other faiths. In the decade of the 1840s, Catholicism in America expanded to create the largest church in the country (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005). With the increasing number of immigrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, the Catholic Church in America continues to thrive. For many contemporary Catholics, social justice issues are of utmost importance as a way to put their faith into action throughout the world. Local parishes often provide support such as housing, job training and English language classes for newly arrived immigrants. Housing for the homeless, childcare, global warming, death penalty reform, and racial justice are examples of causes in which Catholics may invest their time and money. One mission of the Church is that their members be active

Table 8.5.


Two recent historical fiction books pay homage to priests who dedicated their lives to helping those rejected by society. Both books are extensively researched and the characters of the priests are based on historic documents. The Walls of Cartagena (Durango, 2008) is set in the Columbian port city of Cartagena during the seventeenth century. Calepino, a young man born into slavery, is called to assist and translate for Father Pedro Claver, the priest who ministers to slaves who have just completed the journey across the Middle Passage. The pair descends into the hold of each slave ship to bring water, nourishment, and rudimentary medical care to those who are near death from starvation, fear, and the horrific conditions they have endured. Calepino also joins the priest and a doctor as they serve an isolated community of people shunned and demonized because of leprosy. Father Pedro Cleaver was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and is the patron saint of slaves. Healing Waters (Hostetter, 2008), set in Hawaii during the late nineteenth century, is the story of Pia, an adolescent boy who is taken from his family and all he has ever known because he has contracted leprosy. The leprosy settlement on the island of Kalawao is a lawless place with little medical care, food, or recreation. Toward the end of the novel, Father Damien, a Belgian priest, arrives on Kalawao bringing hope to all the residents, both those with leprosy and their relatives who had come to care for them. Father Damien touched people without fear of their disease, instigated recreational activities, and built coffins so that those who had died would be buried with dignity. After 25 years of dedication to the people of the island, Father Damien died from complications of leprosy.

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and productive participants in society, recognizing and advocating for the dignity of each person. Another example is the Liberation Theology movement in Central and South America, using the teachings of the New Testament to address issues of poverty and illiteracy (Penyak & Petry, 2006).

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES This section addresses beliefs and practices common to most Christians, as well as those specific to Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Chapter 9 will focus on Protestantism. Christianity is similar to Judaism and Islam in that it is based on the belief in one omnipotent God, present everywhere, and in all things. However, Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity: that God is revealed in three “persons”: God the Father (creator of the world), God the Son (redeemer) and God the Holy Spirit (sanctifier). Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, God in human flesh and that humans are created in God's image, but have a separate existence from Him. Orthodox Christians and Catholics believe in the Trinity. They espouse that the Holy Spirit is directly derived from God the Father, and Jesus was both a man and God. More than any other religion, Christianity is identified with the teachings and example of one man—Jesus Christ (Hinds, 2004; Keene, 1995). Most Christians believe that God sent Jesus to Earth to teach people how to live well and that Jesus suffered and died for the sins of humanity. God’s greatest commandments for Christians are to love God and each other. Christians believe that it is important to forgive others, even one’s enemies. Unlike traditional Judaism, Christianity is not limited to those who were born Christian. Believing in Jesus and following his teachings is what makes one a Christian. Following the example set forth by Jesus, Christians are expected to help the poor and sick. Some Christians, like Catholic nuns and missionaries, may dedicate their lives to helping others because service (the “apostolate”) is one of the primary missions of the Catholic Church. ORTHODOX BELIEFS Members of the Orthodox tradition believe that they were the original Christians. Orthodoxy comes from two words, “orthos” meaning “rightly” and “doxazein” meaning “glorify.” Therefore, Orthodox Christians con-

150 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

sider that they are “rightly glorifying” God through their traditions and practices. Orthodoxy is divided into two broad groups: • The Oriental Orthodox Church which includes Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian churches • The Eastern Orthodox Church, which includes Greek, Russian, Serbian, and Bulgarian churches. For Orthodox Christians, Jesus Christ, the saints, and the apostles form the foundation of the Holy Church. They emphasize holy traditions revealed in the Bible and the decisions of early church leaders. Like Catholics, Orthodox Christians venerate Mary, but they do not honor the authority of the pope. Worship centers on the sacraments, called “mysteries” in this tradition: Holy Communion, infant baptism, chrismation (confirmation), marriage, penance, ordination into the priesthood, and anointing the sick (Keene, 1998). The Divine Liturgy is an important form of public worship that is celebrated daily and several times on Sunday. The liturgy is recited by the priest with elements sung by the congregation. Icons, or holy images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, are revered by Orthodox worshipers. The icons are generally painted on wood, but metal and ivory are sometimes used as well. Orthodox churches are highly ornate and symbolic. In some Orthodox churches there are two paintings of angels with scrolls by the entrance, symbolically writing the names of those who enter. In the narthex (entryway) a painting of Jesus represents the transition from a worldly existence into the house of God. The many icons placed symbolically on the walls and ceilings of Orthodox churches, are thought of as windows, helping worshipers gaze into heaven and bring to reality the subject of the paintings (Bowker, 2006; Coniaris, 1998). The first part of an Orthodox service is called the Liturgy of the Word. It includes prayers, Bible readings, a short sermon, and Holy Communion. The Orthodox service is a multisensory experience, which includes candles, icons, musical interludes, and the burning of incense. At the climax of the service the priest encircles the sanctuary carrying the Book of Gospels in front of himself and above the heads of the people. The rest of the Orthodox service is conducted behind the Iconostasis, a screen decorated with icons in front of the altar that symbolizes the gulf between God and imperfect humans. While conducting services Orthodox priests dress in ornate vestments that are worn to hide the person of the priest. Congregants hope that they will see Jesus through the vestments (Coniaris, 1998; Keene, 1998).

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Figure 8.2. These girls are standing in front of a communion alter on their confirmation day.

CATHOLIC BELIEFS The term “Roman Catholic” refers to the universal church, anchored in Rome by the Bishop of Rome, known as the “pope” or “holy father.” Catholics believe that Jesus’ disciple Peter was the first leader of the church and that his powers have been transferred to the succession of popes. “Catholics see themselves as belonging to the one, true Church with Christians in other Churches being ‘separated brethren’ ” (Keene, 1998, p. 30). Catholics believe that their practices and dogma are rooted in the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. The Catholic Church has many ancient traditions, some of which have changed with the recent reforms of Vatican II, in which leaders decided that the Mass (worship service) should be held in the language of the people, rather than the traditional Latin. Attending Mass and taking Holy Communion are central to the faith of most Catholics. Receiving the bread and wine in communion represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Catholic doctrine teaches that the wine and

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bread actually become the blood and body of Christ during Communion, a process known as transubstantiation. The Virgin Mary and saints are important to the devotional practices of Catholics, as well as for Orthodox Christians and many Anglicans. In addition to believing in heaven and hell, common to most Christians, some Catholics believe in purgatory, an intermediary place where souls prepare for heaven. Religious ceremonies, called sacraments, can mark the stages of life for Christians. In most Christian churches baptism is a ceremony of both naming and becoming a member of the church. Confirmation represents full membership in the church for older children who were baptized as babies. When adults join the Catholic Church, they may be baptized and confirmed at the same time. Marriage and anointing of the sick are also considered sacraments. The Apostle’s Creed is a concise statement of basic Christian beliefs. According to legend, it was written by Jesus’ twelve apostles shortly after his death, but most scholars believe that it was probably written and first used around the 4th century (Renard, 2002). The following form is recited by Catholics early in the Mass. The wording differs slightly in the forms used by Lutherans, United Methodists, and other Protestant denominations. I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, suffered, died, and buried; He descended into hell; and on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead, and of His Kingdom there shall be no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

SPIRITUAL WRITINGS/SACRED TEXTS Christians follow both the teachings in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament, which together comprise a collection of 66 books. The word “testament” refers to the covenant between God and people. Roman Catholics include seven books of the Apocrypha and Orthodox Christians add an additional five books to their Apocrypha because they were found in the Bible of the early Christians, the Greek Septuragint. The 27 books of the New Testament tell the story of the birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the story of the early days of the Christian church (Renard, 2002). The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels, meaning “good news.” The first three gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are

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known as the synoptic Gospels, meaning that they express parallel views of the life and teachings of Jesus (although there are some major differences). Historians believe that Mark’s Gospel, the shortest of the four, was written first, probably around 40 years after Jesus’ death. Matthew and Luke were most likely written 50 to 60 years after the death of Jesus, and John was written around the end of the first century C.E. (Mitchell, 2002; Renard, 2002). Some biblical historians think that the writers of the gospels of Matthew and Luke used Mark as their source, while other historians believe that all three of the synoptic gospels had a fourth common source that has not been discovered. Throughout history the Bible was translated many times. Although Jesus spoke in Aramaic, the earliest writings were in Greek, later translated to Latin, then finally to English, Spanish, and many other languages. Undoubtedly, each translation and version of the Bible had an impact on the meaning and interpretation of different parts. Many versions abound today, some specific to certain denominations. Christians may interpret the Bible in different ways. Those who are fundamentalist usually believe that the Bible is the literal “word of God,” whereas more liberal Christians interpret the Bible in ways that take into consideration the historical context (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005).

HOLY DAYS/FESTIVALS Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus and God’s coming into the world in human form. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, but early Christians began celebrating near the time of the earlier pagan festival of winter solstice, a celebration of the return of light. Since Jesus is known as “the light of the world,” it seems fitting. Today, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 by Protestants and Catholics and January 7 by many Orthodox Churches as the Celebration of the Theophany, “revelation of God.” Christmas is often observed by a reenactment of the nativity, the time when Jesus lay in a manger in Bethlehem and shepherds and wise men, following a bright star in the east, came to visit and show their respect. The 12 days of Christmas is followed by Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Advent is commemorated during the four Sundays leading up to December 25, during which time Christians mark the arrival of both John the Baptist and Jesus. Traditionally it was a time of penitence and fasting; however, today most Christians celebrate it as a time of anticipation and hope, with the expectation of a second coming of Jesus, and God’s revelation through his Son. Advent marks the beginning of the church year in Western Christianity.

154 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 8.6.


Three Kings Day: A Celebration at Christmastime (Hoyt-Goldsmith, 2004) describes the holiday from the point of view of Veronica, a young girl from New York City whose family was originally from Ecuador and Puerto Rico. The photographs and text follow Veronica’s preparations at home at Museo del Barrio where she creates a mask of one of the kings. She also observes artists creating cloth dolls and santos carved from wood. The story culminates with pictures of the Three Kings Day parade through the snowy streets of New York on January 6th. Carol of the Brown King (Hughes, 1998) is a collection of short nativity poems by Langston Hughes accompanied by Ashley Bryan’s colorful paintings. The dark-skinned characters in the illustrations convey the idea that the story of Jesus’ birth has a universal theme and appeal. What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals (Langstaff, 1987) is also illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Brief quotations from the New Testament are found on each of striking paintings of African angels, shepherds, wise men and holy family. Music is provided for piano or guitar chords. Who was the real Santa Claus? Demi’s The Legend of Saint Nicholas (2003) recounts the stories behind one of the most popular saints of all time. According to the legend, Nicholas was born to wealthy Christian parents and demonstrated remarkable devotion from an early age. When his parents died he vowed to use his wealth to help the needy and glorify God. He became the youngest man ever to be made a bishop in the Catholic Church. His anonymous gifts, often delivered at night, were probably the basis for the stories the evolved after his death.

Beginning with the early Christians, Sunday, called Sabbath, was the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. The Roman Church, however, wanted to discourage people from celebrating pagan holidays, so Christian holidays were designated at a similar time to replace pagan festivals. The church designated Easter as a yearly celebration of the resurrection that falls at a time of celebrations of gods and goddesses of spring (Self, 2006). It is called a “moveable feast” and is celebrated on different days both in Western and Eastern traditions. In most cultures, it falls on a Sunday from March 22 to April 25, depending on the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Lent is the 40-day period of penitence that precedes Easter. Some Christians choose to “give up” favorite foods or activities during Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. The day Jesus died is commemorated as Good Friday, the Friday before Easter (Hubbard, Hatfield, & Santucci, 2007). According to Christian Scripture, after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, his followers saw him at different times over a 40-day period. At the end of that time he ascended to heaven. Ten days following the day Jesus ascended to heaven, his mother, Mary, and the 12 apostles went to Jerusalem for a Jewish harvest festival, Pentecost. While they were praying indoors, they felt a strong wind and saw “tongues of fire” within the house. Many Christians believe that this was the Holy Spirit coming to

Christianity 155 Table 8.7.


From children having pancake races for “Fat Tuesday” in Olney, England, to Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, the stunning photos in Celebrate Easter (Heilegman, 2007) express the grandeur of this Christian holy day. The text on each page describes the progression of the holiday season from the beginning of Lent through Easter sunrise services and the following children’s activities. The accompanying dramatic photographs (by National Geographic photographers) show the ways people all over the world rejoice at the coming of spring and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The book concludes with the words to an ancient Easter hymn, a recipe for Italian Easter cookies, a glossary, and a map showing the countries where the photographs were taken. Helpful websites include, which includes crafts, a history of Easter, and pictures of exceptionally large bunny rabbits!

them. They began sharing the message of Jesus first within Jerusalem, then throughout the Roman Empire. To many Christians this event marks the birthday of the church. All Soul’s Day, also known as the Day of the Dead, is celebrated on November 2, one day after All Saints Day. It is a time when Catholics remember friends and family who have died. Eastern Orthodox Churches remember the dead on several days during the year. On All Souls Day worshippers offer prayers for the souls of the departed and Requiem Masses are held. Many families decorate home altars and sometimes graves with pictures of family members who have passed on, candles, food, and flowers (especially marigolds). In Mexico, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a festive occasion that blends Catholicism with the indigenous belief that the dead return to earth on that one night. For weeks in advance, shopkeepers sell decorated sugar skulls, festive smiling skeletons, marzipan death figures, and bright bouquets. Those outside the culture may wonder at the lightheartedness of these festivities, but most Mexicans take death seriously, accepting it as part of the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Books about Day of the Dead are reviewed in chapter 4. DEMOGRAPHICS The number of Christians worldwide has quadrupled from the beginning of the twentieth century (half billion) to the beginning of the twenty-first century (2 billion). In both cases the number of Christians represents about a third of the world’s population. However, in 1900 the majority of Christians were European or Euro-American, whereas today Christians are predominantly persons from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. With this significant change in demographics Christianity is taking on new forms (Ellwood & McGraw, 2005).

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The Orthodox Church has about 170 million members worldwide (Keene, 1998), mainly in Eastern Europe and Western Asia. There are about 400,000 people identifying as Orthodox in the United Kingdom and 3,500,000 adherents in the United States. Catholicism is the second largest religious body after Sunni Muslims and the largest of the Christian religions worldwide with approximately 1,076,951,000 adherents. The countries with the highest population of Catholics are Italy (97%), Poland (95%), Mexico (95%), Spain (94%), Colombia (92%), and Argentina (91%). In 2002, 22.9% of the total United States population was Catholic and 72.4% of Hispanics living within the U.S. were Catholic (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2008).

TEACHING ABOUT ORTHODOXY AND CATHOLICISM Music was an important part of early Jewish life; Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn during the Last Supper. The music curriculum is a natural place to teach about Christianity. The Jews who became Christians after hearing the words of Jesus brought with them hymns of praise, such as the Psalms. During the Middle Ages monks and nuns living in monasteries incorporated chants called plainsong into the Catholic service (Self, 2006). In the eleventh century an Italian monk named Guido d’Arezzo developed the first system for writing musical notes. The inspiring story of his life is conveyed by Susan L. Roth in Do, Re, Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo (2007). Roth’s charming and intricate collages using paper from all over the world, bring young readers into the world of the medieval monastery. The history of music is an important part of school music curricula. For the majority of the past two millennia, most music has been religious in nature. Many of the great European composers, such as Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and Mozart, wrote sacred music. Students might study the lives and compositions of classical European composers in light of their connection with the Christian church. A more contemporary look at Christian music would include learning about spirituals, African American gospel music, and Christian rock. Early Christians, like their Jewish ancestors, did not believe in creating images of the sacred. However, as time passed Christians adapted to the customs of their surroundings and began to create paintings, mosaics, and sculptures with religious themes. One of the most famous religious paintings is found in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, painted by Michelangelo. During the Renaissance, ornate cathedrals were built throughout Europe as well as Central and South America where missionaries travelled to convert native people to Christianity. Art was used to convey Christian

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stories to those who were unable to read or did not know the language of the missionaries. Most of the great European classical artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, and Titian painted figures from the New Testament. The study of Christian themes in art should be part of any art history curriculum. Another avenue for teaching about Christianity, in particular Catholicism, is through reading biographies. The life stories of Catholics who have made a difference in society can be inspirational to students and show the faith in action. Examples are Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Pope John Paul II, and President John Kennedy. Russian art, history and religion can be combined with the topic of the Fabergé eggs. The most important feast of the Russian Orthodox Church calendar is Easter, and part of the traditional celebration involves the exchanging of highly decorated eggs, which symbolize renewed life and hope. In 1885 the House of Fabergé made a special egg, called the hen egg, for the wife of Czar Alexander III. The egg held a “hidden surprise” inside, a golden yolk with a golden hen and tiny ruby egg. This egg was so well received that new eggs, 69 in all, were created for the royal family every year until the Russian Revolution in 1918 when the Romanov monarchy ended. Children might enjoy researching the different eggs and creating their own eggs with a “hidden surprise” in the Russian Orthodox tradition (von Solodkoff, 1984).

REFERENCES Armstrong, C. (1995). Lives and legends of the saints. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Bowker, J. (2006). World religions: The great faiths explored and explained. London, England: DK. Coniaris, A. M. (1998). Let’s take a walk through our Orthodox Church. Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life. Ellwood, R. S., & McGraw, B. A. (2005). Many people, many faiths. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Hinds, K. (2004). Life in the renaissance: The church. New York, NY: Benchmark Books. Hoffman, M. (2000). Parables: Stories Jesus told. New York, NY: Phyllis Fogelman. Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2001). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Hubbard, B., Hatfield, J., & Santucci, J. (2007). America’s religious beliefs and practices. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Johnson, M. D. (2005). The evolution of Christianity: Twelve crises that shaped the church. New York, NY: Continuum. Keene, M. (1998). This is Christianity: Book 1 beginnings. Cheltenham, England: Nelson Thornes.

