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Books on religion

Children's books about religion and spirituality


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As religious diversity in North America increases, there is a growing belief that every educated person needs to have at least a simple understanding of the great variety of beliefs and practices taught by the world's major religions.

However, there are impediments:

  • Public schools often avoid educating students about religion. Some mistakenly assume that the principle of separation of church and state means that they must not discuss religion at all.

  • Private religious schools often confine their teaching to only a single religion, or only a single faith tradition within one religion. Even worse, some teach that other religions are defective and even Satanic.

Many people reach adulthood being only familiar with their own particular religious or spiritual path, whether it be Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Hinduism, Humanist, Mormon, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, etc.

Some suggest that religious diversity can be taught to children in the form of special books geared to their specific interests and needs, and to their growing understanding of English. A variety of books are listed below: comparative religion books about the world's great faiths, books about Christianity,  religions, multicultural books, and books on such topics as religious diversity, justice, oppression, etc.


Books comparing world religions:

Many publishers give a recommended grade range for their books. To estimate the age range, add five to the grade.

  • Tim Baker, Kate Etue, "Xt4j: Why So Many Gods?" Nelson Reference, (2002). The book describes 100 faith groups, ranging from world religions, secular world views, etc from a heavily biased, conservative Christian perspective. The authors are up front with their position. In the second paragraph of the book, they write: "In this book we're going to take the position that [conservative] Christianity is the only true religion." In a section at the end of each chapter, called "The Trick," the authors attempt to prove each religion other than their own to be illogical. Intended for teens. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  • Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien, Martin E. Marty (Editor), Martin Palmer, "Religions of the World: The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions & Festivals," Checkmark Books, (1997). The School Library Journal describes this book as a "superb overview of 10 major faiths." It is divided into three sections: the main Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the Vedic faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), and other major traditions (Shinto, Taoism, Sikhism, and Baha'i). "The history, development, ways of worship, and celebrations are given for each....the writing is scholarly, lucid, and nonpartisan." For ages 12 and higher. Read reviews or order this book.

  • Anita Ganeri & Marcus Braybrooke, "Religions Explained: A beginners guide to world faiths," Henry Holt, (1997). The book gives an overview of many religions, including ancient religions (from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Mexico, Peru, and Scandinavia); the "People of the Book" (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam); religions of India, China, and Japan; the "spirit religions" (of North and South America, Africa, and Australasia) and relatively new religions (Rastafarianism, Baha'i, Hare Krishna, Mennonite, Mormon, the Unification Church, and New Age). "The text is clear and maintains respectful objectivity." For ages 9 to 12. Read reviews or order this book.

  • Marc Gellman & Jos. A. Smith (Illustrator), "How Do You Spell God?," William Morrow, (1995). The book describes Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, "...with appreciation, liveliness, and humor in a direct, conversational style that eschews both contractions and big words..." It describes how each religion answers basic questions: How should we live?, What happens to us after we die?, Why does bad stuff happen to good folks?, How can we talk to God? For ages 11 to 14. Read reviews or order this book

  • Jennnifer Glossop and John Mantha, "Kids Book of World Religion," Kids Can Press, (2003). The American Library Association review states: "The coverage is more broad than deep, as one might expect in an overview, but there is still good information here. The book begins with a chapter of questions and answers. What is religion? Is there a God? Can I talk to God? Does everyone believe in God? among others. The material then divides by location: religions from the Middle East, from East Asia, from other areas around the globe. ... Young students may find this a starting place for reports, but they will need more information to build on." For grades 3 to 6. Read reviews or order this book

  • Virginia Hamilton & Barry Moser (Illustrator), "In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World," Harcout Paperbacks, (Reprinted 1991). "Twenty-five creation myths from such diverse cultures as China, Tahiti, Micronesia, and Australia." For ages 4 to 8. Read reviews or order this book

  • Bobbie Kalman, "What is Religion?," Crabtree Publishing (2009). Amazon.com review: "Religion is the belief in a power greater than oneself. Many people call this power God. This insightful book introduces children to the world's great religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Chinese traditional religion, Native American Indigenous beliefs, and non-religious spirituality. It looks at the origins, special heroes and teachers, basic beliefs, sacred texts and symbols, ways of worship, special days, rituals, works of art, and places of worship associated with each religion. The book also highlights the basic principles of religions such as truth, kindness, acceptance, peace, and love. Learning similar aspects of religions, such as prayer, worship, ritual, and celebration, helps foster greater understanding and respect. For ages 6 to 9. Read reviews or order this book

  • Mary Pope Osborne, "One World, Many Religions," Knopf Books for Young Readers, (1996). An "...overview of the world's major religions..." focusing on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The author covers each religion's history, main figures, current status, traditions, and rituals. For ages 9 to 12. Read reviews or order this book

  • Erika Weihs, Betsy Maestro & Giulio Maestro (Illustrator), "The Story of Religion," Clarion Books, (1996). This is an inclusive book, covering from the animistic beliefs of early tribal religions, to the Pagan religions of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, to contemporary religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. She explains the development of religious beliefs in a manner that can be understood by fairly young children. For ages 7 to 9. Read reviews or order this book

