Nonfiction Monday: If the world were a village (2nd ed.) and This child every child by David Smith, illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
I've always planned to have a charity component of our summer reading program and I'm thinking this summer or next summer will be THE summer! With that in mind, I've been looking at some of Kids Can Press's excellent CitizenKid series which help children explore the world globally and build compassion and helping others into their lives.
David J. Smith takes global statistics in these two books and makes them understandable on a child's level. If the World Were a Village consolidates the billions of people in the world into 100, then has sections showing us the nationalities and languages of fractions of those people, ages, and religions. For example, of the 100 people in the "world village" only 10 are children between 5 and 9, while 17 are between 20 and 29.
Then Smith moves into how these 100 people share the world's resources, looking at allocation of food, access to clean air and water, school and work, division of money and possessions, access to energy, and world health.
Finally, the author projects numbers for the future with the warning that many think "the village" may be seriously overcrowded by 2150. Author's notes give parents and teachers numerous ways to encourage children to think globally and foster compassion and a final note discusses sources and how Smith arrived at the calculations. This is the second edition of If the world were a village and has updated statistics from 2010.
Smith's second book, This Child, Every Child also includes statistics, but focuses specifically on the rights of children and looks at the status of children around the world. The foreward introduces us to the charity ONEXONE which is associated with this book. 50% of the profits from This child go to ONEXONE, and will be used specifically to get books to children in Haiti. This charity focuses on the needs of children in five major areas, water, hunger, healthcare, education, and play, so they are a good fit for this book, which introduces us to children's rights. This Child begins with an overview of the world's children and an introduction to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, along with statistics of how many children make up the world population. In each section, we see general statistics on children in that particular area, a specific focus on one or two contrasting children, and a simple summary of the articles from the convention which affect that area. For example, in "Children at School" we are told percentages of children who attend school and who do not, who are literate and illiterate. Then we see the story of Salmaa, whose family moved from Iran to Canada so she could go to school instead of working. With a better education and more opportunities, Salmaa hopes to be a doctor. The section finishes with the Conventions article on children's right to a good quality education.
These sections cover families, homes, health, stability (moving, migrant populations), school, equality for boys and girls, working children, play, children and war, and a final section on children in the future.
There is a complete list of all the articles of the convention in child-friendly language and a section of ideas and suggestions on learning more about the children of the world, creating global consciousness and conscience, and some suggestions on getting involved. An additional note on sources explains where the statistics came from, and presumably the stories of the individual children.
These two books break down large, complex problems and ideas to a child's level. They're great background information and would be excellent resources for a school or for a charitable project in a library, such as I'm planning. However, I wouldn't suggest using these books alone - frankly, they're really depressing, despite their attempts to show a hopeful view of the future. I would make it a rule never to show children problems on such a huge global scale without giving them a way to help or beginnings of ways to solve the problem. Both of these books include suggestions on raising global consciousness, but don't really have specific ways for children to get involved. This child does have some more specific suggestions, but they're geared towards raising consciousness of world problems.
I've labeled these books both beginning chapters and middle grade, as they're suitable for both ages. Younger children will need to read these with the help and input of a teacher or parent, while older children can explore them on their own - and maybe come up with some ways they can help.
Verdict: These are must have books for your nonfiction section, but I strongly suggest pairing them with several other titles from the CitizenKid series before promoting them or putting them on display. One Hen and Good Garden by Katie Milway and Ryan and Jimmy by Herb Shoveiler (links go to the programs associated with those books) offer concrete ways to get involved and show kids there is hope for the future. We need kids to have the background and see what needs to be fixed, then have ways they can help and hope for the future together. I strongly recommend purchasing these five titles as a group and working with your teen advisory board or younger children to put together charitable components for your summer reading program!
If the world were a village, 2nd edition
ISBN: 9781554535958; Published February 1, 2011 (2nd ed.); Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.
This child, Every child
ISBN: 9781554534661; Published February 1, 2011; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.