158 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Keene, M. (2001). Introducing Christianity. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Mayer, M. (1999). Young Jesus of Nazareth. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. Mitchell, S. (2002). Jesus: What he really said and did. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Penyak, L. M., & Petry W. J. (Eds.) (2006). Religion in Latin America: A documentary history. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. Renard, J. (2002). The handy religion answer book. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press. Self, D. (2006). Religions of the world: Christianity. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library. Sherrow, V. (2001). Life in a medieval monastery. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books. Smith, H. (1991). The world’s religions. New York, NY: HarperCollins. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2008). Cultural diversity in the church. Retrieved from von Solodkoff, A. (1984). Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé. New York, NY: Abradale Press. Wilkinson, P. (2006). Eyewitness Christianity. New York, NY: DK. Woodhead, L. (2004). Christianity: A very brief introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Children’s Literature Cited Armstrong, C. (1995). Lives and legends of the saints. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. (I, M) Beckett, W. (1998). Sister Wendy’s book of saints. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley. (I) Bierhorst, J. (1984). Spirit child: A story of the nativity. New York, NY: SeaStar Books. (P, I) Demi. (2006). Mary. New York, NY: Margaret K. McEllery. (I, M) Demi. (2003). The legend of Saint Nicholas. New York, NY: Margaret K. McEllery. (I, M) dePaola, T. (1992). Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. New York, NY: Holiday House. (P) de Paola, T. (1980). The Lady of Guadalupe. New York, NY: Holiday House. (P) Durango, J. (2008). The walls of Cartegena. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. (M) Heilegman, D. (2007). Celebrate Easter. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (P) Hoffman, M. (2000). Parables: Stories Jesus told. New York, NY: Phyllis Fogelman. (P, I) Hoffman, M. (2001). Miracles: Wonders Jesus worked. New York, NY: Phyllis Fogelman. (P, I) Hostetter, J. M. (2008). Healing water. Homesdale, PA: Calkins Creek. (M) Hoyt-Godsmith, D. (2004). Three kings day: A celebration at Christmastime. New York, NY: Holiday House. (P, I) Hughes, L. (1998). Carol of the brown king: New York, NY: Atheneum. (P) Land, E. (1985). The miracle child. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. (I, M) Langstaff, J. (Ed.). (1987). What a morning! The Christmas story in Black spirituals. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry. (P, I, M)

Christianity 159 Mayer, M. (1999). Young Jesus of Nazareth. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. (I) Pien’kowski, J. (1984) Christmas. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. (P, M) Pirotta, S. (1998). Joy to the world. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (P, I) Roth, S. L. (2007). Do, re, mi: If you can read music, thank Guido d'Arezzo. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. (P) Stanley, D. (1998). Joan of Arc. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. (I, M) Wangerin, W. (1998). Mary’s first Christmas. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (P) Winter, J. (2007). The secret world of Hildegard. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine. (P)

Additional Children’s Literature About Orthodoxy and Catholicism Abbott, T. (2006). Firegirl. New York, NY: Little Brown (M) Seventh graders in a Catholic school are stunned and frightened when they are joined by a student who has been severely burned. One boy demonstrates courage and compassion in making the ethical decision to reach out to Jessica. Cushman, K. (1994). Catherine called Birdy. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (I, M) Adolescent Birdy is anything but compliant, much to her parents’ chagrin. Most entries in her entertaining and impertinent diary are labeled with a saint’s feast day and the accomplishments. Birdy uses her wits to avoid an early marriage to an undesirable suitor and expresses feminist learning long before such ideas became acceptable. Cushman, K. (1995). The midwife’s apprentice. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. (I, M) Set in Medieval Europe, this Newbery Award-winning story gives young readers a glimpse into the conditions of impoverished peasants and the control the local priest and Catholic Church maintained over their lives. Freitas, D. (2008). The possibilities of sainthood. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (M) Teenage girls would especially enjoy the story of Antonia Labella, a parochial schoolgirl, who writes letters to the Vatican petitioning to become a saint. Antonia's comedic perspective on Italian Catholic life in a small town in Rhode Island will appeal to readers from other cultures and religions. Keane, M. (2002). What you will see inside a Catholic Church. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths. (I, M) Photographs and clearly worded text work together to explain the physical features of a Catholic Church and rituals of the Mass. Mayer, M. (2000). The twelve apostles. New York: Penguin Putnam. Classical paintings of Jesus’ apostles accompany short biographies, including the role of the apostle in the development of the early church. (I) McCourt, F. (2007). Angela and the baby Jesus. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. (P) Frank McCourt recounts a charming story his mother told him about her sixth Christmas in Limerick, Ireland. She worried that the Baby

160 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Jesus statue in the crèche at St. Joseph’s church was cold, so she took him home to keep him warm. McMahon, P. (1999). One Belfast boy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. (M) This book is divided into two parts; “An Old Story” describes the history of the conflict between the British and Irish in Northern Ireland and “A New Story” tells about the daily life of 11-year-old Liam, a Catholic child living in Belfast. Norris, K. (2001). The holy twins: Benedict and Scholastica. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (P, I) Scholar and poet Kathleen Norris collaborates with the notable author/illustrator Tomie dePaola to retell the legend of two miraculous siblings and historical figures within Catholicism. Benedict is most widely recognized for creating the “Rule of St. Benedict” and the monastic order of Benedictines. Scholastica founded a convent near her brother’s monastery and is thought to have been the first Benedictine nun. Prior, K. (2005). Christianity. London, England: Franklin Watts. (P) This colorful information book for younger readers provides basic information on history, beliefs, and practices of Christians. Several photographs of Christian worshippers around the world accompany each short section. Ringgold, F. (Ill.) (2004). O holy night. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (P, I) Faith Ringgold’s folk art style illustrations show a dark-skinned holy family and wise men, male and female shepherds, and a flock of multicultural angels. Five traditional Christmas carols are sung by the Harlem Boys’ Choir on a companion CD. Sanderson, R. (2007). More saints lives and illuminations. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. (I, M) Through detailed portraits and brief stories of their lives, Sanderson focuses on the saint’s positive contributions to society. Self, D. (2006). Religions of the world: Christianity. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library. (I, M) This up-to-date information book includes demographics on the spread of Christianity throughout Africa and Asia. Colorful photographs will extend students’ understanding of the text. Sis, P. (1996). Starry messenger. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. (I, M) Using a post-modern picture book format with several layers, Sis tells the story of Galileo Galilei, who invented the telescope and discovered that the earth revolved around the sun. Early Christians and the Catholic Church had many concerns about scientists who made discoveries that seemed to threaten traditional beliefs and church teachings. This biography offers a way to begin a discussion on controversies between religion and science, which are still present today. Tyrrell, F. (Ill.) (1990). Huron carol. New York, NY: Dutton. (P, I) Father Jean de Brebend, author of the Huron Carol honored the religion of the Huron Indians when he came among them as a mission-

Christianity 161 ary. He wrote the carol as a way to explain the Christmas story within the context of these native people. For example, three chiefs from afar bring fox and beaver pelt to the baby.


PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Luther, 1517, 95 Theses)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE I arrived at Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta a half hour before the Sunday service on a chilly November day. Combing my windblown hair in the ladies room, I was greeted by several women of the church who welcomed me and told me how glad they were that I had come. After entering the spacious sunlit sanctuary, I sat about half-way down, near the aisle. I believe everyone who passed my seat stopped to shake my hand and warmly smile. As the worship service began, a choir of 60 golden-robed men and women jubilantly entered from the back of the sanctuary, clapping and singing down the aisle. Their fervent voices continued with a “Praise Period” from the front of the sanctuary. Music was interspersed throughout the 2-hour service, sometimes in response to the pastor’s words. The service included a Bible reading, a welcome to visitors, a time for greeting one another, prayers, and an invigorating sermon on the spiritual dimensions of sharing one’s wealth with the church and those in need. Following the sermon there was an invitational hymn, “I Love You, Lord, Today,” during which time those who wanted to unite with the church were welcomed to come forward. Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 163–177 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


164 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

The 120-year-old Ebenezer Baptist Church was the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King preached his first sermon there in 1947 and served as assistant pastor with his father from 1960 until his death in 1968. Each week the church welcomes visitors from all over the United States and many international visitors yearly. Ebenezer Baptist is a vibrant part of the city of Atlanta, well known for its commitment to urban ministry and social justice concerns such as voting rights, peace, and ending the cycle of poverty.

HISTORY The history of Protestantism begins with the history of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which is addressed in chapter 8. Although the movement for reforming the Roman Catholic Church officially began with the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century, there were groups of organized dissenters present as early as the late twelfth century. One group was the Waldensians who lived on the French and Italian border. Under the leadership of Peter Waldes Lyons, they translated the Bible into French, and began preaching without the intercession of priests. The Catholic Church viewed their actions as heresy, and they were forced to hide in the Alps. Other early dissenters include the Moravians (Bohemia, now Czech Republic), the Humble Ones (Northern Italy), the Beguines (Flanders), Cathars (France), and the Lollards (England). These groups all objected to the wealth accumulated by the church and to priests who did not live moral lives. These dissenters also gave lay people, and in some instances women, a greater role in religious life than the Catholic Church (Herring, 2006). At the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, Western Europe was firmly controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. But some people were questioning both the theology and practices of the Church. The Renaissance, an intellectual awakening in philosophy, mathematics, science, and classic literature, had heightened curiosity about the world and about the past. The Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in reading classic works in their original languages, the Bible and other classic works in Hebrew and Greek. And for some scholars the Biblical image of the shepherd guarding his flock contrasted sharply with the opulence and power of the pope (Lindberg, 2006). As more educated people read the Bible in Hebrew, they asked questions about the Biblical validity of purgatory, a Catholic belief that some souls do not go directly to heaven or hell after death but to a place where souls are purified before they can go on to heaven. The Catholic Church taught that although people were imperfect, they could affect what hap-

Protestant Christianity 165

pened to them in the afterlife by performing good deeds or paying indulgences as atonement or penance for their sins and that this would shorten their time in purgatory. One friar expressed it this way: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs” (Lindberg, 2006, p. 109). However, as the Bible became available in Hebrew and Greek, scholars could find no reference to the concept of Purgatory. It followed that if purgatory was not part of God’s plan, then selling indulgences to people to shorten their time in Purgatory was a corrupt practice (Harries & Mayr-Harting, 2001; Lindberg, 2006; Woodhead, 2004). In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk and scholar at Wittenberg, was concerned about corruption within the Church, especially the selling of indulgences to build a new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther, angered by the increased pressure to raise money for the Church, wrote 95 statements objecting to practices of the church and nailed them to the church door at Wittenberg. His intent was to reform the Church from within, not to start a whole new religious movement. The first two statements of his Ninety-five Theses, as they became known, are as follows: 1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying “Repent ye” intended that the whole life of believers should be repentance. 2. This word cannot be understood as sacramental penance, that is, the confession and satisfaction, which be performed under the ministry of priests (Crompton, 2004, p. 35). At the time the Catholic Church controlled land from Iceland to parts of the Arab world and imprisoned or executed those who questioned the church’s authority. Luther’s words “promised freedom from the burden of the moral law; freedom from fear of the devil and damnation; freedom from obedience to the pope and his church? (Woodhead, 2004, p. 159). The key message was that no one stood between a person and God. These ideas spread throughout Europe very quickly due to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450. Although the Theses were written in Latin, they were quickly translated into German, French and English, the languages of the common people. Luther was excommunicated from the church and declared a criminal, but he continued to write and eventually formed the Lutheran Church, which rejected the pope and claimed that God and the Bible were the only authentic religious authorities (Woodhead, 2004). Between 1517 and 1555, commonly known as the Reformation Era, Roman Catholic control over Western Europe ended, but no single united Protestant Church ever formed. Instead different types of Protestant movements and churches emerged based on ideas from dynamic theologians and leaders, conflicts between royalty and the church, interpreta-

166 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

tions of the Bible as the sole authority, and local culture. The four major Protestant groups to emerge during the 150 years after the Reformation were the Lutherans, the Reformed Church by John Calvin in France and Switzerland, the Church of England by King Henry VIII, and the Anabaptists in Germany and Switzerland. The Reformed Church would be the foundation for the Puritans who settled in New England and for today’s Presbyterian Churches (John Knox—Scotland), Congregationalist (Robert Browne—England), and Baptist (England). The Church of England, the Anglican Church, became the foundation for the Methodists, founded by John Wesley in England, and the Quakers in England. The Anabaptists evolved into today’s Mennonites (Menno Simons—Netherlands), Amish, and Hutterites (Amish Studies, 2010). By the mid-sixteenth century, about half of Europe was Protestant, and in Northern Europe, Protestant beliefs became the official national religion in countries such as Sweden (Lutheran), England (Anglican), and Germany (Lutheran) (Lindberg, 2006; Self, 2006; Woodhead, 2004). All of these groups shared common ideas such as the belief that communion is symbolic and not the literal blood and body of Jesus; that celibacy is not required for church leaders; and that each person can have a direct relationship with God. Many supported “believer’s baptism,” adult baptism over infant baptism. A major difference emerged about how people could be at one with God. Some groups such as Presbyterians believed that admission to heaven was entirely determined by God or predestined.

Table 9.1.


Descendants of the original Anabaptist religious communities, Hutterites, Amish, Dunkards, Apostolic Christians, and Old Order Mennonites believe in the simple life and reject some or most of the modern world. The Old Order Mennonites are featured in A People Apart, by Kathleen Kenna (1995). According to the story, Old Order Mennonites try “to be in the world but not of the world” (p. 35) by raising their own food, making their own clothes, using horse-drawn carriages and wagons, avoiding the use of electricity, and shunning military service, which they believe corrupts true Christian values. Their life is documented in the book with black-and-white photographs of farm work, schools, a barn raising, and activities of children and young people. Andrew Stawicki, the photographer, received special permission to take the photographs, as Old Order Mennonites consider pictures of themselves to be prideful. I am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage (2010) is an autobiography by Mary-Ann Kirkby. It chronicles her experiences as a member of a German-speaking Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba in the mid twentieth century. When her family leaves the colony, she is abruptly introduced to the rest of the world and experiences confusion about her identity. Biblical verses and German words and phrases used in the narrative bring authenticity to the book. Children who have experienced two very distinct belief systems in their formative years may especially connect with this story.

Protestant Christianity 167 Table 9.2.

Lord’s Prayer Applied to Good Works

The Lord’s Prayer (Ladwig, 2000) is beautifully depicted by Tim Ladwig with scenes from an African American urban community. Each verse of the prayer is illustrated with a father and daughter doing yard work for an elderly neighbor. “Give us this day our daily bread” depicts the three characters eating sandwiches from Papa’s Deli on the back steps while throwing the crumbs to the birds flocking on the ground in front of them. Another illustration shows the child and her father refusing payment for their service, coupled with the verse “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” The illustrations will help young children understand that the Lord’s Prayer has meaning in a contemporary setting. In the same format as The Lord’s Prayer, This Little Light of Mine (Lewis, 2005) is an illustrated picture book rendition of the African American spiritual by the same name. A young Black boy living in modest circumstances is featured letting his light shine as he goes from his home through the neighborhood meeting friends and family. He invites a child who is lonely to join in a pick up game of basketball. He brings smiles to his family at the end of the day as they come together around the dinner table. A bonus is the inclusion of the musical score of the song at the end of the book.

Others, such as Methodists, believed that faith plus good works would be the way to heaven. These differences are still present today with some Protestant groups, such as the Salvation Army, emphasizing good works and others, such as the Pentecostals, emphasizing faith alone (Woodhead, 2004). Conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Europe continued from the sixteenth century to the twentieth century. Between 1618 and 1648 a series of violent battles between the Holy Roman Empire and various Protestant countries and their royalty ensued, known today as the Thirty Years War. When the fighting stopped, Europe was divided between Catholics and Protestants (Lindberg, 2006). One of the last major conflicts between Catholics and Protestants ended in the twenty-first century in Northern Ireland when both groups signed peace agreements in 20062007. The conflicts in Europe, the desire for more autonomy to practice their beliefs, and the promise of economic gain led many Protestant groups to emigrate to North America in the early 1600s. Anglicans (who became Episcopalians) settled in Jamestown and Puritans (who became Congregationalists) in New England. Later Mennonites and Quakers established settlements in Pennsylvania, and Lutherans settled in the Midwest. However, a promise of autonomy and economic gain also appealed to Catholics, who settled in Maryland, Quebec (French), Mexico (Spanish), and Central and South America (Spanish and Portuguese). In 1790 when the first official census was taken in the United States, the most numerous congregations in the original thirteen states were Anglican, Congregationalist and Presbyterian. By 1850 the most populous religious groups in

168 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 9.3.

What Protestants Believe

A good book to introduce the general subject of Protestant Christianity to children is Adam Woog’s What Makes Me a Protestant? (2005). Illustrated with photographs, paintings, a chart, and a map, this colorful book explains very complicated history and theology using child-friendly words, with definitions provided for more challenging vocabulary such as sacraments or persecution. Woog makes clear that although there is much that connects all Protestants, there are also wide differences. Examples he includes are differences in how holidays are celebrated, dress, economic activity, the Sabbath day, how communion is celebrated, and who is included and excluded in leadership roles.

America were Baptists (Southern U.S.), Methodists and Roman Catholics. By separating themselves from Europe and establishing their beliefs on new soil, both the Catholics and Protestants practiced a more egalitarian form of Christian beliefs, rooted in personal experience, rather than relying on higher church authority (Woodhead, 2004). Some scholars believe that the Protestant Reformation led to the acceptance of greater diversity within Christianity. Events evolved from Catholics outlawing Lutherans in Europe in 1521, to equal rights for Catholics and Lutherans in 1555, and eventually to the Toleration Act in England in 1689. One hundred years later, the Constitution of the United States, for the first time in Christian history, provided for the separation of religion and the state and a universal right to religious freedom, not merely toleration (M. D. Johnson, 2005). In that atmosphere of religious freedom during the Second Great Awakening, a new denomination of Protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began in America. In 1823 on a hillside near Palmyra, New York, Joseph Smith claimed that he received revelations from the angel Moroni in the form of golden plates. These revelations were published as The Book of Mormon in 1830, and formed the basis for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A charismatic figure, Smith attracted many followers, who settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Because of controversies about their beliefs, especially plural marriage, Smith was killed by a mob, and the group was forced out of Illinois. Their new leader, Brigham Young, led them to Utah territory in 1847 (Woodhead, 2004; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007).

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES WITHIN DENOMINATIONS Christian beliefs and practices are discussed in chapter 8. All Protestants believe that individuals can have a personal relationship with God, that clergy do not need to be celibate, and that the bread and wine of Commu-

Protestant Christianity 169 Table 9.4.

Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois

The story of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormon) is the story of persecution and triumph over adversity. In Nauvoo: Mormon City on the Mississippi River (Bial, 2006), the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is told with original artwork and photographs. Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, settled his followers on the Mississippi River at Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839. There they flourished, built schools, published newspapers, created businesses, and became one of the most populous and prosperous cities in the United States. Under the leadership of Brigham Young, they traveled to Utah Territory when they were forced to leave Nauvoo. The book helps young readers understand how Mormons survived serious adversity. As Bial concludes, “With their strong belief in family, community service, education, hard work, thrift, and virtuous living, the Mormons have prospered” (p. 44).

Figure 9.1.

Individual prayer is important to most Protestants.

