Thursday, January 28, 2010

CitizenKid: Thinking in Terms of a Village

This is the final post about the Kids Can Press series, CitizenKid. CitizenKid is "A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens."

We're featuring the CitizenKid series because one of the CitizenKid authors, David J. Smith, author of the books reviewed in this post, will be at the February 20, 2010 Dublin Literacy Conference.

The theme of this year's conference, our 21st, is "Celebrating 21st Century Literacies." From the NCTE Position Statement on 21st Century Literacies, we know that "Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments"
There will certainly be authors and presenters at the conference whose topics deal with the tools of technology, multi-media texts, and information management. Just as important, there will be a focus on relationships, cross-cultural collaboration, and the global community.

We hope you'll consider joining us for the day on February 20 at the Dublin Literacy Conference. Come meet David J. Smith and hear him speak! You can find registration information here.

If the World Were a Village
by David J. Smith
illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
Kids Can Press, 2002

Cross-cultural problem solving and global information sharing are among the 21st Century Literacies we need to help our students (and likely ourselves) to develop. Yet how to impart in our students an understanding of the world when it is so huge and varied and incomprehensibly complex?

David J. Smith has one answer: reduce the world's population of 6 billion and some to a village of 100 that mathematically represents the world in a more understandable way.

Nationalities: Of the 100 people in the village, 61 are from Asia; 5 are from Canada and the United States.

Languages: More than half the people in the village speak just 8 languages, even though there are almost 6000 languages in the village of 100. "If you could say hello in these 8 languages, you could greet well over half the people in the village." That sounds like a fine place to start!

Food: Along with sheep, goats, cows, pigs, camels and horses, the global village has 189 chickens -- nearly twice as many as the people in the village!

But here's where some really hard discussions can start to take place. Although there is plenty of food in the village, it is not distributed equally. 60 of the 100 people in the village are always hungry. Only 24 always have enough to eat. Whoa.

Other "whoa" moments are likely to occur when you read about the air and water, school and literacy, money and possessions, and electricity. We (in the United States) have so much, and yet we represent such a small part of the village.

Smith includes notes for adults about teaching "world-mindedness." A strong sense of world geography is the starting place, and he recommends connecting learning with doing.

If America Were a Village
by David J. Smith
illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
Kids Can Press, 2009

If you want to start a little closer to home helping your students to think about where they fit into a bigger picture, this is the book for you. The "chapters" or "topics" are a bit different than those in If The World Were A Village, and they are presented as questions: "Who are we?", "Where do we come from?", "What do we own?", etc. In lots of the sections, interesting historical comparisons are made.

For example, in "Where do we come from?" we learn that "If the America of today were a village of 100: 15 would be of German ancestry, 11 would be of Irish ancestry, 9 African, 9 English, 7 Mexican, 6 Italian, 3 Polish, 3 French, 3 Native American, 2 Scottish, 2 Dutch, 2 Norwegian, 1 Scotch-Irish, and 1 Swedish." In 1790, those numbers would have been very different. At that time, "53 would have come from England, 19 from Africa (most of them slaves), 11 from Scotland and Ireland and 7 from Germany." We teach about immigration trends in American history, but thinking in terms of the village of 100 makes history come to life.

As with If The World Were A Village, reading this book with your students will bring up hard realities and hard questions. We are a rich nation -- how do we share our wealth? We use more energy and water than any other nation -- how can we slow this down and be more responsible world citizens? We have a great variety of cultures and religions and lifestyles in our country --how can we be more accepting of others? A new immigrant to the United States arrives every 27 seconds -- what are we doing to make them feel welcome?

We hope you've enjoyed this week's posts on the CitizenKid series from Kids Can Press. What a great collection of books to have in your classroom and to use to open the walls of your classroom and let the world in.

If the World Were A Village
If America Were A Village

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