Seen through children's eyes

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Alison Seaman reviews books exploring Britain's multicultural society

Talking About My Faith series

I am Buddhist

I am Christian

I am Hindu

I am Jewish

I am Muslim

I am Sikh

By Cath Senker Franklin Watts pound;12.99 each

Communities in Britain series

African Caribbeans in Britain

Hindus in Britain

Jews in Britain

Kurds in Britain

Muslims in Britain

Sikhs in Britain

By Fiona Macdonald

Franklin Watts pound;12.99 each

All world faiths are diverse in belief and practice, and it is impossible to reflect this in one book. In this latest series, the author focuses on one family living in the UK from each of the major traditions, and explores their religious life and beliefs. The hub of each book is a child, aged about eight or nine, talking about themselves and their faith.

It is a familiar format in publishing for primary RE.

Using clear photographs, accompanied by small amounts of text, the reader is introduced to the child and his or her interests, then to the family and their cultural background.

Having set the scene with these introductions, the beliefs and practices of the child's faith are explored.

Similar themes are followed throughout the series, for example, beliefs, food and clothing, religious festivals, worship, special people and places.

The text is written from the child's perspective; it is his or her voice that narrates the book. Additional information is given in colourful text boxes that accompany the photographs on each page.

These are, first and foremost, information books that help pupils learn about religious traditions from the experience of one family from a religious community. They are well written in clear simple language with appropriate photos. Each book has a glossary of terms and a list of websites where children and teachers can find further information.

In this series featuring different religious and cultural groups in Britain, Fiona Macdonald explores some of the communities that have helped make Britain the multicultural society it is today.

Each book in the series follows a similar structure, giving information about beliefs, values and culture, and the impact of these on everyday life. Context is given to the story of each community, with a brief history of arrival and settling in Britain.

Throughout each book, however, emphasis is placed on the contribution of women and men from each community to contemporary life in Britain. Information about each theme is presented in short blocks of text with photos and illustrations accompanied by clear captions. The books are made more interesting by the use of quotations from children and adults.

There are also short vignettes giving people's experiences and highlighting their contribution to British society through work, entertainment and the arts. Some of these examples challenge cultural and religious stereotypes and provide good discussion-starters for pupils exploring multicultural and multifaith issues in RE and citizenship in upper key stage 2 and lower KS3.

The glossary and further information sections of each book are useful in helping pupils research each subject in greater depth.

The series does not shy away from tackling some challenging issues. Each book has a section entitled Threats and Problems, which discusses some of the tensions and conflicts experienced by minority communities in Britain.

These are complex issues and the books raise some important examples for pupils to explore. The reader is encouraged to empathise with the experience of both individuals and groups from each community as they try to keep their culture, faith and languages alive while fulfilling their role as British citizens.

Alison Seaman is a freelance education consultant

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