170 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 9.5. Stories About Sundays at a Baptist Church In Sunday Week (D. Johnson, 1999) a young African American girl shares her view of a typical week in her small southern town. Each day is described as a poem with an engaging rhyme and rhythm. Blue Monday is just that, the day when everyone has trouble getting started. Tuesday features jumping rope, and Wednesday features choir practice. With Thursday’s visit to the library story hour and Friday’s fish fry, the young girl begins to anticipate the weekend. Although Saturday means work, Blessed Sunday is almost there. Sunday features a biscuit breakfast, church at the Lovely Hill Baptist Church, a fried chicken dinner, and a Sunday drive. The book conveys a love of family traditions and community togetherness that are universal and timeless. A humorous, realistic fiction book for upper elementary or middle school readers is Taking Care of Moses (O’Connor, 2004). Randall Mackey, 11, sees a young African American woman abandon a baby on the steps of the Rock of Ages Baptist Church. The congregation takes sides about what to do about the baby. The White preacher’s wife wants the baby and the Black social worker believes the child, dubbed “Moses,” should be “with his own kind.” Randall doesn’t tell anyone that he knows who the mother is. The characters are portrayed as convincing human beings with all kinds of idiosyncrasies as well as interracial friendships and disagreements. O’Connor captures the essence of a rural Baptist preacher’s sermon and how it is received by a much less serious 11-year-old boy.

nion are symbolic, not literal. However, beyond these basic beliefs, it is very difficult to characterize what defines someone as a Protestant since denominations differ in their views about baptism, the use of music, lifestyle, church governance, the path to heaven, the role of good works, the role of women, and interpretations of the Bible (Woodhead, 2004). There are many denominations of Protestant Christians today, with over 600 different groups in the United States alone (Pew Forum, 2010; World Christian Database, 2004). The largest groups are Baptists and Anglican/Episcopalians. And within each denomination there are more subgroups. For example, there are over 50 different types of Baptists including Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists and Primitive Baptists. Subgroups of the Anglican Church include the Church of England, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, and the Anglican Church of Australia. The main Protestant denominations found in the United States are listed in Table 9.5 with brief descriptors concerning beliefs and practices for each group (Hubbard, Hatfield, & Santucci, 2007). See Appendix for major Protestant denominations in the United States. HOLY DAYS AND CELEBRATIONS Most Protestant denominations celebrate the same major holy days, Christmas and Easter, as Catholics. These holy days are discussed in chapter 8. However, some denominations do not celebrate these days, arguing

Protestant Christianity 171

that no day is more holy than any other (Quakers) or that Christmas and Easter are actually pagan holidays (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Some Protestants, especially in Europe, celebrate Reformation Day on October 31 commemorating the day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted the Ninetyfive Thesis. Most Protestants celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists consider Saturday the Sabbath, which reflects the Jewish tradition.

DEMOGRAPHICS The demographics of Christianity today are an outcome of nineteenth and twentieth century European colonization in Africa, North and South America and parts of Asia. In addition to Catholic missionary efforts in Northern Africa and South America, the Germans brought the Lutheran religion to the U.S. Midwest and Namibia in southern Africa; and the English brought the Anglican Church to South Africa, India, and Canada. The nine largest Protestant denominations and representative countries where churches of these denominations claim a major portion of the population are found in Table 9.7 (Adherents, 2007; Pew Forum, 2010).

TEACHING ABOUT PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY The Protestant Reformation is an important part of world history, but students are not often taught much about the origins of the various denominations. Among some Protestant Christians there is the belief that their denomination is the only one that represents true Christianity. Helping children understand that there are different kinds of Christians might

Table 9.6.

Protestants in Africa: Monkey Sunday

Through colonization and missionary efforts, Protestant religions are widely practiced in Africa. Monkey Sunday (Stanley, 1998), set in the Democratic Republic of Congo where author Sanna Stanley lived with her missionary parents, is the delightful story of Luzolo. Her village was celebrating Matondo, a special event in which people from the surrounding area came together for several day of singing, dancing, preaching and eating in a celebration of thanksgiving. Luzolo’s mother admonishes her that it is especially important to sit still for the first day of the celebration because her father would be preaching the sermon. However, the service was held under a thatched room with no walls, and pigs, chickens, goats, and monkeys wandered freely in and out of the service. Finally Luzolo realizes that she and the other children had to get up from their benches and shoo the animals away. But during the final prayer, she sits very still.

172 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 9.7. Largest Protestant Denominations and Representative Geographic Locations • Anglican and Episcopal: United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa • Baptist: Southern United States • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon): Western United States • Jehovah’s Witnesses: Southern and Western United States • Lutherans: Scandinavian countries, Namibia • Methodists: England, United States • Pentecostal and Assemblies of God: Southern United States • Presbyterians and Reformed: United States, Scotland, Africa • Seventh-day Adventists: United States; Caribbean nations Sources: Adherents (2007) and Pew Forum (2010).

help those who belong to denominations that are sometimes marginalized feel included. Depending on the community these might include children who are Mormon, Salvation Army members, Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal, or Jehovah’s Witness. One strategy for young children would be to include the different kinds of churches in their study of community as they learn about schools, hospitals, businesses and other institutions. Children can also be made aware of the Protestant Christian affiliations of important people from the past and the present. For example, teachers might share with children that Dr. Martin Luther King was a Baptist, former President George W. Bush is Methodist, Betsy Ross was a Quaker, J.K. Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland, Roy Rogers was a Presbyterian, or that Venus and Serena Williams are Jehovah’s Witnesses. For middle school children, teachers could share that religious affiliation was a major issue in the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, who was Catholic (Adherents, 2007). The Civil Rights Movement in the United States is a topic often taught in the elementary grades. African American culture and the Civil Rights Movement are closely tied to Christianity. In the late eighteenth century, some African Americans began establishing their own churches. The first denomination organized by African Americans was the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1814. Later, Black Baptist, Presbyterian, and Church of God in Christ churches were established, and many of the leaders of the modern Civil Rights Movement were ministers. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordained Baptist minister, and he frequently quoted scripture in his speeches on freedom and justice. The tradition of gospel singing came from the Black churches and has become a major

Protestant Christianity 173 Table 9.8.

Mahalia Jackson, Gospel Singer

The Baptist tradition is widely practiced in the South by both Black and White Americans. One famous African American Baptist, Mahalia Jackson, is featured in Mahalia: A Life in Gospel Music (Orgill, 2002). Photographs feature Mahalia's early life in poverty in New Orleans, her life in Chicago as a young girl, and her battles with discrimination. The story focuses on the power of faith in shaping her life and her singing, which she dedicated to praising God. She sang for royalty in Europe, for workers boycotting the buses in Montgomery, and for mourners at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. The biography helps readers understand the inscription on Mahalia’s tombstone: “The world’s greatest gospel singer.”

Table 9.9.

The Christmas Menorahs

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate (Cohn, 1995) is the true story about Christians and members of other faith groups confronting prejudice. In the early 1990s in Billings, Montana, White supremacist groups instigated a number of violent acts against Jews, Blacks and Native Americans. A young Jewish boy, Isaac, is deeply frightened when a rock is thrown through his window where a Menorah is displayed in celebration of Hanukkah. Led by the minister and congregation of United Church of Christ, an interfaith group (inspired by the Danish people hiding Jews during World War II) is formed. Community members are encouraged to put Menorahs in their windows as a sign of solidarity with those being attacked. The book, illustrated with oil paintings that bring the people to life and the drama real, is a good choice for parents and teachers who want to discuss prejudice and hate crimes with children. An additional resource featuring this story is a PBS documentary entitled “Not in Our Town.”

part of the American music scene in both Black and White communities (Noll, 2000). Children can also learn about the contributions of Protestant Christians through inventions and ideas that were the direct outcome of their faith. The Shakers, for example, a communal group of Christians, were inventors and furniture makers whose craftsmanship is highly valued today. They also designed a washing machine, a revolving oven, a clothespin, and water-repellent cloth (Bolick & Randolph, 1990). Both children and adolescents enjoy stories about people who stand up for what is right, or stories about heroes and heroines. Christmas Menorahs (Cohn, 1995) and Blue Flame (Grant, 2008) are set in two different time periods but both involve people standing up to injustice and oppression. Both stories include the message that people can live in a community peacefully while holding very different religious beliefs. Older students might be drawn to stories involving power, conflict and religion such as A Fine White Dust (Rylant, 2007) or Converting Kate (Weinheimer, 2007). Young teens often engage in discussions with each other

174 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 9.10.

Conflict Involving Teens and Protestant Religion

Sometimes religious leaders cannot be trusted. In Cynthia Rylant’s A Fine White Dust (1986) the itinerant preacher does not live up to the moral standards he is extolling. Pete, age 13, attends a Christian revival and comes under the spell of the charismatic evangelical minister. He decides to give up his best friend and his family in order to travel with the minister and help save souls. Just before they are set to leave town, the preacher disappears in the dark of night with a young teenage girl. Pete is devastated, but he eventually reconnects with his family and best friend. In the end, Pete is trying to figure out how to fit the pieces of his life together: “even though I don’t seem to need church as much, I know I need God” (p. 112). The themes of conflict about religion, as well as conflict between a parent and a teen, are central to Converting Kate (Weinheimer, 2007). Sixteen-year-old Kate moves to a small town in coastal Maine with her mother after her father dies. Kate has been raised to follow the evangelical beliefs of Holy Divine Church but questions that this church is the one true church, as her mother tells her. Central to Kate’s confusion and anger is her mother’s refusal to give Kate’s father a funeral because he never joined the Holy Divine Church. As her mother continues to convert new followers to her church, Kate is drawn to a progressive Protestant church. Kate experiences sincere anguish as she tries to find the courage and strength to be honest with her mother. This book may be especially meaningful for teens who want to experience religious or spiritual traditions different from those of their parents.

about their spiritual beliefs, and might enjoy comparing and contrasting these beliefs. Some children are involved in family and church environments that do not encourage this kind of discussion. And some denominations discourage young teens from questioning what they are taught in their church or questioning church leaders. For both groups it is good for families and teachers to point young teens to books that may help them feel they are not alone and to help them understand their own spiritual tradition as well as others.

REFERENCES Adherents. (2007). Retrieved from Amish Studies. (2010). The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. Retrieved from Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (2007). Retrieved from Crompton, S. W. (2004). Martin Luther. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House. Harries, R., & Mayr-Harting, H. (Eds.). (2001). Christianity: Two thousand years. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Herring, G. (2006). Introduction to the history of Christianity. New York, NY: New York University Press. Hubbard, B. J., Hatfield, J. T., & Santucci, J. A. (2007). America’s religions: An educator’s guide to beliefs and practices. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.

Protestant Christianity 175 Johnson, M. D. (2005). The evolution of Christianity: Twelve crises that shaped the church. New York, NY: Continuum. Lindberg, C. (2006) A brief history of Christianity. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Noll, M. (2000). Protestants in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Pew Forum. (2010). U.S. religious landscape survey. Retreived from http://religions Self, D. (2006). Religions of the world: Christianity. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library. Woodhead, L. (2004). An introduction to Christianity. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. World Christian Database. (2004). Retrieved from http://worldchristiandatabase .org/wcd/

Children’s Literature Cited Bial, R. (2006). Nauvoo: Mormon city on the Mississippi River. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. (I, M) Bolick, S. G., & Randolph, N. O. (1990). Shaker inventions. New York, NY: Walker & Company. (I) Cohn, J. (2000). The Christmas Menorah: How a town fought hate. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co. (I, M) Johnson, D. (1999). Sunday week. New York, NY: Henry Holt. (P) Kenna, K. (1995). A people apart. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. (I) Ladwig, T. (2000). The Lord’s Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (P) Lewis, E. B. (2005). This little light of mine. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (P) O’Connor, B. (2004). Taking care of Moses. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (I, M) Orgill, R. (2002). Mahalia: A life in gospel music. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. (M) Rylant, C. (1986). A fine white dust. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. [Reissued by Aladdin in 2007] (M) Stanley, S. (1998). Monkey Sunday: A story from a Congolese village. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. (P, I) Weinheimer, B. (2007). Converting Kate. New York, NY: Viking. (M) Woog, A. (2005). What makes me a Protestant? Farmington Hills, MI: Kidhaven Press. (I, M)

Additional Children’s Literature About Protestant Christianity Barner, B. (1998). To everything. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (P) The words from Ecclesiastes have been made into a popular song. The words are paired with Bob Barner’s paper collage illustrations to

176 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources produce a colorful and stimulating work of art that will appeal to young children. Bryant, J. (2008). Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes trial. New York, NY: Knopf. (M) Jen Bryant tells the story of the summer of the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, as a series of poems from many perspectives. She juxtaposes these voices in a point-counterpoint style that makes the nature of the conflict clear but also includes some humorous undertones. These voices include a journalist, a leader of a Bible study group, students from John Scope’s biology class, Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, and an African American boy who is not allowed to go to school. Crompton, S. W. (2004). Martin Luther. Philadelphia, CA: Chelsea House. (M) The story of the early life of Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, is presented to enable young adolescents to better understand why he led a movement to defy the Catholic Church and what his legacy is today. The book is a good reference book and includes the Ninety-Five Theses and other primary documents. Dutton, S. (2010). Mary May and the gospel truth. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (I) Mary Mae and her family are faithful members of an evangelical church that interprets the Bible literally. When a creative teacher takes her class on a field trip to dig up fossils it causes quite a stir within the family, which is eventually resolved by a visiting minister. Grant, K. M. (2008). Blue flame. New York, NY: Walker & Company. (M) Grant writes, “No one side in a religious war has a monopoly on cruelty” (p. 245). This work of historical fiction, set in mid thirteenth century in France, describes actual conflicts between the Catholic Church and the Cathars, an early Protestant group. This book has all of the ingredients for a good adventure involving a blue flame, a sacred symbol, treachery, and romance between a Catholic girl of nobility and a Cathar boy whose father is a craftsman. This is the first book in Grant’s Perfect Fire Triology. Halperin, W. (2001). Love is .... New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (P, I) The words of St. Paul from I Corinthians are illustrated with colorful, contemporary drawings of people and animals that evoke humor and understanding of this important virtue. Koestler-Grack, R. A. (2004). Mary Baker Eddy. Philadelphia, CA: Chelsea House. (M) Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, overcame personal tragedy and major health problems to become a spiritual leader who emphasized the role of the mind and spirit in healing the body. In 1908, she started the Christian Science Monitor, a major respected newspaper still today. Kroll, S. (2000). William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania. New York, NY: Holiday House. (M)

Protestant Christianity 177 This book tells the story of William Penn who became a Quaker and was persecuted and imprisoned because his pacifist beliefs went against the established church in England. He founded Pennsylvania in 1681 as a safe haven for Quakers. The book includes a timeline and an author’s note giving context to the conflicts between the Roman Catholics and Protestants in England. Mayer, M. (1999). Young Jesus of Nazareth. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. (P, I) Based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke, this book is illustrated in the style of traditional European sacred art. The author depicts the child Jesus as a real personality who astounds his teachers and his parents, Mary and Joseph, as being fully aware of the challenges they face in raising a special child. Raschka, C. (2003). Simple gifts. New York, NY: Henry Holt. (P, I) Raschka captures the spirit of the traditional Shaker hymn “Tis the gift to be simple …” with the words written in script, and the illustrations drawn with an abstract, primitive style. Wooten, S. M. (2001). Billy Graham: World-famous evangelist. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow. (M) This biography of the world’s most famous evangelist (someone who proclaims the “good news” in the New Testament) is told as an adventure story with plenty of conflicts and anecdotes to engage young readers, including Graham’s exploits as a child. Black-and-white photographs show his family, Yankee stadium full of people at a revival, his preaching in Communist countries, and Graham advising President Lyndon B. Johnson.


ISLAM O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Indeed the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous. (Qur’an, 49.13)

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE We removed our shoes at the door as we entered the mosque to join the Weekend School classes on Sunday morning. A divider separated the large room with the youngest children (7 and under) and their teachers in a small area, and the older students and their teachers in a larger area on the other side of the room. Female teachers wearing black robes and hijabs (head coverings) taught the youngest children while men taught the older students. The children represented a variety of ethnic groups including African American, Pakistani, and European American. The teachers of the youngest children welcomed us and asked us to join them where they were sitting on the floor. The children were learning verses from the Qur’an in Arabic by repeating words after the teacher in unison or by reciting individually while the youngest children were learning Arabic letters. They seemed to enjoy having guests. Some children shared with us what they were learning and talked a little about themselves, school and their activities. One 7-year-old girl, wearing a colorful hijab, asked why we Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 179–195 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


180 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 10.1.

The younger children learned Arabic letters.

were there. When we told her that we wanted to learn about Islam, she promptly informed us that pizza was her favorite food, but that she couldn’t have pepperoni because Muslims were not allowed to eat pork. She then turned her attention back to learning her verses.

HISTORY Islam, the youngest of the world’s major religions, was founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the city of Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, approximately 1,400 years ago. Mecca was an important city before Islam was established because it had become a major trade route and the Ka’ba, a black meteoric stone, was located there. The Ka’ba was an important symbol to people who followed the traditional animistic religion of the region, and they made pilgrimages to worship there (Armstrong, 2006).

Islam 181 Table 10.1.


Muhammad, by Demi (2003), is the first Western language young children's biography of the founder of Islam. Within contemporary Islam, Muhammad is never pictured; therefore, Demi depicts him as a profile figure in gold leaf. The book is illustrated in the Persian two-dimensional style, which evokes a Middle Eastern setting. Mohammad’s story is told as a narrative and children can relate to the difficulties of his early life as an orphan. The paint and ink illustrations also feature Islamic architecture and symbols. Through this inviting book, children learn not only the history of Islam, but also about the beliefs and traditions important to modern-day Muslims.

Muhammad was born about 570 B.C.E. into the Quraysh tribe, the people who controlled the Ka’ba. His father died before he was born, and his grandfather named him Muhammad, which means “praiseworthy.” As was the custom at the time, his mother took him to the desert to be raised by a nurse and there he learned to tend herds of sheep and goats. After he was brought back to Mecca as a young child, his mother died, and his grandfather raised him until he was 8 (Armstrong, 2006). When his grandfather died, his uncle took Mohammad in and taught him to become a trader. At age 25 he married Khadijah, a merchant woman, and they had two sons and four daughters. Although most people in Muhammad’s time did not read and write, some scholars believe that as an adult, he would have had some literacy skills in order to become successful in business. Mohammad was known to be an honest herder and businessman who was concerned when he saw the rich mistreating the poor. He traveled to many places and met people from several spiritual backgrounds including Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and pagans, who worshipped a variety of gods (Aslan, 2005). He was disturbed that the local people believed in many gods since he believed there was only one God, whose name in Arabic was Allah. Mohammad’s life changed forever one day in 610 B.C.E. when he was meditating on Mount Hira and received a revelation from Allah. As he was sitting alone in a cave, he felt an invisible presence and a voice called upon him to “Recite!” From that moment on and for the next 23 years, Mohammad received messages from Allah, which he memorized. The earliest messages were about religious and social themes. But later messages defined Mohammad’s role as Allah’s messenger and focused on monotheism, “There is no god but God” (Aslan, 2005). Muhammad recited these messages to scribes, and the written text became known as the Qur’an, the poetic and sacred ultimate revelation of God and Islamic guide to moral and social behavior. The word “Islam” translates to mean “full submission,” and those who practice Islam are known as Muslims or “obedient ones” (Lewis, 2009).

