Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Connecting Kids to Their World

For our April six-school tour in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, author Margy Burns Knight and I were presenting on our five nonfiction books about differences. The most recent of these titles, Africa Is Not A Country, was published in 2000, so we wanted to connect the information in our books with current world news

We created slide shows of recent events and people related to the content of our books. For instance, showing images from several of the African countries who celebrate their independence holidays in April, we talked about how those were like birthdays for countries. 

Then we showed photographs of Nelson Mandela's 89th birthday in 2007 with its football-themed party and cake, and connected that to South Africa's hosting of the 2010 World Cup. And we shared information about the Elders, a group of world leaders formed that same birthday, in Mandela's words, "to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is a conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.”

With younger classes, we considered welcoming traditions in relation to our book Welcoming Babies. Margy showed three different cloths that begin with the letter K: homespun khadi cloth from India, a colorful kente cloth from Ghana, and a kata from Tibet, often put around someone's neck to welcome them. In response to our questions, students identified the Hawaiian custom of welcoming people with leis. We connected that to Obama's Hawaiian heritage, and, to squeals of excitement and recognition, showed a photograph of the newest resident of the White House, sporting his welcoming lei.

This concerns-based teaching builds a bridge from the personal world of what is familiar to children - birthdays, soccer, new puppies - to the larger world.

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