Border talk;Secondary;Reviews;Books;Religious education;Features and arts

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
FROM START TO FINISH SERIES: My Life as a Muslim. My Life as a Hindu. My Life as a Sikh. My Life as a Jew. My Life as a Christian. By Trevor Guy, Sue Mizon and Paul Morgan. Dref Wen. Pupil books pound;4.25 each; Christianity pound;6.99; teacher's guide pound;10. In Welsh and English.

Although the same law and regulations for religious education apply to England and Wales, the Welsh element is not always sufficiently appreciated in England - the English tend to equate themselves with the British and forget the others. Consequently, many of the settings for RE textbooks are English cities.

Dref Wen's bilingual series is a good reminder that despite stereotyping, Welsh Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians can share a common Welsh accent and language.

In these short books for upper key stage 2 RE, linked to the BBC TV and radio series Practising Belief, we see the faces and read comments by young people of different religions.

The emphasis is on explaining what the religion means to them and how it impacts on their daily lives. Short quotes are interspersed with good colour photos and "Things to Do and Think About" sections.

Each text is introduced by a large-type major prayer or mantra from the featured religion. The overall effect is to make the religions look attractive and "relevant", to use a much abused word. The teacher's guide makes specific references to the TV and radio programmes, but some of its content disappoints: its claim that unlike a belief, "a fact can be proven to be true", is a very simplistic view.

The actual information supplied on Gandhi does not much enhance an understanding of Hinduism. The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is developed without the slightest note of Biblical, cultural or interpretative clues to complement the literalist view of the child interviewed. It's certainly not "fact" as this book defines it, nor is most of Jesus's life by this definition of "fact".

Teacher's guide apart, I enjoyed this lively and vibrant series. It should be compulsory reading for those tempted to reduce Welsh religion to mere nostalgia or the distant sound of bass voices singing "Cwm Rhondda" in a valley chapel.

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