Help with Religious Education Books


I am a very new DRE at our parish and am working with the principle to make a change to a more traditional book series (Faith and Life by Ignatius Press). The series we use now is rated “red” by Catholic Culture. The principles concern is the reading level of the younger grades. She believes that 1st - 3rd grade is way above the heads of the kids and that they won’t be able to read it. Does anyone here have any advice? I disagree, but don’t know how to approach it. I know of several large families (among the most faithful at our parish) who will pull their children if a better program is not used next year.


Is she worried about the content or reading level?

If it’s reading level she’s concerned about, try reading aloud and bringing in parents as guest readers. That gets the parents involved in their kids religious education, which they should be anyway. And you could be catechizing parents as well :wink: .


the reading level, not the content. And I did mean principal, not principle :).

She wants students reading the books as much as possible.


I just read an article - I’ll have to find it - about a woman who changed to Faith and Life but was concerned about the reading level BUT it turned out it was not a problem. Hold on, I will go look for it…


That didn’t take as long as I thought!

I read it on the website, a site that is rated green by In it there is an article entitled “PASSING ON THE FAITH: A RELIGIOUS EDUCATION PROGRAM THAT WORKS” by Marianne Alpha, C.V.

This is the portion of the article:

Choosing the texts

Choosing the right texts is as important as choosing teachers who live the Catholic faith and are willing to study and grow in knowledge and love of God and of the Church He founded.

In our program, we use the Faith and Life series, published by Ignatius Press for first through eighth grades. While there are some other orthodox series, I believe Faith and Life is in a category all by itself.

When we changed to this series, our program really came alive. Before we began, I was concerned about the reading level of the texts and even wrote to the parents assuring them that we would take the higher reading level into consideration as we prepared our classes. To my delight, the students responded enthusiastically the very first day they used this series. Catholic truth is the attraction in our religious education program.

I guess it doesn’t really say anything in particular about the reading level but it does say it worked out okay… you might want to look at the whole article.

I hope you succeed - I would LOVE IT if our school switched to Faith and Life. Our diocese has ONLY ONE series we can use - can you believe that? It’s Faith First which isn’t horrible thank heavens but I know for a fact that our teachers are supplementing like crazy because our kids are very knowledgeable about their faith - and they didn’t get it from that series! When one of the kids brings home their book to study - it takes literally 5 minutes.

I tried to get our principal and the DRE to get a set of the books for “reference” but so far I don’t believe either has. The DRE is dead set against it (???) and I haven’t heard from the principal yet.

And I think it’s wonderful that you have parents concerned about the content and want a better series.


Faith and Life - I’d advise anyone to use this program.


I taught 1st grade PSR last year and had 4th grade this year (until my university class interferred with it), and we use Faith and LIfe. I let the kids take their books home so their parents could help read if need be, and we almost always read the chapters aloud in class because they’re fairly short. I made sure the kids were not shy about asking questions about words they did not know and we got into a lot of fun discussions because of it. Only one little boy that didn’t know how to read at all had trouble with the reading level, and he understood it just fine when it was read to him – he just couldn’t read on his own.


quite frankly the reading level of our public school children in CCD is below national averages for the most part, and the majority of our children cannot handle Christ Our Life (Loyola) or the Ignatius Series. Had the HS texts from Midwest Theological Forum donated but not only can most students not handle the material, either can many parent volunteers.

Otherwise Faith and Life would be our first choice. We have been using Christ Our Life for years mainly because the catechists guides are so helpful for the catechists, many of whom are parents with only HS education not the best readers and redactors of information themselves.

One suggestion would be what we have done in a modified way, is tracking. We have one HS/Jr High track with a basic Teen Catechism, mainly children who have not been to CCD since their 1st communion, or who have reading delays and other learning problems. The other track is those who have graduated from Catholic elementary school, have been attending CCD regularly and can handle the HS textbook.

We do something similar for elementary, assigning children with learning delays or disabilities to smaller classes with teachers and aides who have some experience in this area (many public school teachers or special ed teachers) who use other resources besides the text. Children who can read at grade level and don’t have behavioral or other issues that slow learning are taught by the conventional textbook method. You could have one track with the new textbooks you prefer, and keep a class open, if you have enough room and teachers, for children who need more help and more “creative” resources than the text they cannot read.

the huge benefit with Faith and Life, which should appeal to pastors and administrators, is cost. You only buy the text once, and only have to buy a consumable workbook for each student each year, and only in the amount you need, much cheaper than the standard consumable textbook. If your families are discipline enough you can send books home for homework assignments, or have periodic parent/child session where the parents assist their child with assignments and lessons, if you think comprehension is a problem.

another factor to use in evaluating texts is the needs of your catechists. frankly in most programs the catechists, or a lot of them, are also in need of education or at least review, and a good text with a good guide helps fill that need. I don’t know if Ignatius has as much on-line support for catechists comparable to most of the mainstream publishers, but also I don’t know how much catechists take advantage of such assistance.

if you call for a sample text and workbook for your grade level they may send it for free or low cost. we got a whole set for catechist review and reference for much less than list price. everyone who sees them falls in love with Faith and Life. If we ever do get money ahead to make a switch I will probably go with it for at least one class each session, but it will take finding catechists who can teach well with it. We have a long way to go in formation for our elementary catechists


yikes, I just noticed that the one our parish uses is Red.

Frankly, I can see why. It beats around the bush. Every week I tell our DRE that the kids “just don’t get it” . Mostly the message is just too dumbed down, the reading too simplistic, the stories too contrived, so I would LOVE a program that was a bit deeper and a bit more substantial. And the kids would too.

Hopefully my dre already knows.


I use Faith and Life with my homeschooled 1st grade ds. While it’s possible that the reading level may be difficult for some of the children, I don’t know that that has to be a big stumbling block. Each chapter only has about 2 pages of writing, which can easily be read to the students in the first 5-10 minutes of your class. The rest of the work would be done without having to read the text. The activity book, if used, does involve some reading, but again, I would think that reading through the work WITH the children would help with any reading problems some of the students might have.

I also own the 1st grade materials for the Image of God program (put out by Ignatius Press, the same publisher as Faith and Life). The student book is much simpler looking, and doesn’t require nearly as much reading. The meat of the program is in the teacher’s manual, designed to be used as discussions led by the teacher. So I would think that reading level wouldn’t be an issue with Image of God.

While Faith and Life is usually considered “the best,” Image of God is a very good program too, generally covers the same topics, is not watered down etc… Maybe you could get sample materials of both from Ignatius Press and compare them yourself and with the principle.


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