Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids
Learning about other religions is an important of a world cultures curriculum, but one religion I did not know much about growing up was Sikhism. That is why I was so pleased to receive some beautiful books on Sikhism for kids, which prompted me to deepen my own understanding of this egalitarian, inclusive religion.
When my oldest son was very young, some friends and I had a chance to visit a local Sikh temple with our little ones. It is was an experience I’ll never forget! We were shown such kindness from everyone we met, and I was impressed with their dedication to serving others, as exemplified in the meal that was provided to everyone who attended. Since I was there with a three year old, I didn’t have a chance to really ask questions, and so was left wondering exactly what Sikhs believed and where their traditions had come from. Why do the men wear turbans, and why do they keep their hair so long? Do they believe in one god or many? Why do they all seem to have the same last names?
If you or your children have similar questions, here are great resources on Sikhism for kids that you can share.
Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
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A great place to start is this overview which outlines 10 things everyone should know about Sikhism, including the fact that it is an inclusive, pluralistic religion whose members have a long history of fighting for social justice. You can also get a good overview from the Sikhism Guide online or from the BBC website.
I really love the Khalsa Kids website. (Khalsa is the word for the Sikh community). This site is geared towards Sikh kids, but has one section devoted to explaining Sikhism and another just for teachers. These even include lesson plans and aids for classroom discussions. You really get the sense that Sikhs spend a lot of their time having to answer questions about themselves!
Your kids will enjoy this brief video introduction to Sikhism from Little Sikhs (be sure to check out their other resources as well!)
And now for those beautiful books I mentioned! I am grateful to the lovely Saffron Press for sharing them with me. All three are from author Navjot Kaur but with different illustrators, all of whose paintings compliment the text of each book in wonderfully distinct ways. (Side note: the author’s last name of Kaur is the female equivalent of the last name Singh. All Sikhs have one of these two last names – Singh for males, Kaur for females – to demonstrate their belief in total equality, a revolutionary idea when it was founded in 15th century India, steeped in the hierarchical caste system. Traditionally, last names were an easy way to find out what caste a person belonged to).
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As of this writing none of the books below is readily available from Amazon; however, you can find them all on the Saffron Press website.
The Garden of Peace is a lushly illustrated book about the origins of Sikhism, using the allegory of planting a garden from seeds that no one thought would sprout. Each seed represents a central tenet of the Sikh faith, such as kindness or determination. Despite the opposition of the evil emperor and his warriors, the little seeds grow into a beautiful garden of peace, tended by a growing number of faithful followers who come from all walks of life. At the back of the book are instructions to grow your own garden of peace by, for example, planting kindness and believing in yourself. I also appreciated the extended author’s note, which gives a detailed history of the origins of Sikhism and how Sikhs today carry on this tradition of peace and service to all.
The award-winning book A Lion’s Mane focuses on the most visible marker of a follower of the Sikh faith – the turban. It explores the meanings of this “lion’s mane” by traveling around the world to connect this Sikh tradition to beliefs about lions in different cultures. For example, Richard the Lionheart of England had many brave knights, and being a Sikh also means having courage. The underlying theme of the book is that although the boy in the book may look different, the turban that looks so “strange” is precisely what connects him to others around the world, and, more to the point, each of us has something that makes us special: “I have a lion’s mane and I am different, just like you!” Don’t miss the curriculum guide that the author has created to accompany this conversation-sparking book.
Dreams of Hope is a gentle bedtime story told by a father to his young daughter. “Where will our dream journey begin tonight, Little One?” His words travel with her as she flies through dreams to visit the nighttime creatures settling down to sleep in the meadow, on the mountaintop, and in the ocean. The text is sprinkled throughout with Panjabi words, explained in a glossary at the back, including the mantra Vaa hey guroo, which is used by Sikhs as “an expression of awe or wonder.” This gorgeous book is clearly meant to be a keepsake, as it contains space for you to write down your dreams and wishes for your child. It also includes a Dreams of Hope Travel Guide with drawings of peace monuments around the world.