Subject knowledge for RE: four quick recommendations

Fairly often I get messages from RE NQTs or from non-specialists asking for recommendations for boosting their RE subject knowledge. I thought I’d put together the four suggestions I usually make for an overview of religions and the concepts in religion generally.



Very Short Introductions

These are my go-to for a quick but academic guide to any subject. They have editions on the six major world religions but also on almost every other subject liable to come up on an RE syllabus from Socrates to Pentecostalism and India Philosophy to Augustine. Yes, some are better than others but I really like this format.

A Little History of Religion by Richard Holloway

This is an attempt at a chronological and narrative history of world religion. I, personally, really enjoyed reading it and I have even used sections of it in class with students. It’s not hugely academic but if you’re new to teaching religion it’s a good place to start.

A History of God by Karen Armstrong

Generally anything by Karen Armstrong is going to be good CPD for RE teachers whether it’s her books on Buddha or Muhammad or this zoomed-out look at the history of God in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Armstrong, in my mind, is really good at treading the line between academic and readable and I really like her conception of religion as a whole.


These are usually overlooked as a good resource for teachers seeking to improve their own knowledge but I think that is misguided. It’s a commonly heard idea that teachers should be one key stage ahead of their pupils. Therefore I’d recommend to primary teachers the Knowing Religion series edited by Robert Orme. It is knowledge-heavy and that is a good thing when it’s subject knowledge you are after, I was also pleasantly surprised by how relevant these textbooks are to the 21st century experience of religion. For KS3 you can’t go far wrong with the Oxford AQA GCSE textbooks, I’ve always really liked these. For teaching KS4 and above you’re better off going for the books above because A Level Religious Studies and KS4 GCSE syllabi don’t have much in common.


Of course this barely scratches the surface of reading you can do but often the best advice is start somewhere and carry on from there. All the books I’ve mentioned will have a bibliography to give you further reading ideas on any topic that takes your fancy.


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