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When Muhammad began to quietly share the revelations with a small group of family and friends, not everyone welcomed or accepted them. The Quraysh, his tribe, and the rulers of Mecca, were especially skeptical. They had anticipated an Arab prophet but did not believe that, with his humble beginnings, Muhammad could be that prophet. But the greatest difficulty was that the revelations meant that these rulers would have to give up their elite status, agree to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and offer freedom to those who were oppressed. Although Allah was already known to them, they resisted giving up their traditional beliefs in many gods to accept Allah as the only god (Armstrong, 2006). Slowly, however, Muhammad continued sharing the revelations, and his small group of believers grew. One story tells of an event in 620 when Muhammad rode a divine creature called Buraq, a winged beast, from Mecca to Jerusalem where he met with the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus. About 622, he came to Medina, built a simple mosque, and lived next to it for the rest of his life. During this life, both Arab and Jewish tribes who felt threatened by this new religion attacked him, but he and his followers prevailed. In 632 Muhammad went to Mecca for his final Hajj (pilgrimage) and gave his last sermon. He died at age 62 and left several wives, one daughter, no sons, and no clear successor (Siddiqui, 2006). Over the next 600 years, Islam spread mainly through Arab conquests from the Middle East to North Africa and into Southeast Asia. There were many battles between the Christian Crusaders and Muslims all over the Middle East. From about 1300 to World War I, Muslims controlled much of the Middle East. Under Islam, many important cultural and scientific centers were established, such as Baghdad, a center for the arts and medicine, and al-Azhar University in Cairo. In addition Muslims made many discoveries during this time and advanced the fields of astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. Muslims were also responsible for establishing libraries and preserving many great works including Christian and Jewish books and papers. Relationships between Christians, Jews, and Muslims worsened when the Middle East was partitioned after World War I. But the greatest conflict began when the British divided Palestine, with a Muslim majority, in order to establish the Jewish state of Israel after World War II. The Islamic countries in the region, such as Egypt and Syria, objected strongly and more wars ensued. Although representatives from the Middle East and the United States continue to work for peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the region remains in a state of conflict based on religious and political differences (Lewis, 2009). After September 11, 2001 when Muslim extremists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many people started to learn more about Islam. Unfortunately, these attacks gave some people the idea that Islam

Islam 183

was a faith based on violence. However, in Muhammad’s last sermon he said, “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you,” and he warned of transgressing the limits of religion because this had been a downfall of previous civilizations (Cleary, 2001). The following condemnation of the attack was released on September 21, 2001 and signed by all of the major Islamic organizations in the United States: We, the undersigned Muslim organizations, support the President and Congress of the U.S. in the struggle against terrorism. Holding to the ideals of both our religion and our country, we condemn all forms of terrorism, and confirm the need for perpetrators of any such acts of violence to be brought to justice, including those who carried out the attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. (Abdullah, 2007)

Beliefs and Practices According to Islamic tradition and the Qur’an, Abraham (Ibrahim) is the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sarah, Abraham’s aged wife, urged Abraham to take a second wife, Hagar, a slave girl. She bore him a son, Ishmael (Isma’il). Sarah then had a child, Isaac. Muslims believe that Judaism and Christianity followed from Isaac’s lineage and Islam from Ishmael’s. According to Islam, Ishmael, not Isaac, was the son Abraham was asked to sacrifice. Muslims also believe that Abraham traveled to Mecca (Zeitlin, 2007). Muslims believe in Allah, the all-powerful and only God, and his Prophet Muhammad. They also believe that Allah is the same God worshiped by Jews and Christians, that Allah spoke through prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but that Muhammad received the final revelations (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). When Muslims speak the name of Muhammad, they always add, “Blessings and peace be upon him and his followers.” Islam is structured by five pillars, which serve to connect the believer to the larger Muslim community (Aslan, 2005): 1. The Shahada: The declaration of faith: “There is no God but Allah.” 2. Salat: The ritual prayer said at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and before sleep, while facing the holy city of Mecca. These may be led by an Imam at a mosque. 3. Zakat: Almsgiving to the poor and support for Islamic institutions. 4. Sawm: Fasting throughout the month of Ramadan during the daylight hours for adults and older children, as a form of selfdiscipline and to connect with those who live in poverty.

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5. Hajj: A pilgrimage to the holy site of Mecca during one’s lifetime for those who are financially and physically able. In addition to the Five Pillars of Islam, Muslims follow a code of ethics that dictates what is lawful (halal), unlawful (haram), and what is discouraged (mukrah). As examples, most foods are halal, but some are not, such as pork. Shellfish is discouraged as well as smoking. Many of the laws applying to food are similar to kosher laws followed by some Jews. Muslims believe in treating themselves with respect; therefore, many object to aspects of Western culture such as popular music, drinking, gambling, and sexually explicit images. Muslims believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah, and widows, orphans, and animals should be treated with kindness (Siddiqui, 2006). No distinction is made between the sacred and the everyday in the Muslim way of life. However, on Fridays most Muslims gather at mosques for midday prayer and congregational worship led by an imam, a knowledgeable and pious community member chosen to lead prayers. Friday is not considered a day of rest, and members go to work and attend to other activities. The Friday service also often includes a sermon delivered by the iman. The moon and the sun are of vital importance in the daily life of every Muslim. By the moon, Muslims determine the beginning and the end of the months in their lunar calendar and when Ramadan begins and ends. By the sun the Muslims calculate the times for prayer and fasting.

SPIRITUAL WRITINGS AND SACRED TEXTS The scripture of Islam is called the Qur’an, which literally means recitation. Traditional Muslims believe that the Qur’an contains the exact words of Allah gave to Muhammad. It is often the first thing Muslims hear when they are born and the last thing they hear when they die. It is also the textbook for the study of Islam and Arabic. The revelations in the Qur’an are organized into 114 chapters or surahs, which contain about 6,000 verses. It is not organized by topic or chronology but instead by the length of the surahs, in descending order (Hopfe & Woodward, 2007). The Qur’an reads more like a poem than a narrative, and readers can open it to any section and find verses that inspire (Armstrong, 2006). An important source of moral guidance for traditional Muslims is the Shariah, Islam’s Sacred Law. The Shariah recognizes five categories of behavior (Aslan, 2005):

Islam 185 Table 10.2.

Sacred and Cultural Stories

The rich cultural variety found in the folktales and sayings in Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs by Sarah Conover and Freda Crane (2004) will help children and adults realize the diversity found in Islam. The authors, one who is Muslim, wrote their book for the purpose of reaching both the secular and Muslim world. Stories and wisdom from cultures as diverse as China, Pakistan, Turkey, West Africa and Indonesia provide humor, insight and cultural perspective. In the introduction is a quote from the Qur’an that captures the spirit of the book, “Of Allah’s Signs, one is that He created you from dust; and lo, you become human beings ranging far and wide” (43:48). This book contains two types of stories: those from the Qur’an and those from the hadiths, words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad. Many of the stories begin with kan ya ma kan, meaning “there was and there was not,” a Muslim version of “once upon a time.” The stories are told with humor and insight such as the story Mulla Nasruddin who wonders why Allah put the huge pumpkin on such a skinny vine and the tiny walnut on such a mighty tree. When a walnut falls on his head from the tree overhead, the Mullah realizes Allah’s wisdom: “If it had been pumpkins [in the tree], I would be sitting here with a huge lump on my head” (p. 39).

1. actions that are obligatory, in that their performance is rewarded and their omission punished; 2. actions that are meritorious, in that their performance may be rewarded, but their neglect is not punished; 3. actions that are neutral and indifferent; 4. actions that are considered reprehensible, though not necessarily punished; and 5. actions that are forbidden and punished. Since the Qur’an is not a book of laws, Muslims rely on traditions (Sunna) of the Prophet to guide their interpretation of the Sharia. The Sunna is composed of thousands of stories (hadith) that claim to be Muhammad’s words and deeds as well as those of his companions who were with him during the revelations. Deciding the authenticity of these stories and using them to determine laws remains a source of debate among Muslim scholars today. Those who believe in the Qur’an and Sharia as strictly revealed truth do not recognize the cultural and historical influences on these works. These debates make it challenging for nonMuslims to determine what Islam is when they observe Islamic law interpreted and practiced in very different ways by those who abide by a Traditionalist interpretation of the Shariah (Afghanistan under the Taliban) and those who argue that it needs to reflect contemporary norms of law and society (Iran) (Aslan, 2005). One area of beliefs that is confusing to non-Muslims is the status of women. Compared to pre-Islamic Arabia, in which women were considered property and unwanted female babies were killed, the revelations

186 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 10.2.

Children learning to read the Qur’an.

given to Muhammad raised the status of women significantly. There are many verses in the Qur’an that suggest that men and women are equal; however, there are other passages that say they do not have the same rights under Islamic law. However, the status of women in Islam, how they dress and whether or not they cover their heads is a product of both culture and religion (Lewis, 2009). The Qur’an, for example, encourages both men and women dress modestly. There are Muslim women who seek to be treated as equals, to serve as imams, and to enter mosques through the main door (Abdul-Ghafur, 2005). In some countries such as Pakistan and the United States, Muslim women may be highly educated and become teachers, lawyers, doctors, or hold high office in government. In other cultures, such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, women are not treated as equals because of male political and religious leaders’ interpretations of the Qur’an and tribal custom (Siddiqui, 2006). A second misunderstanding concerning Muslim beliefs is the concept of jihad. Jihad literally means struggle, which every Muslim is expected to do. The most literal meaning of the word is to follow the five pillars and to be a good person. Two of the main struggles are the struggles against the ego and the devil. Jihad may also be used to indicate a cause or a crusade, such as a jihad for literacy, a jihad against corruption in govern-

Islam 187

ment, or a jihad for cleanliness. It is true that Osama bin Laden has invoked jihad for terrorism against the West, which might be compared to the zealotry and violence used by Christian crusaders in the Middle Ages. However, for the vast majority of Muslims, “terrorism is not jihad but a perversion of the holy texts” (Siddiqui, 2006, p. 132).

MAIN SUBGROUPS When Muhammad died, there was no clear agreement about who would be his successor. Two major sects were formed shortly after Muhammad's death, divided by a disagreement about his successor and the way Islam is practiced (Aslan, 2005). The two major sects are Sunni, who make up about 90 percent of all Muslims, and Shi'ah. Some prominent Muslims (Sunni) elected Abu Bakr and called him caliph or successor. But some Muslims (Shi’ah) thought that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, who had married Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, should be the successor (Lewis, 2009). In some countries today Sunni and Shi’ah live in relative peace together, but in others they are in conflict, especially when political power is involved. Within Shi’ah and Sunni there are additional schools (Sunni) and sects (Shi’ah). For example, the Wahhabi is the radical, minority sect within Sunni that advocates a purer form of Islam. Followers are opposed to Western influence and Muslims who adopt Western culture, such as in Europe and the United States. They have also influenced young males through the establishment of schools that preach a radical form of Islam. The intolerance preached by Wahhabism has led some followers to become terrorists. Sufism, Muslim mystics, is a movement with an opposite worldview from Wahhabism and spans both Shi’ah and Sunni. Sufis value the arts including music and poetry, which are not celebrated by many traditional Muslims. A famous Sufi is the poet Rumi, known for his poem, “Come, Come, Whoever You Are.” Sufism places greater emphasis on a person’s relationship with other people instead of only focusing on a person’s relationship to God (Lewis, 2009). In the United States, the Nation of Islam (NOI) is a religious and social/political organization founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930 with the aim of resurrecting and uplifting the conditions that exploited and dehumanized Black men and women who grew up with a legacy of slavery. He trained Elijah Muhammad, who led the group until his death in 1975. The NOI’s teachings are grounded in the Qur’an with an emphasis on living a righteous life. The contemporary NOI has moved away from the more controversial teachings of Elijah Muhammad such as Black superiority and moved toward uniting with mainstream Islam (Nation of Islam, 2007; Tate, 1997).

188 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

HOLY DAYS, FESTIVALS, AND CELEBRATIONS The major Islamic celebration is Ramadan, which occurs in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year. It begins and ends when the sliver of the new moon is sighted. It is believed that Muhammad received the first revelations during this time fourteen centuries ago in the Cave of Hira. During Ramadan, Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Families gather for an early meal called Suhur to give them the strength they will need to make it through the day without food or water. Young children and those who are sick do not fast. At the end of the day, they break the fast with the evening meal called Iftar. In addition to the fast, Muslims spend as much time as possible reading from the Holy Qur’an and saying prayers. There are special prayers at night called Taraweeh. The fast also helps them purify their bodies and their minds. In addition, it helps Muslims feel connected to people feel that do not have enough to eat every day. At the end of the month, Eid ul-Fotr, a special 3-day festival occurs which celebrates their success in fasting during Ramadan (Aslan, 2005). DEMOGRAPHICS Islam is a rapidly growing religion and second only to Christianity in the number of followers. There are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide, with the largest concentrations in the Middle East, Northern and Western Africa,

Table 10.3.

Informational Books

Two excellent informational books that provide insight into Muslim worship are Night of the Moon by Hena Khan (2008) and What You Will See Inside a Mosque by A. K. Khan (2003). Pakistani-American writer Hena Khan takes children through the month of Ramadan from the perspective of Yasmeen, a young American Muslim girl. Yasmeen is especially taken with following the phases of the moon and what they represent during the month. She is also shown sharing her experience with Ramadan with her primary grade class at school. Yasmeen will seem very real to children of any faith when she tells the reader that one of her favorite parts of Ramadan is getting presents. The book is beautifully illustrated by Julie Paschkis using the art of Islamic tiles. The book by A.K. Khan uses photographs from inside a mosque, to show sinks for doing wudu (cleansing of hands and feet before prayer), clothing to be worn on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and a library where Muslims can study their religion. This book points out that Muslims in the United States originate from all parts of the world and have many with different traditions. An additional informational book, Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems (R. Khan, 1999), is an excellent resource for both historical and modern stories and poems. The author describes the history of Islam, and offers fictional accounts of Muslim life set in several different countries. Recipes and craft activities are provided to expand children’s understanding of Islam. Sidebars offer additional information on historical figures, holy places, and celebrations.

Islam 189

Figure 10.3.

Islamic children in the United States.

and Southeast Asia. Within the United States, the largest Muslim population is in the Detroit, Michigan area. Islam long has been an important part of the African American religious tradition, beginning when approximately 10% of slaves brought their Muslim faith from West Africa to the United States. About one third of American Muslims are African American, including those who began as members of the Nation of Islam and later joined with traditional Sunni Islam (Islam, 2007; Williams, 2002). TEACHING ABOUT ISLAM Many historians believe that Islamic and Arab cultures have contributed much to the development of civilization, and teachers can help bring that message to children. Islam fits well in the social studies curriculum with the study of (1) major world religions, (2) the history of the Middle East, Asia, and Northern Africa, (3) immigration and settlement in the United States, and (4) current events relating to the ongoing conflicts in the

190 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Teachers can give tribute to Muslim scientists and mathematicians and their contributions such as the scientific method (moving away from science as speculation), the fields of chemistry, zoology, botany, medicine and mathematics, and inventions such as the telescope and the pendulum (Wilkinson, 2002). Muslims also valued libraries and the Arab world became the repositories for works on religion, philosophy and science. Young children love stories of adventure and heroes. The story of Saladin, the Muslim leader who fought against the Crusaders, could be discussed in context with other heroes and heroines (Brown, 2006). A contemporary hero would be Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in making small loans to very poor people to help them become financially independent (Yunus, 2003). The story of Ibn Battuta, the Muslim man who traveled around the world, fits with other early world travelers such as Marco Polo (Rumford, 2001). In addition children can participate in cultural activities such as listening to Arabic music or preparing and eating foods that are typically a part of Muslim festivals. Children can also learn about the many occupations and activities of Muslim members of the community who might be invited as guest speakers. Teachers should address misconceptions that children may have about Islam. Due to the vast influence and availability of media images and the events of 9/11, many of the messages children have received about Islam are negative, based on the actions of a minority of militants. A second misconception that teachers might address is that Islam does not honor and respect women. Although the Qur’an teaches that all children are gifts from Allah and should be valued equally, long-held traditions in

Table 10.4.


The true story of Saladin, a Muslim hero from the Middle Ages, will appeal to children who are intrigued by castles, kings, battles, heroes, and villains. Saladin united people from Muslim lands against the Christian crusaders, fought Richard the Lion-Hearted, and died a hero not only for his expertise as a soldier but for his vision for humanity, “I have become as great as I am because I have won the hearts of men by gentleness and kindness.” Two books bring Saladin’s story to life: Diane Stanley’s Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam (2002) and Flora Geyer’s Saladin: The Muslim Warrior who Defended his People (2006). In Stanley’s book, Saladin is shown as a leader who believes that Christians, Jews and Muslims could live together in peace in the same land. The illustrations depicting medieval times are authentic, colorful, and decorative. Geyer’s book is more of a chronicle with a very helpful timeline of the complicated events of the Crusades included across the bottom of each page anchoring the events in the order they occurred. Both books contribute to helping children and adults understand the history behind tragic events today in the Middle East and the battles over Jerusalem.

Islam 191 Table 10.5.

Contemporary Stories About Muslim Children

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting (2006) tells the story of a young Muslim immigrant girl of Arab descent who goes on a field trip to an apple orchard on her second day of school in the United States. The story is told through the eyes of Farah who is aware that she is different from the other children because she speaks little English and wears a dupatta (a long scarf) often worn by women in Southeast Asia. She also fears that some of the children may not like her because her father told her that there is trouble between her home country and the United States. On the ride to the orchard, she is surprised that boys and girls sit together on the hayrack and observes that this different from practices in her village. However, Farah begins to feel part of the class when she contributes her apple (the only green one) along with the apples the other children have picked to the press. Her green apple blended with the red ones make delicious cider and this observation gives her hope that she will be able to become part of her new country. Salaam, A Muslim American Boy’s Story by Tricia Brown (2006) offers young children a view of contemporary Muslim life in the United States as experienced by Imran, a young boy. Through the narrative and engaging photographs, he establishes that he is like other Americans in that he takes karate lessons, plays games with his cousin Emily, celebrates birthdays, tells jokes to his teacher, and wants to grow up to be a rock star. But he is concerned about being Muslim American when his mother’s family doesn’t approve her conversion to Islam and when she receives an upsetting phone call from someone who does not like Muslims. He also talks about some Muslim traditions such as the importance of going to Mecca for hajj (the pilgrimage) and the celebration of Ramadan. The book includes a strong message that Islam is a religion that emphasizes getting along with others and respecting differences.

Table 10.6.