  • Lisa Sita, Beth Steinhorn (Ed.) & Bruce S. Glassman (Ed.),  "Worlds of Belief: Religion and Spirituality ," Blackbirch Marketing, (1995). This is one book in the "Our Human Family" series, which "focuses on the aspects of life that are common to all cultures." The book examines recreation, education and religious practices in each of five broad geographic areas, worldwide. For ages 9 to 12. Read reviews or order this book


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Bible based books:

  • Rabbi Marc Gellman & Harry Bliss (Illustrator), "And God Cried, Too : A Kid's Book of Healing and Hope," HarperTrophy, (2002). A young angel-in-training is mentored by an experienced angel. Together, they try to understand issues like: why 911 happened, why a pet died, why God works miracles, etc. For ages 9 to 12. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  • August Gold & Matthew J. Perlman, "Where does God Live?" Skylight Paths Publ., (2001). A little girl asks this question of her parents, and finds God through they eyes of her heart. For ages 3 to 6. Read reviews or order this book

  • Jan Karon & Robert Gantt Steele (Illustrator), "The Trellis and the Seed: A Book of Encouragement for All Ages," Viking Press, (2003). This is a gently told parable of patience and faith. It describes the journey of a single seed which becomes a fully grown, beautiful plant. The book contains many allusions to biblical verses. Read reviews or order this book

  • Mark Water, Diana Shimon (Illustrator), "The Pilgrim Book of Bible Stories," United Church Press, (2003). This book features the great biblical stories told in inclusive language when referring to God and humanity. Ages 9 to 12. Read reviews or order this book

  • Margaret Silf, "100 Wisdom Stories from Around the World," United Church Press, A hundred stories are grouped by topic: The Created Universe; Human Relationships; Rites of Passage; A World in Pieces; Suffering, Healing, Growth; The Journey to the True Self; The Road to Transformation; and The Dream Fulfilled. They are taken from "a wide range of time periods and cultures around the world," and reflect Christian values. Suitable for children and adults. Read reviews or order this book

Multicultural books:

  • Sophia Lyon Fahs, Patricia Hoertdoerfer, & Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge (Illustrator), "From Long Ago and Many Lands," Skinner House, (1995). Twenty classic fables from many eras and cultures "illuminate themes" that are "key to a child's religious development." As an aid for parents and teachers, lesson plans, discussion questions and age-appropriate activities are included. For ages 4 to 8. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  • Mary Ann Moore, "Hide-and-Seek With God," Skinner House, (2003). Twenty nine tales directed to four-to-eight-year-olds. "God comes alive in a variety of multicultural, non-sexist forms—as transcendent mystery, the mother and father of life, peace and silence, light and darkness, and more. Perfect for exploring the religious questions of curious youngsters." For ages 4 to 8. Read reviews or order this book

  • Jeanette Ross, "Telling Our Tales: Stories and Storytelling for All Ages," Skinner House, (2002). A collection of thirty-eight traditional and original tales "from around the world reveals the connection between people of all cultures, and explores classic themes of creation, action and consequence, heroism and romance." Read reviews or order this book

  • book cover image Rev. Reenie Panzini, "The Brightest Twon: an interfaith holiday story." Reverend (Irene) Reenie Panzini is an Interfaith Minister. She celebrates all religions and sees the beauty and connection in all faiths. Her book talks about a teacher -- Miss Carrie -- and her young students learning about the similarities that exist among their beliefs and holiday traditions. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

Books on diversity, justice, inequality, discrimination, etc:

  • Christopher Buice, "A Bucketful of Dreams," Skinner House, (1995). A collection of 18 original parables on topics such as diversity, justice, faith and empowerment. Suitable for all ages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  • Melissa Hayden, "Diversity County, USA" This is a children's book about love, tolerance and respect of others who are different. It is written at a third grade reading level, and exposes children to different races, religions, body shapes, lifestyles, handicaps and the need to embrace these differences, instead of bullying others. See: http://sites.google.com/

  • Kathyrn Reid, Ken Hawkley, "Children Together: Teaching girls and boys to value themselves and each other," United Church Press. The book teaches children about inequality and discrimination. It helps them learn to value themselves and others for what they are. See the United Church Press at: http://www.unitedchurchpress.com

  • Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams, LeUyen Pham (illustrator), "God's Dream," Candlewick Press, (2008). Publishers Weekly states: "This is not a book to win converts, but a wide range of believers, including children at the younger end of the target audience, should respond to its heartfelt appeals, Ages 2-8." Read reviews or order this book. Quotes from the book:
    • "God dreams that every one of us will see that we are all brothers and sisters-yes, even you and me-even if we have different mommies and daddies or live in different faraway lands."
    • "God does not force us to be friends or to love one another.... But when we say we're sorry and forgive one another, we wipe away our tears and God's tears, too."

Books for parents and teachers:


Another source:

Another source might be the Unitarian Universalist Association. This is the central organization of Unitarian Universalism, a very liberal religion whose religious education courses for children involve comparative religion classes which study all of the major world religions. Their bookstore is at: http://www.uua.org/bookstore/  That page has links to children's books, religious education books and youth/young adult books.


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Copyright © 2004 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-MAR-29
Latest update: 2011-AUG-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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