What is sectarianism?
The list below is not exhaustive, but these are books that I have used with classes before, several times, that have been extremely useful in explaining sectarianism and opening up discussion on the topic in an accessible and positive way.
You can find more information about my read and review project here.
I teach in Scotland and therefore I have levelled the books in line with the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. For those outside of Scotland, age guidance is:
Early Level: Nursery to Primary 1, age approximately 3-5
First Level: Primary 2 to Primary 4, age approximately 5-9
Second Level: Primary 5 to Primary 7, age approximately 9-12
‘Divided City’ by Theresa Breslin
Set in Glasgow, the story begins dramatically when a young asylum seeker is viciously assaulted in a racially motivated attack.
I have taught this book as a class novel to 5 different Primary 7 classes and one Primary 6 class. It is without a doubt one of my favourite books to teach and it has been received well by every class I’ve taught it to.
Although most schools in Glasgow and the west of Scotland will teach this book in the upper primary, I have taught it in schools in the east of Scotland and recommended it to colleagues through here too. They have all reported positive results with their classes.
While sectarianism in Scotland has long been associated with Glasgow and the west of Scotland, crime statistics show that it is an issue throughout all of Scotland, particularly when associated with football.
But, you do not need to be Scottish or have issues with Christian sectarianism in your area to enjoy this book and use it effectively with your class. There are endless teachable points throughout, including:
- issues facing asylum seekers and refugees
- teen relationships- both romantic and friendship
- relationships with parents
- handling cultural expectations you may be uncomfortable with
- being truthful
- family mental ill health
- sporting rivalry
- history of Glasgow- comparison with your town/city/country
Initially, when introducing the book, some children who do not like football have been nervous that they will not enjoy it, other classes that have had more traditional gender stereotypes in their attitudes have worried that it would be a boys book and not for them. So when introducing the book, I have always been keen to point out that the book has more themes to it than just football and even though the main characters are male the messages are universal.
Once we have started the book, all the children who have reservations about the football theme quickly disappear and the variety of themes throughout the book mean that there is something for everyone to enjoy and discuss.
The football theme has also had the added bonus of engaging some of my reluctant male readers in the past, so it is not to be played down completely.
I could not recommend this book more to teachers in upper primary classes, not only for their class libraries, but as class readers and a stimulus for topics on diversity. While the messages contained in the book are particularly important for communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland where Christian sectarianism has been and continues to be an issue, the book is also relevant elsewhere as a valuable resource to teach about the dangers of hating another group.
‘Across The Barricades: a Kevin and Sadie story’ by Joan Linguard
I first read this book myself when I was in Primary 5 as it was in my class library and it fast became one of my favourites to read and re-read over again, along with the others in the series (reviewed below).
Growing up in Glasgow during the troubles and experiencing sectarianism myself as a child, this book was an excellent explanation to me of some of the issues faced by both sides at the time.
Now, it is a staple in my class library for older Primary 6 and 7 classes. I have found that it has been of particular interest to children who have covered Divided City with me as a class reader before and want to read more on the topic.
I tend not to use it as a class reader in the same year as I read Divided City, so that I can have a variety of themes, but would certainly recommend using it that way with a Second Level year group that was not covering Divided City.
A highly recommended addition to class libraries in upper primary.