Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Raising Global Citizens - discuss the "village"

I am a member of the Multicultural Kid Blog community, and one of the central issues of the group is the idea of raising global citizens. With my students, we spend the year exploring the history, geography, and culture of each continent, with an emphasis on global awareness and fostering connections. One of the books that always generates an incredible amount of discussion among my students is If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong.

Now in its second edition, If the World Were a Village: a book about the world's people uses manageable statistics to help kids grasp the enormity of talking about the whole world all at once. The book asks the reader to imagine that the population of the world is represented by a village of 100 people, where each "person" in the village actually represents around 66 million real people.

Each two-page spread focuses on a different feature of the global village. Every year I use this book as a read aloud and encourage my students to guess about some of the facts about the global village. The book begins with fairly straight-forward topics like how many people come from each continent, how many people speak the most widely-spoken languages, how many people follow which religions, etc.

The guessing gets everyone engaged, and kids are often surprised by some of the results. ("Wait, if there are 250 chickens in the global village but only 100 people, does that mean there are MORE chickens in the world than people??" Yes, yes it does.)

As the book progresses, however, it delves into more and more serious topics: access to education, unequal distributions of wealth and food, uneven access to clean air and water, etc. It really forces kids to think about how their lives compare to the rest of the village. I usually time my reading of this book around Earth Day, with ties in well with the environmental concerns raised by the book.

As one of my students so thoughtful noted this year, "It seems to me that there are the fewest number of people like me in the global village." Then he went on to list some of the statistics, "I have access to clean water, I have enough food to eat ... " If you want a book that will make kids think and help them realize their privileged place in the world, this is an excellent way to get the conversation started.

You can find more resources for the book on its page for Kids Can Press.

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