Great stories for UU kids (and adults)

I recently found The Baldwin Project, a Web site dedicated to publishing children’s literature which has entered the public domain. As you may know, in the United States the rights of copyright holders end after 75 years (assuming the copyright holder does not renew the copyright in his or her lifetime), and after that time copyright-protected material enters the public domain. While I have just begun to explore the Baldwin Project Web site, I already found Ellen C. Babbit’s retellings of the Jataka Tales.

The Jataka Tales, as you may know, are more than 500 stories that tell about earlier incarnations of Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha, the Enlightened One. I’ve been using some of these stories in church school sessions. After telling the children a little about what Buddhists believe about reincarnation, I tell them that each story is like a puzzle — their job is to figure out which of the characters in the story is the Buddha in an earlier incarnation, and why. Then I read the story, and we talk about whom we each think the Buddha is. On Sunday, this prompted a good discussion with one of the 3rd/4th grade groups. We figured out one story, but when we came to “The Woodpecker, Turtle, and Deer,” we couldn’t come to agreement (read the story yourself, and you’ll see why!).

The children learned some more about Buddhism, and more importantly they learned a little bit about how to make moral judgements which may not have one best answer. What could be better in a Unitarian Universalist church school than to run up against a puzzle story where there is no one best answer? You can learn more about the Baldwin Project at: