Getting to grips with God and others

31st March 2006 at 01:00
SPECIAL PEOPLE; SPECIAL TIMES; STORIES ABOUT GOD. Edited by Joyce Mackley. pound;7.90 each.

RE IDEAS: CHRISTIANITY. Pamela Draycott, Lat Blaylock and Rachel Barker. Pounds 34.90

Both from Christian Education Publications.

Paul Noble reviews two new wide-ranging resources for RE studies

With commendable application, Christian Education sticks to its commitment to be "an ecumenical educational charity committed to the teaching of the major world faiths", in Joyce Mackley's three 32-page volumes. But each book still manages to encompass five faiths, making it possible to dip into them as fits your Agreed Syllabus. If there are some schools out there who still try to teach all five, we can only pray for them.

Good teaching ideas are sprinkled throughout. I liked the link to art and artists in Stories, the way approaches are differentiated for younger and older juniors and the succinct explanations of important doctrinal points for teachers. The presentation is dull, though, with text-heavy pages and uninspired design (orange and fading peach?). The stories never sparkle, in spite of the liberal use of that writer's substitute for steroids, exclamation marks.

Special Times has a neatly collated list of useful websites on the inside-back cover and Special People educates you about Swedish Greek Cypriot Steven Demetre Georgiou - knowledge that could help you to win at Trivial Pursuit.

When open, the RE Ideas ring-binder reminded me of those well-scrubbed smiling ladies who always seem to be on hand to direct you around cathedrals - precise and plain but not without elegance. Although it places most emphasis on reflection and focusing children's thoughts on difficult ideas, it also provides a good examination of key elements of the Christian tradition. Some of the worksheets are more suitable for a slightly older age group but, as a source of teaching ideas, it's a worthwhile purchase. I didn't like the clinical listing system used (3.4.b. and so on) and there is unnecessary jargon - whoever dreamt up "guided visualisation activity"?

Moreover, it is difficult to warm to a book so suffused with self-conscious apologetic statements ("Christians call this the Old Testament") and where Christians are referred to as if they were a lost tribe discovered by anthropologists.

But look beyond my textual caveats and judge whether the tome fulfils its promise to "deliver quality RE" (as the bread van delivers Hovis, I presume). I found some tasty crumbs rather than manna from Heaven.

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