Thursday, December 19, 2013

Books for Your Skeptical Children

atheist theist parenting secular parenting humanist
!<-- --="" addthis="" begin="" button="">

In today's media-FLOODED world, there is no way to control all of the information, claims, and enticements that reach our children. The culture in America is so saturated in Christianity that the claims of that religion are couched in daily life in such a way that they are presented as normal and factual. I clearly remember Elizabeth as a young girl struggling to discern the reason for mentions of GOD in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our money, and in other public places. Right near our home was a billboard with hideous hideous imagery as well as references to God; driving past the sign daily always started conversation about the subject matter of the billboard (abortion) as well as about the belief system that backed the billboard.

As a parent I realized that the best thing that I could do for my children was to provide tools to them for considering information and for thinking about claims:  to arm them with the tools of critical thinking.  That way, rather than getting my dander up every single time we were confronted with these images and messages, we could have a conversation where the kids could come to their own conclusions about the claims. 

So it helped ME to deliver critical thinking skills to my kids because I no longer felt all bunged up about the messages that they were being inundated with. Instead I could see my children's minds working, trying to make sense of these messages when they were based on claims that didn't really hold water when one really thinks about them and I learned to trust my own kids and their ability to see through propaganda.

The following list is just a small portion of the books that used to be on my bookshelves when the kids were smaller.  I spent hours and hours and hours looking for great reading material for them.  I'll save you the time and shortcut you.  Start here and then add titles that go in the direction that interests you.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No by Dan Barker is a great place to begin with the reading.  It is a thoughtful and relaxed book that looks at claims and replies with tremendous wisdom and trust in critical thinking well, maybe yes, maybe no...  You will find yourself better able to respond to questions in Dan Barker's very calm, comforting, and questioning tone.  You will begin to trust the process.

I Wonder by Annika Harris is for the youngest ones. It is an enchanting read full of the wonder and profoundness of questioning...  This book assures our babies that the world, indeed our universe, is a wonderfully beautiful place and our questions about it are ways to enlarge our appreciation for this place where we live.  Embrace the wonder and true beauty of our world.

A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg is a short story for upper elementary school or so about a young girl who has a family who no longer wants to celebrate Christmas.  This book is a great start for a conversation about the reason for the season and a good start to conversations that might help your family figure out how you want to celebrate the holiday.

Our Evolution Tree:  An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters is full of great illustrations as well as laying the foundation for evolution.  Even if your children are learning other creation myths (*in fact, I recommend learning as many creation myths as possible!) the evolution story will be there, silently making sense and standing out as reasonable.

Life on Earth:  The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins goes further in the evolution saga and introduces Charles Darwin.  I remember the kids pouring over the images in this book!

Older than the Stars by Karen Fox gives a wonderful synopsis of the Big Bang as well as celebrating how our own existence is a result of this event as well as years of evolution.  It is celebratory and exuberant, just what your child will enjoy! Who doesn't love being thought of as Star Stuff?!  This book might be more for an older child (7+) as it has far fewer pics and illustrations than other titles.

What Do You Believe? by DK is a fantastic comparative study of religions and philosophies for the older child.  I strongly urge the reading and studying of various religions and doctrines.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes a freethinker faster than this type of study.  This book, some other book, doesn't matter as long as your children do learn about the beliefs that others find plausible.

Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong by Dan Barker.  While we are looking at books for the slightly older child, this particular book is one of my favorites.  Using a Socratic method. the children in the book have conversations that look at a variety of claims.  Reading through these dialogs is enlightening as well as informative, especially if you are still wondering how to attack a claim or wondering which questions to ask.

Born With a Bang:  The Universe Tells our Cosmic Story, Book 1 by Jennifer Morgan is the beginning of an incandescent story that is gripping and exciting and delightful to read.  Read to your kindergarten child, explaining to them as you read, and prove that it is never too early to read really good science drama!  Remember, your children are very capable of learning complex concepts, even in their earlier years.  Respect that and read great titles whenever possible!

Raising Freethinkers:  A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief by Dan McGowan was THE to go book for me years ago when I was just starting out with this secular parenting...thing. I haven't read it in awhile, though I have read criticism for it lately, but I do remember feeling as though I had finally found what I was looking for!

Awkward Moments Not Found In Your Average Children's Bible by Horace Gilgamesh. I have not read this book, but I'm going to!  The same with An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossari.

I recently heard Peter Boghossian in The Thinking Atheist Podcast and I do plan on getting his book A Manual for  Creating Atheists when I get back home.  I enjoyed listening to him because he is not only very dedicated and wise, he is also so laid back!  I like knowing that one can be on a serious mission to spread atheism and still be totally chill.

And don't forget your basic science-based readers like Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll by Franklin  M. Branley, books that explain the science behind natural phenomenon.

I would like to see more books on logical fallacies for children, as well as more books on critical thinking, humanism, and SCIENCE!  As I tell my daughter, the aspiring author in the family, write the book that you would want to read!  Hmmmmmmmm.....

Remember, time is on your side.  There is no reason in the world to dump too much on them at one time.  Read consistently.  Having your children consider religions seriously is quite a powerful way to watch them come to their own conclusions about what makes sense in their lives and what makes sense in our world.

If you enjoyed this post you might also read: 
My Atheist Parenting Blog
Or you might enjoy:  'Tis the Season

Dedicated to Christopher Allen and his children


  1. Hi Karen,
    Thank you so much for this posting! I know that you've said many people question why this is not just a parenting blog rather than an Atheist parenting blog, this is 'why' as far as I'm concerned. Other atheist parents benefit so much from hearing of the trail you've already blazed. As a fellow homeschooler, I've bought so much material off Amazon that I've found useless once it arrived. It is so wonderful to get recommendations from someone who's been in my shoes and tested the books, etc. Lots of people probably don't realise how many books you went through to get to this selected list. Thank you for sharing your experience!
    Off to the bookshop! All the very best,
    Eugenia xx

  2. Thank you Karen, Wow, this is really cool. I am off to work, and wanted to drop a quick line to say thank you. I will go over this thoroughly, tonight when I get home.

    1. I have looked these books over, and I can see that these books would be a great start. From here, Parents should be able to branch out with relative ease. I think part of the issue is that we can over think what is sometimes quite simple.

    2. I agree with that, Christopher. I used to get ALL bunged up... It's because it's so important! But we all live and we learn and we do our best.
      I'm glad to see you here!

  3. Thanks, Karen. Those books sound great. I've just ordered a couple of them for my homeschooled kids. Hope you and your family have a great Christmas :)

  4. Thanks for sharing, a couple of these we've read, but just added the others to our "to read" list.

  5. Thank you for this list. I'm struggling with what to tell my daughter, and I don't want to project my religious anger onto her. I really appreciate you compiling this list. Thanks.

    1. Tracy, I sincerely know just what you mean! I don't want my kids to catch negativity from me!

  6. For kids, "Charlie and Kiwi: An Evolutionary Adventure" by by The New York Hall of Science, beautiful illustrations.
    "Why Don't We Go to Church?" by Gail Miller, not so nice illustrations, and a little dull, but it is o.k. anyway.


Leave a comment!