Contemporary Stories About Muslim Adolescents

Young teens will enjoy the story Does My Head Look Big in This? (Abdel-Fattah, 2005). Amal, an Australian-Palestinian teen, gives adolescents an idea of what life might be like as a high school girl who chooses to wear hijab. Adolescents will identify with Amal’s trips to shopping malls with her friends, love of popular culture, worries about make-up, attraction to boys, arguments with parents, and confrontations with high school cliques. However, Amal’s experiences are not like most teens when she overhears comments at school about “towelheads,” when her social studies class discusses Islamic terrorists, or when she finds herself explaining and defending her faith. Muslim-American Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, a pediatrician who felt there was a shortage of children’s books on Muslim Americans, is the author of My Name is Bilal (2005). The story opens on the school playground with a bullying incident. A group of boys verbally and physically taunt Ayesha, a young girl who is wearing a headscarf. Her brother Bilal watches but feels conflicted about coming to his sister’s aid. In the story he tries to fit in by telling the teacher his name is Bill Al, instead of Bilal, a common Muslim boy’s name. Through the guidance and support of his teacher, who is Muslim, Bilal learns of the story of the historic Bilal, a slave who refused to renounce his Muslim faith. Inspired by the story, he stands up to the bullies and eventually befriends one of them. The story includes the tradition Muslim greetings, “Peace be with you” and the reply “And peace be upon you,” and an illustration of Bilal and another Muslim boy breaking away from a pickup game of basketball in order to pray. The author’s notes include the adhan, the call of prayer in English.

192 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

many Muslim countries value boys over girls. Examination of injustice may be an opportunity to differentiate between religious norms, and those dictated by culture or political situations. Another strategy for addressing this would be to point out Muslim women who have made important contributions such as Benazir Bhuto, the first female prime minister of a Muslim country (Pakistan), who was assassinated in 2007 (Englar, 2006) or Shirin Ebad, an Iranian Muslim who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Teachers might also consider the everyday lives, as well as contemporary issues of segregation and prejudice, that Muslim children and young adolescents face in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Specific issues addressed in children’s literature include: why Muslim girls may cover their heads, why young adolescents may ask for a place to pray during school hours, or why some Muslim children may fear that other children will not like them. These fiction and nonfiction stories provide insight into the segregation and prejudice that Muslim children may face and the conflicts they encounter in Muslim cultures where radical Muslims call for violence.

REFERENCES Abdul-Ghafur, S. (Ed.). (2005). Living Islam outloud: American Muslim women speak. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Abdullah. (2007). Worldwide Muslim condemnation of terrorism. Retrieved from http:/ / Armstrong, K. (2006). Muhammad. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Aslan, R. (2005). No god but God: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam. New York, NY: Random House. Cleary, T. (2001). The wisdom of the Prophet: Sayings of Muhammad. Boston: Shambhala. The Holy Qur’an (10th edition) Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications. Hopfe, L.M. & Woodward, M. R. (2007). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Islam. (2007). Retrieved July 25, 2007 from islam.htm Lewis, B. E. (2009). Islam: The religion and the people. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School. Nation of Islam (2007). Retrieved on July 16, 2007 from Rogers, K., & Hickman, C. (2001). The Usborne Internet-linked encyclopedia of world religions. New York, NY: Scholastic. (I, M) Siddiqui, H. (2006). Being Muslim. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwork Books. Tate, S. (1997). Little x: Growing up in the Nation of Islam. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins.

Islam 193 Williams, P. W. (2002). America's religions: from their origins to the twenty-first century. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Yunus, M. (2003). Banker to the poor: The story of the Grameen Bank. London: Aurum. Zeitlin, I.M. (2007). The historical Muhammad. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Children’s Literature Cited Abdel-Fattah, R. (2005). Does my head look big in this? New York, NY: Orchard Books. (M) Brown, T. (2006). Salaam: A Muslim American boy’s story. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co. (P, I) Bunting, E. (2006). One green apple. New York, NY: Clarion Books. (P) Conover, S., & Crane, F. (2004). Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful signs (A treasury of Islamic wisdom for children and parents). Spokane, WA: Eastern Washington University Press. Demi. (2003). Muhammad. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. (I) Geyer, F. (2006). Saladin: The Muslim warrior who defends his people. Washington, DC: National Geographic. (M) Khan, A. K. (2003). What you will see inside a mosque. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths. (P, I) Khan, H. (2008). Night of the moon. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle books. (P, I) Khan, R. (1999). Muslim child: Understanding Islam through stories and poems. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman. (P, I) Mobin-Uddin, A. (2005). My name is Bilal. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill Press. (I) Stanley, D. (2002). Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (I, M)

Additional Children’s Literature About Islam Ali, N., with Minoui, D. (2010). I am Nujood, age 10 and divorced. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. (M) This story of a modern-day heroine will appeal to middle grade children and their sense of justice. Nujood, a Yemini Muslim girl, was given in marriage by the men in her family when she was only 10. Within a few months she made a daring escape from that violent marriage and attained a divorce, the first granted to a child in Yemen. Both Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretaries of State, recognized her for her bravery. Children will also learn that women’s rights may vary greatly within Muslim countries. The women in Nujood’s family are controlled by an authoritarian male tribal culture that view women as inferior. However, the male judges and Nujood’s female attorney, also Muslim, strongly support human rights and justice for all.

194 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Englar, M. (2006). Benazir Bhutto: Pakistani prime minister and activist. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books. (M) Benazir Bhutto, a Muslim woman, was twice selected to be prime minister of Pakistan in 1988 and 1993 and remained a popular figure among some Pakistanis even though she was exiled. She was assassinated in 2007, shortly after this biography was published, while campaigning again for the position of prime minister. Young people learn that a Muslim woman can be a world leader and remain faithful to Islam. Ghazi, S. H. (1996). Ramadan. New York, NY: Holiday House. (P, I) The book opens with the common Muslim greeting, “Assalamu alaijum!” meaning “May peace be upon you.” The illustrations of celestial bodies give visual emphasis to the contributions of Islam to astronomy and the Muslim tradition of following the lunar calendar. The celebration of Ramadan is told through the perspective of a young Muslim boy, Hakeem, including the rituals at his mosque, the food served to his family and his experiences at school. Ganeri, A. (2006). Islamic stories. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books Parables about how Allah’s message was given to the world through his angels and prophets are featured. Stories about Mohammad, Ishmael (son of Abraham) and Moses show the connections between Islam and Judaism. Also included is a helpful glossary and sidebars with “Did you know” facts about Islam. Stories and parables told by people of all faiths help make complicated messages about religion easier to understand. Hoyt-Goldsmith, D. (2002). Celebrating Ramadan. New York, NY: Holiday House. This book describes daily prayers, fasting, meals, reading of the Qur’an, and schooling of a Muslim family during the month of Ramadan. Through photographs and clearly written text, the reader learns, for example, about the steps of prayer and the Iftar meal (eaten to end the daily fast). Kyuchukov, H. (2004). My name was Hussein. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. (I) Hristo Kyuchukov describes events and prejudice that he personally experienced as a Muslim living in Bulgaria in the 1980s. In the story, Hussein, a young boy, describes celebrating Ramadan with his family. But conflict occurs when he and his family are told by government soldiers that they will not be allowed to go to the mosque. Hussein is also told he must change his name to a Christian name and be called “Harry.” In the end he asserts his identity and reminds readers that his real name is Hussein. Robert, N. B., & Adl, S. (2009). Ramadan moon. London, England: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. (P) This poetic, colorful book is based on the authors’ authentic experiences with Islamic cultures in Iran, Ghana, Egypt and England. The progress of the moon as it waxes and wanes is the theme that connects both the narrative and the illustrations about families celebrating the month-long experience of Ramadan.

Islam 195 Ruelle, K. G., & Desaix, D. D. (2009). The Grand Mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust. New York, NY: Holiday House. (I, M) The authors tell a little-known story about Muslim citizens during WW II who risked their lives protecting Jewish families at the Grand Mosque of Paris. Children will learn an exciting story about Muslim heroism and sacrifice, and kinship between people of different faiths. Through the illustrations, they will experience the colorful tiled interior and the beautiful gardens of the Grand Mosque. Rumford, J. (2001). Traveling man: The journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354. New York, NY: Houghton-Mifflin. (I) The world travels of Ibn Battuta, a little-known 14th-century Muslim and Moroccan scholar, can be compared to Marco Polo. In 1325 he began a 29-year odyssey exploring Africa, Asia, India and China and learned about the people and their beliefs. On each page, a portion of the text appears as a white narrow road crossing through colorful illustrations, many with Arabic and Chinese calligraphy. Translations, maps and a glossary make the wealth of information accessible to readers. Kindersley, D. (2005). Islam. London, England: DK Books. (I, M) This informational book is part of the Eyewitness series and includes hundreds of vivid photographs and drawings depicting mosques from many different countries and cultures, foods, Nomadic life, artwork, Arabic script, a Muslim boy demonstrating the stages of prayer, military armor, and many other illustrations of interest to children. It also depicts Muslim contributions to medicine and astronomy. Fascinating facts, questions and answers, and a timeline of the history of Islam are all highly useful reference features. Wolf, B. (2003). Coming to America: A Muslim story. New York, NY: Lee & Low. (I, M) Through colorful and engaging photographs and clear text, this book tells the story of one Egyptian Muslim family and their experiences assimilating into American society. Much of the focus is on the experiences of the children, especially 8-year old Rowan, at home, in school and in their neighborhood. The book also includes a description of the family going to and praying in a mosque in Manhattan.


SIKHISM You are me and I am you—what is the difference between us? We are like water and waves. —Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 93

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE As I enter the Sikh gurdwara I smell the delicious aroma of Indian food. Both men and women are busy in the kitchen preparing langar, the community meal that follows the service. I enter the main hall and join the worshippers, sitting on the floor on the women’s side of the room. Three musicians sit cross-legged on a slightly raised platform; a man wearing a white turban plays the jorri (two-sided drums), a little boy in shorts and blue turban plays a small percussion instrument, and a woman in colorful Punjabi garment plays the harmonium and sings Gurbani Sangeet, hymns extracted from the sacred writings in the Guru Granth Sahib. This holy book is kept on a throne next to the musicians and wrapped in exquisite cloths. During the service a man sits behind the Guru Granth Sahib, showing respect by periodically waving a woolen whisk, called a chauri, across it. As men, women, and children enter the room, they bow in front of the holy book, touch their foreheads to the carpet, move to their side of the room and join in the singing. Words to the hymns are projected in both Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 197–208 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


198 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Figure 11.1.

Sikh boys outside their gurdwara.

English and Gurmukhi script. Following the singing several people unveil the Guru Granth Sahib and read from it. Little girls circulate around the room proudly distributing paper napkins. An older gentleman follows with a large bowl. He dips his fingers into the bowl and gives each person a small handful of a sweet paste, Karah parsad, made of butter, sugar, and flour and parted with a small, ceremonial dagger called a kirpan. Accepting karah parsad signifies receiving sweetness and strength with humility. At the close of the service, the Guru Granth Sahib is held above the heads of the worshippers and carried through the hall and upstairs to a room where it is kept when not in use. Because this is a small gurdwara, the langar meal is enjoyed in the same room as the service. Families take turns preparing this traditional meal and serving it to members and guests. The woman sitting next to me is happy to share her Sikh faith. She tells me that by eating together on the floor, Sikhs are demonstrating that they are all the same. “Humility is number one in this religion. Without humility you will not attain God.”

Sikhism 199

HISTORY Founded approximately 500 years ago, Sikhism is the youngest of the major world religions. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born to Hindu parents in the Punjab region of what is now Pakistan in 1469 and died in 1539. According to Sikh writings, from his first day of school, Nanak told his family that the only learning he valued was learning about God. When he worked for the Muslim government as a young man, Nanak impressed his community with his diligence and wisdom (Breuilly, O’Brien, Palmer, & Marty, 2002). At age 30 he disappeared for 3 days. When he reappeared, he said, “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” indicating the beginning of a new religion that transcended the bounds of these two belief systems. Nanak’s teachings centered on three basic principles: Naam Japna (meditation on God), Kirat Karni (hard and honest work), and Vand Chakna (service to humanity) (Shackle & Mandair, 2005). The term guru is a combination of two short words: gu, meaning darkness, and ru, meaning light. Thus, a guru is one who leads others from spiritual darkness to light (Barrow, 2004; Keene, 1993). Guru Nanak lived during a time when Indian society was divided between Islamic and Hindu traditions. Nanak’s evolving faith incorporated the divine truths he found in both Hinduism and Islam, but with newer dimensions that surpassed the boundaries of religion, gender, caste, and social status. “His developing philosophy incorporated his appreciation for the Hindu virtue of compassion and the idea of equality promoted by Islam” (Hoffman, 2006, p. 21). At the same time, Sikhism was a reaction against what Guru Nanak perceived as formalization and external rituals of both religions (Breuilly et al., 2002). Nanak made four major journeys, traveling thousands of kilometers, to impart his message of compassion and equality of all people of all religions. He traveled east toward Bengal and Assam, south toward Ceylon, north toward Kashmir and Tibet, and west toward Baghdad and Mecca. As Guru Nanak traveled and taught, Mardana, a Muslim musician, accompanied him. Mardana composed raags, traditional Indian tunes, for the poetic holy words, gurbani, Guru Nanak spoke (Barrow, 2004). These verses continue to be sung in the traditional raags today. The following is an example of a raag translated into English: True in the primordial beginning. True throughout the ages. True here and now. Oh Nanak, forever and ever. (Siri Guru Granth Sahib, 1)

Before his death, Guru Nanak named his most faithful disciple, Lehna, to be his successor, Guru Angad. For just over 2 centuries, from 1499 to 1708, Sikhs were led by a total of 10 gurus. The gurus did not claim to be

200 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

divine leaders, but mortal men who were spiritually aware and desired to help their followers develop a clearer understanding of God (Hoffman, 2006). By the early 1600s Sikhism had grown and was considered a threat by the Muslim authorities. During the early 1600s a new Muslim emperor of the Punjab region did not support the Sikhs and wished to convert them to Islam. In 1606 Arjan Dev, the fifth guru, was the spiritual leader of the Sikhs. When he refused to renounce his beliefs and convert to Islam, he was tortured to death, becoming the first Sikh martyr. His son, Hargobind, the sixth guru, promoted the paths of meditation, physical activity and (in response to forced conversions) training in the use of weapons for defense. This was in concert with Guru Nanak’s stance for equality, liberty and justice. Guru Hargobind directed Sikhs to be saints and soldiers, to limit the use of weapons for the protection of the weak and as a last resort in cases of aggression. From the Sikh perspective, the Sikhs in the Punjab experienced hundreds of years of oppression under Islam, and Muslim-Sikh conflicts continue today. The tenth leader, Guru Gobind Singh was only 9 years old when his father also died as a martyr for his beliefs. Gobind Singh wrote in his autobiography that he supported moral law, the equality of all people, and the righteous defense of Sikhism (Hoffman, 2006). On a spring day in 1699, during the festival of Baisakhi, the tenth guru called for Sikhs to gather at his tent with beards and hair uncut. He stood before his followers in military dress and asked who among them would be willing to sacrifice their lives for their faith. After several minutes of silence, a man named Daya Ram stepped forward and walked into the tent with the guru walking behind him. A short time later Guru Gobind Singh returned, carrying a bloody sword and again asked, “Who is ready to die for his faith?” Four others came forward; one at a time, and the scene was repeated. Finally, the guru stepped out of the tent followed by the five men, all wearing saffron robes with blue sashes and saffron turbans. He baptized them with water in which sugar crystals (signifying sweetness) had been stirred with a clean sword (signifying strength) while reciting the sacred Gurbani. The five became the first to join the order of Khalsa, those belonging directly to the Supreme. Within days 50,000 more Sikhs joined the Khalsa and were baptized with the sweet water, known as amrit. They agreed to refrain from cutting their hair, using intoxicants, practicing polygamy or adultery, or eating meat obtained through cruel practices . Today, both men and women are baptized in the same way and become members of the Khalsa. When they join in the ceremony of amrit sanskar, Sikhs become members of the Khalsa, They commit themselves to wearing the 5Ks, items that symbolize Sikh teachings (Barrow, 2004). The Khalsa was important in fighting oppression under Islam.

Sikhism 201 Table 11.1.

Who Were the Gurus?

Traditional stories about the gurus are an important foundation of Sikhism. In Sikh Stories (2001) author Anita Ganeri conveys various Sikh beliefs through the dramatic and inspiring tales of these religious leaders. Text boxes labeled “Did you know?” include additional teachings, definitions, or clarification about story content. “The Milk and the Jasmine Flower” tells of a time when Guru Nanak and his companion Mardana arrived in the city of Multan. The people who lived there decided that they did not want to hear the teachings of a new spiritual teacher, so they devised a plan. They sent a messenger with a large bowl, brimming with milk. He told the newcomers that there were so many priests and holy men in the city that no more were needed. Then he offered Guru Nanak and Mardana the milk to drink. Instead, Guru Nanak picked a flower and floated it on top of the milk, saying that there was enough room for a tiny flower, just as there was room for his teachings within this community. When the holy men heard this message they welcomed the visitors to their city. Teachers might choose to read the stories aloud or tell them to younger students. Upper elementary students would enjoy learning to tell the stories with props. Students also might compare and contrast some of the stories with tales from other religions.

Table 11.2.

The Five Ks

The five Ks are five special things Khalsa members wear. 1. Kesh—uncut hair symbolizing God’s gifts and commitment to the path of the gurus 2. Kangha—hair comb symbolizing spiritual cleanliness 3. Kirpan—small sword symbolizing spiritual strength and justice 4. Kachh—short soldier trousers symbolizing readiness for action and discipline 5. Kara—steel wrist band symbolizing unity of God’s creation

Before his death in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh declared that there would be no more human gurus. From that time on, the holy book, the Granth Sahib, would be the guru, or highest religious authority (Mann, 2006). He declared that wherever the Guru Granth Sahib was found would be a place of worship, known as a gurdwara. Following World War II and the end of British control in India, Britain established two countries, India and Pakistan, which divided the Punjab region. A Sikh majority in the central region of the Punjab was able to restructure state boundaries and establish a new state of Punjab in 1966 (Mann, 2006). This was the first time in their 500-year history that the Sikhs comprised a very narrow political majority in their land of origin. A major source of conflict today between the Indian government and Sikhs is that the Sikhs desire to unite the Punjab region so that Sikhs are not split between a Hindu country (India) and a Muslim country (Pakistan). In 1984 Indian forces (Hindu) entered the Sikh Golden Temple on

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the pretext of killing a small number of militant Sikhs protecting the temple. The operation, termed Blue Star, ended with the deaths of thousands of Sikh pilgrims who had been visiting the temple. In retaliation, two Sikh members of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s security staff assassinated her in Delhi. This act set off a series of pogroms against Sikhs across India, in which thousands were killed and businesses and homes destroyed (Watch 1304 Asia & Human Rights Watch Staff, 1994). It was also during this time that many Sikhs emigrated to the United Kingdom, North America, East Africa, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where they could freely practice their religion and join small settlements begun in the early part of the century.

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES The word Sikh means “someone who learns” (Ganeri, 2006). Sikhism is a liberal, humanistic religion whose followers believe in treating all people equally. Sikhs believe in one God who created all that exists and who is present in everything. This presence or spiritual light of God is called “jot.” After a person dies, Sikhs believe the jot of that person returns to earth in another form of existence. The soul experiences a continual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The goal of humans is to lead a life of such truthfulness and virtue that after death one’s soul merges with God. The following beliefs, taught by the ten gurus, form the basis of the Sikh faith for individual followers: 1. There is one God, both immanent and transcendent. This is the same God for people of all religions. Union with God can be

Table 11.3.

