Monday, September 26, 2011

Good one for social studies

This Child, every child: a book about the world’s children by David J. Smith (323.352 SmT 2011) will make an excellent resource for elementary and junior high social studies’ classrooms.

The most recent addition to the CitizenKid series by Kids Can Press, looks at how children around the world live. It starts to dig beneath the surface of the numbers (there are 2.2 billion children in the world; 80 million do not go to school; 220 million children between the ages 5 and 17 work; etc.) by looking at real life examples of kids from around the world and what their lives are like.

We meet Nasir (9) and Omar (10) from Pakistan and learn that they work in a rug factory because the factory boss can pay them less for their labour than an adult and their small hands are ideal for completing the intricate work.

Hakim lives in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. He eats well enough, goes to school, receives some medical care (vaccinations) through the school yet has very poor access to clean water and sanitation. Compared to other children in Ethiopia, Hakim is fortunate.

Sara (9) lives with her family in rural southeast India. Her life is somewhat different than that of her brother’s, Amir (8). She does not go to school like Amir but stays home to help with household chores including walking long distances to obtain water and wood. She is already engaged to be married whereas Amir will finish school, get a job and select his own wife. Sara has few choices as to what she does with her life.

This book provides an important introduction to thinking about kids in other countries. In Alberta, grade 3 Social Studies, Peru, Tunisia, Ukraine and India are the countries that are studied. It’s important to teach more than the ‘surface culture’ (eg. food, art, dress, music, architecture, decoration, etc.) and delve deeper into the culture (eg. use of language, interpretation of events, beliefs and values, norms of behaviour, patterns of thinking, cultural assumptions about age, gender, status and wealth, etc.) The above is based on an illustration taken from Social studies and the world: teaching global perspectives by M.M. Merryfield and A. Wilson (370.117 MeS 2005) and provides a clear picture as to what often is the primary focus of cultural studies at the elementary level – surface culture.

In This child, every child, twelve of the thirteen chapters are based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Typically, one or two articles are included in each two-page spread, highlighting the featured issue such as good health care, safe water, good food and safe environment. At the back of the book, the author has included a child friendly version of the UN’s document which synthesizes each article very succinctly, making it very easy to understand.

Also included are two pages of suggested activities and questions to further the discussion about the quality-of-life of children in other countries.

The last page includes the websites and documents the author consulted to compile the statistics in this book. This provides a great opportunity for additional classroom exploration with a dash of mathematics thrown in.

Pair this book with If the world were a village by David J. Smith (304.6 SMI 2011), Material world: a global family portrait by Peter Menzel (306.85 MEM 1994) and What the world eats by Peter Menzel (641.3 MeW 2008) for a fascinating look at comparative standards of living and inequities.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, a round-up of blogs featuring nonfiction children's literature.  Stop by True Tales and a Cherry on Top for this week's event.


Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Sounds interesting! And it's right on the same topic as Heidi's post today at Geo Librarian.

Thanks for participating in Nonfiction Monday.

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