Associate Professor’s Book Teaches Kids About World Religions

Abi Hilden, features editor

interviewed by Alexa Martin, online publishing coordinator 

Beyond Augsburg’s campus, staff and faculty are doing amazing things. In the case of Matthew Maruggi, an associate professor of religion, this includes publishing a children’s book.

Maruggi has been at Augsburg since 2008 and previously co-directed the Interfaith Scholars program. His book, co-authored with Sonja Hagander and Megan Borgert-Spaniol, “Religion Around the World: A Curious Kid’s Guide to the World’s Great Faiths” teaches kids about the world’s five major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It also covers some lesser known religions, information about interfaith families and interviews kids about their views on religion. 

The picture book is something that Maruggi had never previously planned on writing. “Like, I hadn’t thought of myself as a children’s book author. You know, it wasn’t like something I aspired to do.” Maruggi noted.

Teaching young kids about complex subjects like religion can be a difficult undertaking, something that Marruggi explained was important yet hard to balance. Interviewing the kids featured in the book about their beliefs was one of his favorite parts of the writing process.

“So if you look in the book, you’ll see these different circles where it’s parts of the interviews with the kids where they had to say what they liked about their religion,” he said. “And they just had really insightful things to say about, you know, what did their religion mean to them and what did their practices mean?”

Maruggi also shared how the pandemic affected the process of writing the book, as he initially started this project in 2020 but had to deal with publishing being delayed for over a year. When he finally got the finished book in the mail, it was a wonderful moment for him.

“I got it about two weeks before it actually was coming out. And I was like, Oh, what’s this box now? I opened it up and I was like, Oh my God. It’s a hard copy. It’s, you know, it’s real.”

Coming off of his first children’s book, when asked if he saw himself writing another one, Maruggi said that he wouldn’t be against the idea.

“I have to think about that. If there’s other topics that I think are important for kids to know about religion that I could write a children’s book about, I would. I’d be really open to doing it since it was such a great process for me.”

Maruggi also explained that he thinks that even things like children’s books are a great way to educate others with the knowledge that you may have, something that he didn’t realize before writing this book.

“I just think there’s many ways of sharing your kind of knowledge with the world…And this is, you know, again, as someone who works in academia, I wouldn’t have thought of a children’s book as a way of sharing knowledge, but it turned out to be a really exciting way to do that.”

Make sure to order your copy of “Religion Around the World: A Curious Kid’s Guide to the World’s Great Faiths” to support an Augsburg professor and learn more about the world’s religions!