Learning About the Sikh Faith

Joy Barrow’s Sikhism (2004), part of the World Religions series, provides rich photographs and clear, short segments of text appropriate for upper-elementary and middle school readers. The book begins with a biographical sketch written by a 23-year-old Sikh woman who lives with her family while studying dentistry in London. She is shown wearing a turban and playing the surangi. Her description of her daily rituals and the importance of Sikhism to her life may prompt students to continue reading and discover more about the world’s fifth largest religion. A unique feature of this book is the “debate” inserts, in which the author poses questions about a topic related to the main text. Two questions are “Do ceremonies help people to keep commitments?” and “Is it ever right to use violence?” Responses given in the text are thought-provoking and could lead to fruitful moral discussions about some serious contemporary issues.

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2. 3. 4. 5.

achieved through meditation on his divine name; purity of thoughts, deeds and actions; and serving creation. Reading and reflecting on the sacred scriptures should be a daily practice. Living a good life, making an honest living, and avoiding sin and temptation leads to salvation and union with God. Rituals such as fasting, pilgrimage, superstition, worshiping the dead, and idol worship are not permitted. People of all religions, cultures, and races are equal in the eyes of God. There is full equality of men and women, even in religious practice and ceremonies. One should love and serve others without expecting a reward (McLeod, 1989; Sandeep Singh Brar, 1998).

The corporate, or institutional, articles of faith are as follows: 1. Observe the Sikh code of conduct. 2. Seek spiritual wisdom in Guru Granth Sahib and temporal wisdom from Guru Panth (the Khalsa brotherhood). 3. Propagate the teachings of the Gurus to the world by being good examples of humility, love and service. 4. Accept with affection all of the human community and treat them with respect and sympathy. 5. Observe respectful and consistent practice with the gurdwaras of the world (McLeod, 1989). To live out their faith, Sikhs rise before dawn, wash, and then recite five morning prayers, either at home or in a gurdwara. Sikhs begin each day with a prayer, the Mul Mantra: There is only one God Whose name is Truth The Creator Without fear Without hate A timeless being, Beyond birth and death Self-existent Revealed only by the Guru’s grace.

The main reason Sikhs come to the gurdwara is to read from the Guru Granth Sahib (also known as the Adi Granth), the holy book of the Sikhs. Both men and women can read from the Guru Granth Sahib; however, large gurdwaras employ a granthi, who reads to the congregation. Written

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in the Gurmukhi script of the Punjabi language, the holy book contains wisdom from the Sikh gurus and Sufi and Hindu holy men (Mann, 2006). After prayers, the granthi (reader) selects a page at random and reads the passage on the top, left-hand side, which becomes the message for the day (Barrow, 2004; Chambers, 1996). Sikh parents consult the Guru Granth Sahib when naming their babies, by selecting a name that begins with the same letter as the first word of the day’s message on the day the baby is born. Sikhs may also return to the gurdwara in the evening for songs of praise and prayers. At the end of the day, the Guru Granth Sahib is wrapped in silk cloths called rumalas and carried to a special room where it is kept under a canopy on a throne of cushions. Upon entering the gurdwara, Sikhs bow in front of the Guru Granth Sahib to show their respect. Because the holy book must be maintained with proper respect and, if possible, kept in a separate room, some Sikhs do not have a copy of it at home. Instead, they may read from a gutka, a small book of readings (Chambers, 1996). Families in Western countries usually gather at the gurdwara on Sundays for prayers, reading, and songs. The communal meal (langar) is served to all present, regardless of their ability to contribute. Vegetarian foods are usually served, since many Sikhs do not eat meat or eggs. There are several symbols that hold special meaning for Sikhs. The Ik Onkar is a Sikh symbol meaning that there is one God. Sikhs fly flags called Nishan Sahbs outside gurdwaras; the flags display the Khanda symbol, showing a double-edged sword, a circle, and two other swords. The circle represents God’s constant presence, while the swords represent spiritual and temporal prowess, reminding Sikhs to be spiritual, yet stand up for the truth and help those in need. Generally, Sikhs practice their religion within their homes and communities. There is no requirement for pilgrimage, as there is in Islam. However, the city of Amritsar, located in northern India, is a special city for the world’s Sikhs. Five rivers meet within the city, forming a “pool of nectar” which, according to legend, brings health and longevity to those who bathe there. In Amristar, a musical instrument called the kirtan is played

Table 11.4. What Would you Find in a Sikh Gurdwara? Sikh Gurdwara (Kaur-Singh, 2005), part of the “Where We Worship” series is a good resource for teaching primary children about Sikh beliefs, symbols and places of worship. Colorful photographs show the inside of a gurdwara, eating Karah Prashad (a sweet pudding) and children wearing traditional garments and learning the Punjabi language. The sparse text in large font helps make this an accessible book for young readers. The glossary is very useful for the many new words associated with Sikhism.

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throughout the day, so that people may listen to it as they meditate on the peaceful balconies. The fourth guru purchased the land and excavated the pool of nectar. The fifth guru completed the temple within the pool and installed the first scripture of the Sikhs. The temple has doors on four sides, showing that all are welcome. HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS The gurpurbs are holidays that commemorate events in Sikh history, such as the births, deaths, and martyrdom of the gurus. The birth of the first Guru is the most significant gurpurb, followed by Baisakhi (the founding of the Khalsa order), the birth of the tenth Guru and martyrdom of the fifth and ninth gurus. When Sikhism was emerging, many followers continued to celebrate traditional Hindu holidays. When the third guru, Guru Amar Das, led the Sikhs, he suggested that on the days of the Hindu festivals of Diwali and Baisakh, followers come to visit him. Sikhs changed the holiday of Baisakh into their new year, designating it as a time to give thanks and honor the teachings of the gurus (Keene, 1993). Later, it evolved into a time to commemorate the founding of the Khalsa and to initiate new members into this brotherhood. Diwali is a festival of light to Sikhs as well as to Hindus. The lights in gurdwaras represent one’s inner light as well as the return of light in the natural world. It is celebrated in late October or November, depending on the lunar calendar. One Sikh legend associated with a holiday is about when Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru, was imprisoned with 52 Hindu prisoners. When the emperor agreed to free him, he asked that the other prisoners also be set free. The emperor said that he would free only as many as could cling to the guru’s cloak. The clever guru had a special cloak made with 52 long tassels, so that each man could hold a tassel on his way through the prison door. Hola Mahalla, meaning “attack or be attacked,” is a military festival in which Sikhs participate in mock battles, military drills, wrestling, and archery contests. Today it is mainly celebrated in India. These three festivals comprise the mela, or major festivals of the Sikh year (Keene, 1993). DEMOGRAPHICS Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion with approximately 23 million followers, of whom 18 million live in India (Barrow, 2004). Many Sikhs left their homeland in 1947 when the Punjab region was divided and fell under Pakistani control on one side and Indian control on the other. Most relocated to northern India, but some emigrated to North America and

206 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 11.5.

How do Sikhs Celebrate Holidays?

My Sikh Year (Senker, 2003) is a strong resource for teaching about Sikh celebrations. Designed for primary age children, this informative book includes excerpts from the diary of an eight-year-old Sikh boy describing the holidays celebrated by his British family. Lively pictures accompany the easy-to-read text. There is also a helpful section at the end of the book called “Notes for teachers.” These pages provide additional information about each page of the text ad includes a list of resources. For middle school students the chapter on Sikh celebrations in Festivals of the World (Breuilly et al., 2002) provides more depth into the origins of festivals, the Sikh calendar, and significance of certain rituals.

the United Kingdom, where they assisted with postwar recovery (Barrow, 2004). Today approximately 500,000 Sikhs reside in the United Kingdom, with 100,000 living in west London, the largest Sikh community outside India. Canada is home to 280,000 Sikhs, and the United States 150,000, most residing in California, New Mexico, and New York.

TEACHING ABOUT SIKHISM Teachers and students in public schools in the West may have limited knowledge of Sikh history, beliefs, and practices, leading to misunderstanding and sometimes stereotyping. Sikh children and adults are sometimes mistaken for Muslims or Hindus, probably because they wear modest clothing and cover their heads. Some Sikh parents may be willing to share their beliefs and practices with students. One mother of a kindergarten boy went to school with her child and unwound his turban, explaining to the children the reason why Sikhs do not cut their hair. It was important to this parent that the teacher and other children become aware of Sikh faith and practices. If families live in a community where there is a Sikh gurdwara, try to arrange a field trip so that children can see the Sikh flag, Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh instruments, and other significant objects of the Sikh religion and possibly participate in the community meal (langar). Having a member of the Sikh community explain their beliefs and the reasons for them will be more effective and meaningful than reading the information in books or on websites. Sikh (Chambers, 1996) contains several craft activities elementary children might enjoy. Using cardboard, newspaper, paints, cellophane, sequins, and aluminum foil children can create a jeweled mirror effect similar to that of the Harmandir, or Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, where the most valued writings of the Sikhs are stored. The book also con-

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tains a recipe for karah parsad (similar to pudding) that might make a good classroom or home cooking activity. Middle grade students might enjoy exploring some Sikh websites to read excerpts from the Guru Granth Sahib, comparing and contrasting the verses with teachings of other religions. For example, the website allows search of Gurbani through key words and quotations such as the following from the Shabad by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. The Lord of the Universe, the Support of the earth, has become Merciful; the rain is falling everywhere. He is Merciful to the meek, always Kind and Gentle; the Creator has brought cooling relief. He cherishes all His beings and creatures, as the mother cares for her children. (Guru Arjan Dev Ji, n.d.)

Another helpful website for teachers or mature students is, which includes an introduction to Sikhism, historical information, news related to Sikhs, and an active discussion board where questions are answered by Sikhs around the world. The website contains articles on various issues of Sikh philosophy, such as life, death, suffering, diet, and devotion. Middle school children might expand their perspectives by discussing religious diversity issues that have arisen in schools where Sikh students attend. For example, “Should there be exceptions to school rules, such as carrying knives, for religious reasons?” Students in some schools have been asked not to wear their kirpans (small symbolic swords) on school grounds. Joy Barrow’s Sikhism (2004) contains numerous questions designed to stimulate thought and debate.

REFERENCES Barrow, J. (2004). World religions: Sikhism. North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Whitecap Books. Breuilly, E., O’Brien, J., Palmer, M., & Marty, M. E. (Consulting Ed.). (2002). Festivals of the world. New York, NY: Checkmark Books. Guru Arjan Dev Ji. (n.d.). Raag Maajh on Pannaa 105. Retrieved from http:// Hoffman, N. (2006). Religions of the world: Sikhism. Farmington Hills, MN: Thomson Gale. Keene, M. (1993). Seekers after truth: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Mann, G. S. (2006). The Sikh community. In M. Juergensmeyer (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of global religions (pp. 41-50). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. McLeod, W. H. (1989). Who is a Sikh? The problem of Sikh identity. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

208 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Sandeep Singh Brar. (1998). Introduction to Sikhism. Retrieved from summary.htm Shackle, C., & Mandair, A. S. (2005). Teachings of the Sikh gurus: Selections from the Sikh scriptures. London, England: Routledge. Sri Gru Granth Sahib. (n.d.). Retrieved from .php?page=93&lang=en Watch 1304 Asia & Human Rights Watch Staff. (1994). Dead silence: The legacy of abuses in the Punjab. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch.

Children’s Literature Cited Barrow, J. (2004). World religions: Sikhism. North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Whitecap Books. (I, M) Breuilly, E., O’Brien, J., Palmer, M., & Marty, M. E. (Consulting Ed.). (2002). Festivals of the world. New York, NY: Checkmark Books. Ganeri, A. (2006). Sikh stories. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books. (P) Hoffman, N. (2006). Religions of the world: Sikhism. Farmington Hills, MN: Thomson Gale. (M) Kaur-Singh, K. (2005). Sikh gurdwara. London, England: Franklin Watts. Senker, C. (2003). My Sikh Year. London, England: Wayland.

Additional Children’s Literature Chambers, C. (1996). Beliefs and culture: Sikh. New York, NY: Grolier. (I) This colorful book provides activities and short interviews with Sikh children, along with factual information and photographs of Sikhs engaged in both worship and celebration. Activities include making a karah parsad, a traditional food, and creating a replica of the Sikh flag.


FREE THINKERS AND OTHER BELIEF SYSTEMS There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed. —Albert Einstein (Meltzer, 2008, p. 27)

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE When I entered the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship, it was hard to find a seat. About 80 people were present and were clearly anticipating the service entitled “Laughing Your Way to Grace” based on a book by Baptist minister Susan Sparks (2010). The fellowship had only a part-time minister so the service on this day was led by two lay members, a public school teacher and a college professor. A visiting guitarist supplied special music with humorous messages. We learned that humor is a part of all great world religions and is used by religious leaders of all faiths. During the service, gentle fun was poked at most denominations including Unitarian Universalists. An example was a joke about a yogi (Hindu or Buddhist spiritual practitioner): A yogi walks into a pizza parlor and says, “Make me one with everything.” When the service leaders shared Sparks’ childhood understanding of God as a combination of Walter Cronkite and Clint Eastwood, the room full of many former Catholics, Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources pp. 209–223 Copyright © 2011 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


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Protestants, and Jews laughed knowingly at that image. We learned that laughter was a spiritual healing tool and a path to greater spiritual meaning. In fact the message of the service encompassed a humorous take on one of the UU principles: “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

FREE THINKERS The broad category of free thinkers includes atheists, agnostics, and humanists (both secular and religious humanists). Free thinkers believe in being responsible for finding their own answers to important life questions, while maintaining responsibility for their actions. “The bottom line in free thought is this: You can think whatever you want, but to live in community with other human beings, you sometimes have to control your talk and behavior” (Kay, 2007, p. 190). Many free thinkers want to provide a home atmosphere in which children will be able to make their own decisions regarding religion. Parents may tell their children what they believe about important questions, such as “What happens to people after they die?” but expect children to think deeply about such questions as they get older and come to their own conclusions (McGowan, 2007).

Table 12.1.

Young Adult Fiction About Free Thinkers

Feathers (Woodson, 2007) is a gentle, poetic story of adolescent Frannie, her loving family, her doubts and fears, and her hope. Frannie’s mother, who has lost several babies, is pregnant again and the family is almost holding their breath in anticipation of the promise of a new life. Looking at a photograph of a baby sister who died, Frannie thinks “I don’t know if I believe in miracles. I think things happen and we need to believe in them” (p. 31). Frannie and her friend Samantha, whose father is a Christian minister, have several theological discussions. Samantha expresses the comfort she finds in being saved, so that she won’t have to worry about what will happen to her after death. Frannie replies that “once I die, I’ll be done and won’t be worrying anyway” (p. 76). Another time, Frannie reflects the view of many free-thinkers when she tells Samantha that she helps others not because of any religious convictions, but because it is the right thing to do. Peter Hautman’s Godless (2004) is a funny and fascinating trip into the evolving spiritual thoughts of 16-year-old Jason and his friends. Like many teens, Jason is questioning the religion of his parents, in this case, Catholicism. Lying on the ground after being knocked down by a school bully, Jason stares up at the long legs and silver belly of the town water tower. That moment is the beginning of a new religion: Chutengodianism, the worship of the water tower god. When attempting to convince his best friend to join his religion Jason points out that it makes more sense to worship a water tower than “an invisible, impalpable, formless entity” (p. 19). After much conflict with his father, Jason admits that he is an atheist, and his father reluctantly accepts his son’s position. While much of the book is humorous, there are also serious parallels to the way religions and cults are formed and some of the negative, as well as positive, ramifications of religion.

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Many people find meaning for their lives outside of traditional world religions. A recent study of 35,000 American adults, age 18 and older, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that 16.1% of those surveyed were not affiliated with any particular religion. About half of these individuals were affiliated with a religious tradition as children. The study also found that 44% of adults have either changed their religious affiliation or have become unaffiliated. Among young American adults, age 18-29, 25% are not affiliated with any religious group. Of these unaffiliated Americans, 1.6% identify as atheists and 2.4% identify as agnostics. The other 12.1% of the unaffiliated group classify themselves as either “secular unaffiliated” (6.3%) or “religiously unaffiliated” (5.8%). The first group reports that religion is not an important part of their lives, whereas the second group reports that religion is somewhat or very important to them (U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2008). Free thinkers believe in performing good deeds because it is the ethical thing to do and will help fellow humans and the earth. They believe that people must take responsibility for their own actions and not credit or blame a god, goddess or spiritual force for human behavior. Present life on earth is of more concern to free thinkers than an unknown future after death (Bennett, 2005). Physicist Albert Einstein, believed people should make ethical decisions not because of fear of punishment, but because it is the right thing to do. He admired the universe as revealed through science and did not believe there was any evidence of a soul or human immortality. Like Einstein, many free thinkers base their beliefs in the verification of science, and some reject the assertions of institutional religions. While there have been those who have denied the existence of one or many gods for thousands of years, the development of modern science influenced many toward atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. In addition to Einstein, other famous free thinkers with whom elementary and middle school students might be familiar are: • • • • •

Benjamin Franklin, inventor, author, and early American activist; Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist; Ernest Hemingway, author; Carl Sagan, astronomer and author; Isaac Asimov, scientist and author of many informational books for children; and • Gloria Steinem, author and women’s rights activist.

212 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 12.2.

Fiction About Free Thinkers

The Same Stuff as Stars (Paterson, 2002) is the bittersweet story of two children abandoned by their mother and taken in by an elderly great-grandmother. Eleven-year-old Angel is responsible for her little brother and knows how to avoid “trouble” from social workers and teachers. She begins to leave the house after the others are asleep and is befriended by an amateur astronomer she calls “star man.” Through their nightly meetings Angel learns about stars, galaxies, constellations and stories of long-ago that people invented to help them understand immensity of the cosmos. Shortly before his own death, star man explains that our bodies are made of the same stuff as stars and that when we die, we turn back into stardust. Blind Faith (Whittlinger, 2006) is a compelling story of 15-year-old Liz who finds herself torn between the beliefs of her parents. Liz’s mother, devastated by her own mother’s death, finds hope in a spiritualist church. But her newfound religion angers her husband who is still enraged by his own father’s hypocrisy. When Liz asks her father what he believes in he replies, “If I believe in anything, it would be nature—trees, clouds, rain—the life cycles” (p. 134). As Liz observes her parents and reflects on the deaths of her grandmother and nature, she ponders her own beliefs, concluding that she’s not sure if she believes in a God or not. A conversation with her best friend brings out other questions, such as “Why do you think we’re alive, anyway?” (p. 248). Blind Faith is a stimulating read for mature middle school students. From the opening pages of Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature (Brande, 2007), the reader knows that Mena has caused a ruckus within the fundamentalist Christian church her family attends. She begins her first week of high school with former church friends all angry with her. Adolescent predicaments add humor to the story when Mena is assigned to work on a project with Casey, a brilliant male science geek, who introduces her to The Lord of the Rings films. As they work together at his home every afternoon, Mena becomes friends with his family and joins Casey’s sister in writing a blog about fundamentalist views on evolution. The words of an outstanding science teacher will help young readers learn the difference between science and creationism. Teen readers might also take some tips from the characters about how to treat those who believe differently from themselves.

ATHEISTS The word “atheist” is derived from the Greek “atheos,” meaning without god(s) or a lack of belief in the existence of gods. The term has been used for centuries; in fact pagans called early Christians atheists because they did not believe in the many pagan gods of the time (Smith, 2000). According to the American Atheists website (n.d.), Atheism is a doctrine that states that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of this matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own. (Atheism, n.d.)

Free Thinkers and Other Belief Systems 213 Table 12.3.

Biographies of Free Thinkers

Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientists and free thinkers of modern times. Milton Meltzer’s brief, yet informative Albert Einstein: A Biography (2008), chronicles the life of the man who developed the theory of relativity while working as a technical expert in a patent office. Meltzer describes Einstein’s work as a seed that continued for many years to flower in various fields of science: space travel, nuclear physics, electronics, and other areas. Einstein was also a musician and a pacifist. As a teenager he denounced his German citizenship because of his loathing of the military regime that was taking over his native country prior to World War I. In 1921 he won the Nobel Prize in physics. In responding to the award, Einstein commented, “All I have tried is to ask a few questions” (p. 22). While this children’s biography does not discuss Einstein’s atheism directly, it does include the quotation at the beginning of this chapter and emphasizes his strong belief that scientists should have the freedom to inquire and to search for truth and knowledge through reason. Two recent biographies of Charles Darwin convey the life and work of one of the world’s greatest and most independent thinkers. Peter Sis’s The Tree of Life (2003) combines detailed drawings and maps with narrative and captions to create a new synergy. Graphics include a budget for Darwin’s yearly expenses while on the Beagle, a double page map detailing the 5-year voyage of the Beagle, replicas of the drawings from Darwin’s journal, and his daily schedule later in life. The most provocative illustration is a double-page foldout with writing in circles and swirls representing the public reaction to the publication of On the Origin of Species (Darwin, 1859). Sis points out, “Darwin did not say that God had not created life on earth. What he said was that creation did not happen all at once (unpaged).” His ideas shook the framework of conventional religious thought and spurred discussion and scientific research around the world. Darwin and Evolution for Kids (Lawson, 2003) is an excellent reference and activity book. Lawson begins by explaining that neither the theory of evolution and nor natural selection was new, but Darwin’s synthesis of the theories and compelling evidence was a revolutionary concept. She gives historical background on the Darwin family, especially Charles’ famous grandfather, Erasmus, a compassionate physician, who had developed a preliminary theory of evolution. Erasmus and his friends were also radical in their support of the American colonies, their opposition to slavery and their belief in religious freedom. Charles’ failures with the traditional education system of the time and the disappointments he caused his family are told with humor. Lawson explains Darwin’s travels and discoveries as well as the religious controversy over his writing. This might lead to a discussion of current issues and debates about religion and science, such as the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design in schools. The text is supplemented with sepia-colored drawings similar to the art of the early nineteenth century and includes 21 activities for individual children or a class. One activity is an experiment to see which seeds survive in salt water; another is for making geological strata using different types of soil, pebbles, crushed leaves, et cetera. Most of the activities are aimed at helping students become astute observers of nature, as was Darwin.

Atheists are independent thinkers; their members do not comprise a religion, although many atheists are part of the American Atheists Organization. They believe in human potential and that each person must find his or her inner convictions and strength, without depending on religion. Atheists would like better understanding between people, and an end to war, disease, and poverty (Atheism, n.d.). They also feel strongly that public schools

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are for all students, not just religious students. Many atheists do not want their children learning religious music, participating in plays about a religious holiday or attending a school event (such as a concert or baccalaureate) in a church. Atheist families do not pray and are especially sensitive to group prayer and religious observations in schools (illegal practices that still occur in some public school classrooms). Some atheists do not want their children exposed to the prayers of others (American Atheists, n.d.). The increasing acceptance of religious diversity often does not extend to atheists. “In today’s United States, atheism is the least acceptable minority position” (Gaylor, 2007, p. 140). A favorability survey conducted by sociologists at the University of Minnesota and published in 2006 found that atheists ranked below Muslims, gays and lesbians, and other minority groups and factions that do not share the vision for American society of those who participated in the survey (Gaylor, 2007). While a generally negative position toward atheists was found in this U.S. survey, attitudes toward atheists may vary in other countries. AGNOSTICS Agnostics are uncertain about the evidence for the existence of God. Agnosticism is not a religion, but rather a concept or position. There are many answers to the question: “Does God exist?” For that reason, there is wide diversity of beliefs among those who call themselves agnostics. HUMANISTS “Humanism is a progressive life stance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity” (Definitions of

Table 12.4.

Informational Book on Humanism

Humanism, What’s That? (Bennett, 2005) is based on a story about a teacher and her class of curious kids. A member of the class is in a serious accident and one of the students asks if they can pray for their friend so God will make her well. The teacher replies that the student may pray by himself, but they cannot pray as a class. She explains the reason based on the U.S. Constitution’s assurance of separation of church and state. In addition, there are students of many religions attending the school, as well as atheists, agnostics, and humanists. This leads to many questions from the students about humanism. With parental permission, the students who are interested in Humanism stay after school for a discussion group. The remainder of the book is the dialogue that takes place between teacher and students during these sessions. The topics addressed are the history of Humanism, famous Humanists, afterlife, what Humanists think about God and how Humanists interpret the Bible. The final section has poems about Humanism written by students in the group.

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Humanism, n.d.). Those who espouse humanism believe that we are only certain of having one life and that we should make it the best possible life for ourselves and others on earth. Humanists believe that people should be free to think for themselves, use their reason and the findings of history and science to make the world a better place. They believe they are responsible for their own lives and enjoy seeking answers to life’s great questions (Definitions of Humanism, n.d.). The word “humanism” comes from “humane,” meaning kind. Humanists believe in being good to other humans and caring for all living things and our planet. Some humanists consider humanity to be a substitute for God (Hubbard, Hatfield, & Santucci, 2007). Other humanists believe in God, but many feel that the idea of God is one that people invented long ago when attempting to explain nature. Some humanists, including the philosopher Spinoza, believe in pantheism, the idea that God is in everything. Many humanists, like Spinoza (who was a Jew) were banned from their religious communities for having radical beliefs (Bennett, 2005). Another common characteristic is that most humanists are open to tolerant views and religious beliefs different from their own. DEISTS Deists believe that God created the world, but that humanity is responsible for its own destiny (Hubbard et al., 2007). This philosophy strongly influenced many of the founders of the United States, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.

TRADITIONS THAT DRAW FROM MANY RELIGIONS Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion, drawing on the beliefs of many faith traditions. Individuals within Unitarian Universalism may identify themselves as Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic, or Pagan. This is a liberal faith, supporting each person’s search for truth and meaning, without requiring members to subscribe to a creed or statement of beliefs (Beliefs Within Our Faith, 2007). The roots of Unitarianism are found within Christianity. During the first three centuries after Jesus lived, a variety of beliefs were accepted. Among them were Christians who believed in the unity of God (Unitarians), as opposed to the Trinitarian position. There were also Christians who believed that a loving God would condemn no one and that all would be saved (Universalists). After the Nicene Creed was accepted in 325 C.E.,

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there were fewer choices within Christianity and the church hierarchy began persecuting those who professed Unitarian or Universalist beliefs (Harris, 1998). Persecution of non-Christians continued until the mid1500s, when the influence of the Protestant Reformation reached Transylvania. John Sigismund, the first and only Unitarian king, was in power during that period of history. His court preacher, Frances David, finding no biblical evidence for the Trinity, converted to Unitarianism, and Unitarian congregations flourished and continue to thrive in what is now Romania (Harris, 1998). Over time, Unitarians stressed the importance of rational thinking, personal relationships with God, and Jesus as a human teacher. Although many individuals had shared these beliefs, they did not coalesce as a religion until the 1500s in Transylvania and the 1600s in England. The first Unitarian church in the United States was formed by scientist Joseph Priestly, who fled England because of his beliefs (Hubbard et al., 2007). Unitarianism burgeoned during the first century after the founding of the United States. There have been three Unitarian presidents: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and William Howard Taft. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Revere, William Ellery Channing, Joseph Priestly and many other writers, artists, and politicians were also Unitarians. The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825 as a vehicle for ministers and members to speak out on issues such as prison reform, orphanages, capital punishment, and assistance to the poor (Unitarianism, 2007). Universalism is a Christian belief in universal salvation. Universalists believe that a loving God could not punish people to spend eternity in

Table 12.5.

Biographies of Famous Unitarian Universalists

Because of their roles in the founding of the United States and commitment to social justice, Unitarian Universalists are highlighted in many biographies for children and adolescents. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a tireless advocate of women’s right to vote, is the subject of both You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? (Fritz, 1996) and The Ballot Box (McCully, 1999). The first book, for upper elementary readers, is a comprehensive account of Stanton’s life, beginning in childhood, describing her marriage to Henry Stanton, life with their seven children, and her growing “mental hunger.” The majority of the book is devoted to Stanton’s meetings with other women reformers, the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments advocating the Rights of Women, her eloquent lectures, and along with Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and others, her fight for the Nineteenth Amendment. The Ballot Box is a picture book biography for younger readers. McCully describes Cordelia, a fictional young girl who lives next door to 65-year-old Mrs. Stanton. The famous woman tells Cordelia stories of her own childhood, her father’s devastation over her brother’s death, and his rejection of her efforts to be as courageous as a boy. Through these stories, Cordelia gains the gumption to jump her horse, accompany Mrs. Stanton to the polls, and confront the taunting boys who chant, “No votes for pea-brained females.”

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hell, but that all will be eventually reconciled with God. Although Universalist beliefs have been present for almost two millennia, it was not until English Universalists came to America that the church gained popularity and became widespread in rural areas and on the frontier. Many Universalists have been prominent in American history, including Clara Barton, Horace Greeley, and Benjamin Rush. Universalists were active in promoting public education and social issues, such as the separation of church and state, prison reform, abolition of slavery, abolition of capital punishment, and women’s rights. They were the first denomination to ordain a woman minister, Olympia Brown, in 1863. Over the years Unitarians and Universalists became increasingly close theologically and merged in 1961, forming the new religion of Unitarian Universalism (Universalism, 2007). Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay people have long been advocates social and political justice. Unitarians Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the fight for women’s suffrage. During the civil rights movement, many Unitarian Universalists participated in campaigns to register African American voters in the south. More Unitarian Universalist ministers marched to Selma than from any other denomination (Leonard, 2001). Today, many Unitarian Universalist congregations actively support the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. There are seven principles agreed upon by the Unitarian Universalist Association of the United States: • The inherent worth and dignity of every person; • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. There are 1,041 Unitarian Universalist congregations within the United States, with a total of 162,477 adult members. There are 350,374 Unitarian Universalists worldwide, with the greatest numbers in Transylvania, India, and Great Britain (Kosmin, Mayer, & Keysar, 2001; Religious Groupings, 2000). Individuals within Unitarian-Universalist congregations are encouraged to develop their own theologies, sometimes supported by group

218 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources Table 12.6. Unitarian Universalist Values Portrayed in Children’s Literature Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher is written by Unitarian Universalist religious education teacher Lynn Tuttle Gurney (2007). In this small format picture book for young children, the author describes Jesus as a kind and wise teacher who expresses his message of love through stories called parables. The book emphasizes that Jesus’ memory was carried on by his followers who spread his message throughout the world. The author explains that some people say Jesus was resurrected and that he is the son of God. The final page summarizes the position of many Unitarian Universalists: “We celebrate the life of Jesus by trying to live as he did, with full hearts, loving words, and kind actions” (p. 27). Following the children’s story there are quotations from the Bible that parents and teachers can use for further reading. This would be an excellent book to use to introduce the life and teachings of Jesus to children who are not Christian. The Everything Seed: A Story of Beginnings (Martignacco, 2005) braids together a spiritual creation story with scientific evidence of an ongoing and ever developing universe. Artist Joy Troyer created sacred images of spirals; seeds; the elements of fire water, air, and earth; and the turtle from the Native American tradition in boldly colored batik artwork set against a stark, black background. The swirling, unfolding images convey the power, immensity, and marvel of creation. This book is appropriate for teaching about Unitarian Universalism because it is a religion that draws from many sources, including humanism, science, earth-based traditions, and the transcending mystery and wonder affirmed by many cultures (Buehrens & Church, 1998). The teachings of these traditions are all reflected in this poetic, contemporary myth. Hide and Seek with God (Moore, 1994) is a collection of short stories that bring to light the many concepts of God: parent, creator, forgiver, all that is good, spirit, great mystery, and many more. Each story attempts to answer questions children might have about their own or others’ concepts of the divine. The implications of the book are that it is good to explore these ideas and to respect all religious beliefs. In Playing War (Beckwith, 2005) a group of elementary age boys and one girl decide to play war, a game that all but Sameer, a new child in the neighborhood, have played before. On the second day of the game Sameer tells them he doesn’t want to play and reveals that he is living with his uncle in the United States because he lost his own family in a far-off, but very real, war. This book could lead to a fruitful discussion about the impact of war on children and the Unitarian Universalist goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. Two environmental books reflect the Unitarian Universalist interest in actively protecting our world and all its inhabitants. Saving Birds: Heroes around the World (Salmansohn & Kress, 2003), an Audubon book tells how heroic scientists and local people have begun to bring back birds that were near extinction in six places around the world. Endnotes provide resources for information about the projects and the species of birds written about in the book. Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea (Montgomery, 2006) is a modern day adventure story in which scientists and local explorers trek through the steep mountains of an isolated paradise to save an endangered species. Numerous photographs and engaging writing style gives readers the felling that they are part of the scientific team.

study led by a minister or layperson. Members of this faith strive to be tolerant of the beliefs of others, and like other free thinkers, they believe in the authority of each individual’s reason and conscience. Religious com-

Free Thinkers and Other Belief Systems 219

munity, mutual support, and ethical living are other values of import to Unitarian Universalists (Buehrens & Church, 1998).

BAHÁ’ÍS Bahá’ís. Founded in Persia in the early nineteenth century, the Bahá’í faith is considered to be the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Bahá’ís believe that survival of the world depends on breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, lead to a unified, global society. In 1844 a young man, known as the Báb, predicted the arrival of a new Messenger of God in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad. That messenger was Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the founder of the Bahá’ís, whose mission was to bring to reality the peace and justice promised in Islam, Judaism, Christianity and other world religions. According to Bahá’u’lláh, “Let your vision be world embracing” (The Bahá’í Faith, 2008). Although Bahá’u’lláh’s message was one of peace, unity and the oneness of humanity, he was viewed as a threat to the Islamic political and religious leaders at the time, and he and his followers were often persecuted and jailed (Hatcher, 1980). The Bahá’ís have thrived, despite persecution that still exists, and they now encompass a worldwide community of some five million believers who represent most of the nations and cultures on earth. Their headquar-

Table 12.7.

The Baha’i Faith Through the Eyes of Children

Bahá’í Faith written using images and words to make the beliefs of Bahá’ís accessible to young children. This overview of the Bahá’í faith features two children who live on a farm in England. The history and beliefs of their Bahá’í faith is told through the experiences of the children in the context of their family, community and celebration of holy days (Vickers, 1992). In Maggie Celebrates Ayyam-i-Ha (2000), author Pattie Tomarelli describes the week of Ayyám-i-Há through the experiences of Maggie, a young Bahá’í girl who enthusiastically welcomes the dawn, bakes cookies for elderly friends, and uses her own money to purchase peanut butter and birdseed to make bird feeders. Ayyám-i-Há is a time of spiritual preparation which extends from February 25 to March l, preceding a month of fasting which ends on Naw-Rúz, the Bahá’í New Year. In The Ayyám-i-Há Camel (Holt-Fortin, 1989), two young Bahá’í children, Amin and Leili, struggle with being different from other children who are celebrating Christmas. In order to help Amin with his disappointment over Santa not coming, his family invents a story about a camel that comes during Ayyám-i-Há and brings gifts. They point out that the camel story fits better with Bahá’í origins in the Middle East. Amin and Leili are told that just like Santa doesn’t exist, the camel doesn’t exist but that both represent charity and the spirit of giving.

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ters, the Bahá’í World Centre, is located in Haifa, Israel. The first temple, built in southeast Russia in 1938, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1962. Today, temples are found throughout the world in Uganda, Australia, Panama, Western Samoa, Germany, New Delhi, and the United States in Wilmette, Illinois, overlooking Lake Michigan. All of the temples have nine sides and a central dome and represent a gathering place for both spiritual and humanitarian needs. These houses of worship are open to people of all religions, and services often include words and music from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Bahá’í, and other spiritual sources. Services are based on the following principles: • All humanity is one family; • Women and men are equal; • All prejudice—racial, religious, national, or economic—is destructive and must be overcome; • We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions. • Science and religion are in harmony; • Our economic problems are linked to spiritual problems; • The family and its unity are very important; • There is one God; • All major religions come from God; and • World peace is the crying need of our time. The Bahá’í believe that each person has an eternal soul, and these principles encourage Bahá’ís to strive for high moral standards that include service to others, pure motives, and work as a form of worship. They forbid drinking alcohol, gambling, abusing drugs, gossip, and participation in partisan politics. On a practical level, they advocate the development of a universal language that is not aligned with any political entity. Many adult Bahá’ís participate in daily prayer and fasting for 19 days from sunup to sundown once a year just before the Bahá’í New Year, NawRúz, which is celebrated on March 21. One of the most important Bahá’í festivals is called Ridvan and is celebrated from April 21 to May 2. Ridvan is Arabic for paradise and commemorates the 12 days in 1863 that Bahá’u’lláh spent in the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad. It is there he announced that he was the most recent in line of God’s Messengers. The one-world focus of the Bahá’í faith is considered a political threat to some people in the Middle East, especially in Iran. An inspirational, but tragic play that tells the true story of one teenage girl who stands up for her Bahá’í beliefs is Mark Perry’s A Dress for Mona (2002). Bahá’í

Free Thinkers and Other Belief Systems 221

beliefs about unifying all of the people of the world and worldwide service are echoed in the goals of the United Nations. In recent years the Bahá’í, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and many other faith-based groups, have been very involved in the UN relief efforts and support for refugees in the Sudan and Darfur. Famous Bahá’ís who may be familiar or of interest to elementary and middle school students include David Kelly, former UN weapons inspector and Nobel Prize nominee; poet Ogden Nash; and Cathy Freeman, Aboriginal Australian and running star of the 2000 Summer Olympics (Famous Bahá’ís, 2005). Bahá’ís are a fast-growing religious group, with approximately seven million adherents worldwide and an estimated 119,000 in the United States, with a 200% increase in members between 1990 and 2000 (List of Major World Religions).

TEACHING ABOUT OTHER BELIEF SYSTEMS In many cultures it can be challenging to help children understand that there are people who have belief systems not based on religion or who advocate that no one religion is best. However, children should know that there are both religious and humanist belief systems that motivate people to make the world a better place. Teachers and families can use biographies and autobiographies to help children become aware of people from other belief systems who have made important contributions. These include people from other belief systems who have advanced the causes of democracy (John Adams), science (Albert Einstein), medicine (Clara Barton), literature (Ogden Nash), and human rights (Gloria Steinem). Famous atheist include John Lennon, Woody Allen, Fidel Castro, and Bill Gates. Another strategy could be to look at humanitarian efforts by various groups and individuals throughout history and in times of crises. Although many religious groups sponsor missions that have brought food, education, medicine, and shelter to people around the world, most also bring spiritual messages that encourage the people they serve to join their church. However, there are members of spiritual groups who provide humanitarian relief and stand up for human rights but do not promote a specific religious creed. Children can learn, for example, that a white Unitarian Universalist minister, James Reeb, lost his life standing up for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, and that the Bahå’ís work closely with the United Nations in troubled parts of the world promoting world peace and respect for all spiritual beliefs (United Nations, 2006).

222 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Bahá’ís, Unitarian Universalists, and Humanists all advocate respect for different perspectives and solving conflict in peaceful ways, both characteristics that families and teachers want to instill in children. One story that promotes these ideals is Dragon Soup (Williams, 1996), the story of a young Asian girl named Tonlu. Her family is in danger of losing their farm to a local merchant unless they can raise a substantial sum as payment. Tonlu decides to climb beyond the mountains to find the dragons in the sky that have a stash of jewels and pearls. When she tries to take one of the pearls, the dragons wake up, and much to her surprise, instead of threatening to eat her, they want her to decide which of them makes the best soup. Tonlu tastes both soups and thinks about how both she and the dragons can win. She announces “Mixed together, they make the most delightful soup I have ever tasted.” The story, which uses fantasy to promote human reasoning and conflict resolution, may also be used to suggest that no one belief is better than another, but when mixed together, we create something new and more satisfying.

REFERENCES American Atheists. (n.d.). Retrieved from Atheism. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Bahá’í Faith. (2008). Retrieved from Beliefs Within our Faith. (2007). Retrieved from /beliefswithin/index.shtml Buehrens, J. A., & Church, F. (1998). A chosen faith. Boston, MA: Beacon. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species. London, England: John Murray. Definitions of Humanism. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.americanhumanist .org/humanism/humanismdefinitions.php. Famous Bahá’ís. (2005). Retrieved from Gaylor, A. L. (2007). What your kids won’t learn in school. In D. McGowan (Ed.), Parenting beyond belief (pp. 140-147). New York, NY: Amacon. Harris, M. W. (1998). Unitarian Universalist origins of our historic faith [Brochure]. Boston, MA: Beacon. Hatcher, J. (1980). Ali’s dream: The story of Bahá’u’lláh. Oxford, England: George Ronald. (M) Hubbard, B. J., Hatfield, J. T., & Santucci, J. A. (2007). America’s religions: An educator’s guide to beliefs and practices. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press. Kay, R. E. (2007). Thoughts on raising a curious, creative, freethinking child. In D. McGowan (Ed.), Parenting beyond belief (pp. 186-191). New York, NY: Amacon. Kosmin, B. A., Mayer, E., & Keysar, A. (2001). American Religious Identity Survey. Retrieved from Leonard, R. D. (2002). Call to Selma. Boston, MA: Skinner House. List of Major World Religions. (2007). Retrieved from

Free Thinkers and Other Belief Systems 223 McGowan, D. (Ed.). (2007). Parenting beyond belief. New York, NY: Amacon. Perry, M. (2002). A dress for Mona. Shoreham, VT: Discover Writing Press. Religious Groupings. (2000). Full U. S. report. Retrieved from http://www.glenmary .org/grc/RCMS_2000/findings.htm Smith, G. H. (2000). Why atheism? Amherst, New York, NY: Prometheus Books. Sparks, S. (2010). Laugh your way to grace: Reclaiming the spiritual power of humor. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths. Unitarianism. (2007). Retrieved from United Nations. (2006). UN News Centre. Retrieved from Universalism. (2007). Retrieved from .shtml U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. (2008). Retrieved from http://religions

Children’s Literature Cited Beckwith, K. (2005). Playing war. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House. (P) Bennett, H. (2005). Humanism, what’s that? New York, NY: Prometheus. (I, M) Fritz, J. (1995). You want women to vote, Lizzie Stanton? New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (I) Gunney, L. T. (2007). Meet Jesus: The life and lessons of a beloved teacher. Boston, MA: Beacon. (P, I) Hautman, P. (2004). Godless. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. (M) Holt-Fortin, C. (1989). The Ayyám-Há camel. Los Angeles, CA: Kalimát Press. (I) Lawson, K. (2003). Darwin and evolution for kids. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press. (I, M) Martignacco, C. (2005). The everything seed: A story of beginnings. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press. (P, I) McCully, E. A. (1999). The ballot box. New York, NY: Alfred Knopf. (P) Meltzer, M. (2008). Albert Einstein. New York, NY: Holiday House. (I) Montgomery, S. (2006). Quest for the tree kangaroo: An expedition to the cloud forest of New Guinea. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Moore, M. A. (1994). Hide and seek with God. Boston, MA: Skinner House. (P, I) Paterson, K. (2002). The same stuff as stars. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (I) Salmansohn, S., & Kress, S. W. (2003). Saving birds: Heroes around the world. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House. (I, M) Sis, P. (2003). The tree of life. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books. (I) Tomarelli, P. R. (2000). Maggie celebrates Ayyám-i-Há. Evanston, IL: Bellwood Press. (P, I) Vickers, P. (1992). Bahá’í Faith. Oxford, England: Oneworld. (I) Williams, A. (1996). Dragon soup. Tiburon, CA: Starseed Press. (I) Whittlinger, E. (2006). Blind faith. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. (M) Woodson, J. (2007). Feathers. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (M)

APPENDIX A Types of Protestants

Denominations based on United States with other names in parenthesis (adapted from Hubbard, Hatfield, & Santucci, 2007, pp. 71-73). • Adventist (Seventh-day Adventists; Jehovah’s Witnesses): Adventists believe that they must prepare for the end of the world which will occur in the near future, and that they need to spread the message of Jesus Christ to everyone. Jehovah’s Witnesses require members to have allegiance to the Kingdom of Christ, not to governments. • Baptist (Christian Church; Disciples of Christ; Southern Baptist): Baptists believe in the Bible, religious freedom, personal conscience, and that one must voluntarily come to baptism as an adult. • Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist): Christian scientists believe that when human beings yield to God, sin and sickness can be overcome; therefore, medical solutions for physical illness are usually not sought. • Communal (Amana Community; Amish; Shakers; Hutterites): Communal societies believe in submitting to the Will of God, living

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226 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

a simple, self-sufficient life in communal groups, and avoiding modern conflicts, including military service. Episcopal (Anglican Church in Canada and England): Episcopalians believe in the Bible, tradition and reason. The Book of Common Prayer contains the major doctrines and guidelines for worship. Evangelical-Fundamentalist (Plymouth Brethren; Independent Bible Churches; Vineyard Ministries): Evangelicals believe that salvation is through a personal experience with Jesus Christ, the Bible is inerrant, and the return of Christ is imminent. They follow strict ethical practices and avoid modern culture. Holiness (Church of the Nazarene; Churches of God): Holiness members reject worldliness and believe in a strict code of behavior. They believe that after being born again one grows in grace until perfected in holiness or sanctification. Liberal (American Ethical Union; Unitarian Universalists): Liberal Protestants believe that human intelligence can create a better world and diverse spiritual and religious views should be tolerated. Lutheran (American Lutheran Church; Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Wisconsin Synod; Evangelical Lutheran Church): Lutherans believe that salvation is by the grace of God through faith alone and cannot be earned. They also believe that Christ is everywhere. Methodist (United Methodists: African Methodist Episcopal; Salvation Army): Methodists believe that all people can receive the grace of God. They believe in direct religious experience and service to those in need. Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints): Mormons believe in latter-day prophets, such as Joseph Smith their founder and the successive presidents of the Mormon Church. The Book of Mormon published in 1830 is equal in status to the Bible. Pentecostal-Charismatic (Assemblies of God; Church of God): Pentecostals believe in a personal ecstatic experience of the Holy Spirit; manifestations of Holy Spirit through speaking in tongues and healing; biblical inerrancy; and the imminent return of Christ. Radical Reformed (Mennonites; Quakers): Mennonites and other Anabaptists believe in adult baptism; opposition to taking oaths; military service, or holding public office; strict separation from the state; strict adherence to the Bible; and the fellowship of believers. Quakers avoid church organization and doctrines. They believe that God is a presence within every person.

Appendix A 227

• Reformed—Presbyterian (Presbyterian): Presbyterians believe that humans are sinful and saved only by God, who chooses those he wants for eternal life; faith and a good life are the fruits of salvation. Presbyterians are the largest group of the Reformed branch of Christianity. • Reformed—Other (United Church of Christ; Huguenot; Congregational; Reformed Churches in the Netherlands; Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa; Church of Christ; Disciples of Christ): Reformed members believe that God is at present in all parts of life —spiritual, physical and intellectual, and that events are part of God’s plan. They believe that salvation is not achieved but that God alone determines salvation. The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are more liberal examples while the Church of Christ is more conservative. • Protestantism in Canada: The major Protestant church in Canada after the Anglican Church is the United Church of Canada (UCC), a union of the Methodist Church, the Congregationalist Union, a majority of Presbyterians, the General Council of Union Churches, and the Evangelical United Brethren.

REFERENCE Hubbard, B., Hatfield, J., & Santucci, J. (2007). America’s religious beliefs and practices. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

APPENDIX B PBS Lesson Plans About Religion


An Introduction to Islam and Muhammad Source: Islam: Empire of Faith Compare the three main monotheistic belief systems of the world, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and create a chart showing conclusions. Explore the religion of Islam, major events in the life of Muhammad and the Arabian peninsula. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion; World History: 300-1000 C.E.


Anamalai: Hinduism and the Elephant Source: The Living Edens Examine the basics of the Hindu religion and the significance of the elephant as a creature of rebirth and renewal for Hindu people. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Cultural Studies: Asian Studies; Religion

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Art in the Muslim World Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Explore basic elements of Islamic art, and learn about the origin and styles of the specific art of Islamic calligraphy. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies, The Arts Topics: Cultural Studies: Middle Eastern Studies; Religion; Visual Arts


Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La: Buddhism and Ecology Source: The Living Edens Describe Buddhist beliefs and ecological principles, examine the allegory of the Four Harmonious Friends and its ideas of interdependence in and human respect for nature and compare current American culture’s attitude toward ecology. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Science & Tech, Social Studies Topics: Ecology; Cultural Studies: Asian Studies; Religion


Bhutan: An Environmental Plan Source: The Living Edens Identify the types of environmental pressures a country such as Bhutan might face, discuss how Bhutan’s Buddhist heritage has contributed to its attitudes toward environmental preservation and devise a long-range environmental plan for Bhutan. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Science & Tech, Social Studies Topics: Ecology; Religion


Creating a Textile Museum Piece From the Islamic Empire Source: Islam: Empire of Faith Consider the importance of the textile industry and symbolic representations of life existing in the Islam religion in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Create a drawing and museum description of an Islamic textile piece from the height of the Empire. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies, The Arts Topics: Religion; World History: 1000-1500 C.E.; Visual Arts

Appendix B 231


Earth, the Universe and Culture Source: WPSU: Swift: Eyes through Time Determine the cultural nature of scientific research by exploring famous scientists, their national origins, culture, theories and scientific points of view. Examine how geography, culture and gender affect scientists’ work. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Science & Tech, Social Studies Topics: Scientific Inquiry; Scientists and Engineers; Religion; Sociology


Faith-Based Initiatives: Separation of Church and State Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Examine the Bush administration’s stance regarding faithbased initiatives and charitable choice with respect to the recent issue of the Ten Commandments monument placed in front of an Alabama courthouse. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Civics: Current Events/Issues, United States Government; Religion


Freedom to Worship Source: Destination America Investigate the conditions and difficulties facing immigrants who sought religious freedom in the United States throughout history. Explore the issues facing members of one religious group and create a letter that might have been written by one of them. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Immigration; Religion


Great Thinkers and Accomplishments of Islam Fact Cubes Source: Islam: Empire of Faith Research several aspects and accomplishments of great Islamic scholars in the fields of science, art, architecture, philosophy, writing, astronomy and math. Create a Great Thinkers and Accomplishments of Islam Fact Cube.

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Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion 11.

How Many Wives? Source: Global Connections Explore different perspectives on Quranic verses relating to polygamy and research the era and culture in which the Quran was written. Identify factors that contribute to stereotyping of women in Islam. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Cultural Studies: 6-8 Eastern Studies; Religion


Is God Green? Religion and the Environment Source: Moyers on America Investigate the significant political influence that conservative evangelical Christians have exerted in the past. Examine how division among evangelicals over the environment could impact their future influence on U.S. politics. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Science & Tech, Social Studies Topics: Ecology; Civics: United States Government; Religion


Islam in America Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Explore some of the religious and cultural variations within Islam, as well as the relation of Muslims to members of other religious groups. Create graphic presentations to better inform community members about the Muslim community in America. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Civics: Community and Citizenship; Religion


Lesson 2: Tombs and the Afterlife Source: Egypt’s Golden Empire Investigate the concept of the afterlife, the significance of tombs to the ancient Egyptians and the burial customs and tra-

Appendix B 233

ditions of the ancient Egyptians. Design and create a model of a tomb, explaining its design and contents. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion; World History: 4000-1000 B.C.E. 15.

Lesson 5: Architectural Marvels Source: Egypt’s Golden Empire Investigate the structure, function and art of the pyramids, temples and obelisks of ancient Egypt. Design and create a model of a pyramid, temple or obelisk. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Science & Tech, Social Studies Topics: Engineering; Religion; World History: 4000-1000 B.C.E.


Muslims Source: Frontline Explore stereotypes and myths surrounding Muslims and Islam. Compare and contrast conflicts between the secular culture of particular Arabic countries and Muslim religious practices, and explore how those conflicts are addressed. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Cultural Studies: 6-8 Eastern Studies; Religion; Sociology


New Orleans—History Source: American Experience Research answers to questions about the origins of Mardi Gras around the world. Explore first-hand accounts of survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and consider how it would feel to lose all one’s possessions. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Health & Fitness, Social Studies Topics: Mental/Emotional Health; Anthropology/Cultures; Religion


Qur’an: Sacred Scripture of Islam Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam

234 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Learn about the Qur’an and its rich history of promoting learning and providing Muslims with guidance in their lives. Examine the advancements in ethics, mathematics and astronomy made by early Muslim scholars. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Cultural Studies: Middle Eastern Studies; Religion 19.

Ramadan Observance Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Investigate the traditions and spiritual aspects of Ramadan. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion


Religion and the First Amendment Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Learn about Muslim prayer practices, look at rituals associated with Ramadan and explore a controversy involving Muslim burial practices. Explore a dispute involving the First Amendment in relation to the rights of U.S. followers of Islam. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Civics: United States Government; Religion


Religion in Politics and Daily Life Source: The Roman Empire in the First Century Examine various aspects of religion in ancient Rome, and present information on one topic. Compare Roman attitudes toward religion with today’s separation of church and state. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion; World History: 1000 B.C.E.-300 C.E.


Religion, Culture, and Diversity Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Compare various religions and explore the tensions associated with religious and cultural differences in the United States. Identify ways religion is embedded in everyday life.

Appendix B 235

Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Anthropology/Cultures; Sociology; Religion 23.

Renaissance Man Comparison Poster Source: Islam: Empire of Faith Define the term “Renaissance man.” Learn about the Sultan Suleiman and another Renaissance character, make comparisons between the two and determine what characteristics of the two men qualify them to be called “Renaissance Men.” Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion; World History: 1000-1500 C.E.


Salat: Prayer in Muslim Life Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Examine the role of prayer in the lives of Muslims. Learn about the centrality of salat, or worship conducted five times daily, in the Islamic faith. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion


Scholarship and Learning in Islam Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Learn what a madrasah is, and discover the role of the Qur’an in Muslim education. Examine the significant contributions that Muslims have made to science and mathematics. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Cultural Studies: Middle Eastern Studies; Religion


The Fascinating World of Islam Source: Islam: Empire of Faith Explore and research the Islamic culture and the people, places and events that have shaped the history of the religion. Create an ABC book of Islam, and share it with peers or display it in a local library.

236 Religious Diversity and Children’s Literature: Strategies and Resources

Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion 27.

The Five Pillars of Islam Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Explain the meaning of each of the Five Pillars of Islam. Compare and contrast the Five Pillars of Islam with the duties of other religions. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion


The Hajj: Journey to Mecca Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Explore the specific ritual activities of the Hajj and their historic relevance and importance to Islam. Compare and contrast rituals in events similar to the Hajj. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion


The Queen of Sheba Source: In Search of Myths and Heroes Explore the story of the Queen of Sheba, and compare the legend across cultures. Research primary sources and create a project on the story of the Queen of Sheba and how the story is passed on in cultural and religious teachings. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Reading & Language Arts, Social Studies Topics: Mythology; Cultural Studies: African Studies; Geography; Religion


The Search for Shangri-La Source: In Search of Myths and Heroes Explore the idea of “paradise” and different cultural interpretations of it, beginning with the myth of Shambala. Research one of the world’s holy places, and compare its characteristics with those of Shangri-La.

Appendix B 237

Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Reading & Language Arts, Social Studies Topics: Mythology; Geography; Religion 31.

The Shakers Source: Ken Burns American Stories Investigate how the Shakers’ values and ideology shaped their communal habits and describe how the artifacts they produced continue to influence our ideals of beauty. Understand how the search for utopia has influenced the American dream. Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12 Subjects: Social Studies, The Arts Topics: Religion; Sociology; Architecture; Visual Arts


Traditions and Transformations Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Learn about Jewish culture as a living, changing tradition. Relate Judaism to traditions in one’s own life. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies, The Arts Topics: Religion; Music


Women in Islam Source: Thirteen/WNET: Access Islam Explore basic beliefs and practices of Islam. Examine Muslim women’s roles in Islam and modern American society, and compare women’s rights in Islam with the history of women’s rights in the United States. Grade Level: 6-8 Subjects: Social Studies Topics: Religion; Womens Studies

Printed with permission from Lesson plans retrieved from http: //

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Connie Green, PhD, is a professor in the Reading and Birth through Kindergarten programs at Appalachian State University. For the past 26 years she has worked with graduate and undergraduate teacher education programs. Her research interests include religion in education, teachers’ understanding of immigration, and emergent literacy in home and school settings. A former early childhood and elementary teacher, Connie is also the author of The Lydia Year: Leaning from Pre-Kindergarten Children in Rural Appalachia and coauthor of Developing Partnerships With Families Through Children’s Literature. Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf is a professor in curriculum and instruction at Appalachian State University. Prior to coming Appalachian State, she was a professor at the University of Montana-Western and coordinator of the Indian Teacher Education Program. She taught for 9 years in elementary and secondary social studies and language arts in the Illinois public schools. She currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in social studies education. Her research interests and publications encompass the marginalization of elementary social studies, religion in the schools and the curriculum, and K-12 social studies curriculum development.