Books truly can be a window to the world. While reading, you can live in another country, learn what life is like in a different culture while discovering both the world and yourself. The following books shed light on a variety of settings and situations and help to create awareness.
111 Trees, How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Each Girl, Rina Singh, Marianne Ferrer A wonderful true story from India, this book shows how one person can change the world. Traditionally, people in Sundar’s village had welcomed boy babies but not celebrated the birth of a girl. After the loss of his mother and a daughter, Sundar changes the minds of the villagers when he shows them how the earth needs to be replenished by planting trees. The parched earth recovers, it brings water and food to the village. Now his village plants 111 trees each time a girl is born and life has much improved for everyone. Sundar has changed his village and sent a message to other places around the world, encouraging eco-feminism. ISBN 978-1-5253-0120-9
One Hen, Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. This is one of my all-time favorite books on the topic of service learning. So simple, yet so brilliant. Based on the true story of Kojo in Ghana, this book shows how one little thing can grow in a big one. Kojo starts borrowed money and buys one hen. Now Kojo and his mom can eat an egg and soon he has enough to sell some. Carefully he saves his money to pay off his loan, then he saves until he can buy another hen. Eventually Kojo can afford to attend school by selling eggs. Read this book with any grade level and you can enrich it by saving up $25.- to extend a loan to someone in need through KIVA.org – online micro lending. Your students can select a country and the person they wish to help. ISBN 978-1-55453-028-1 Teaching guides: http://www.onehen.org/
See Where We Come From by Scot Ritchie takes a group of friends, all with different ethnic backgrounds. They prepare for their school’s Heritage Fair. Martin shares music and food from Japan, Sally brings smoked salmon and a cedar bark basket. Football from Brazil and koshary from Egypt help to celebrate a wide variety of customs and tradtitions. In the end pages, the book encourages family stories and shows how to make a Heritage box of treasures ISBN 978-1-5253-0497-2.
Gift Days by Kari-Lynn Winters, is a picture book for ages 8 up. This is the touching story of Nassali who longs to learn to read and write like her brother, Baaba. But since her mother’s death, Nassali is responsible for looking after her younger siblings and running the household. There is no time for books and learning. But one day she wakes up to discover that her chores have already been done. It is her first gift day. From that day on, once a week, Baaba gives Nassali the gift of time so that she can pursue her dream of an education, just as her mother would have wanted. The book itself is also raising money for the charity. Through the organization I am a Girl, which focuses on education and women’s rights, money has been raised to send girls to school in Uganda for a full year. ISBN-10 1554551927; ISBN-13 9781554551927 Check out: http://kariwinters.com/gift-days
The International Day of the Girl, Jessica Dee Humphreys and Rona Ambrose, illustrated by Simone Shin. What happens if half a garden does not get tended, watered and gets trampled? This is the comparison made in an important new picture book that explains the need for, and origins of, the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl. Through real stories of girls around the world, the book shows the importance of education and nurturing skills in girls. It also emphasizes how men and boys can make a difference, contribute to and benefit from the well -being of half of the earth’s population. ISBN 978-1-5253-0058-5
Walking for Water – How One Boy Stood Up For Gender Equality, by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Nicole Miles Victor loves going to school in his village in Malawi. But when they turn eight, his twin sister Linesi has to do what women and girls have always done: bring much needed water to the village. When Victor’s teacher talks about equality, he realizes that this is not happening. Slowly he finds ways to help and change both the way things were always done and the minds of other boys in town. Based on a true story, the book offers words in Chichewa, as well as information on support organizations. ISBN 978-1-5253-0249-7
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Also based on a true story but written for older students, this novel is the skillfully told tale of two African children who face hardships. A boy, Salva, is one of the ‘lost boys’ of Sudan. One day while in class, shooting starts as rebel forces reach his village. He walks and walks and walks in hopes of reaching safety, a new land where he can face a new future. A girl, Nya, lives in Sudan many years later. She, too, has to walk and walk. Eight hours a day to gather water for her family. She cannot go to school because the need for water is greater.
The two parallel stories intertwine when Salva, now with an American college degree, comes back to Sudan to build wells with the aid of Rotary International. This changes the lives of many Sudanese. A great story for all ages to share and discuss in the classroom. One of my local schools holds an annual Walk for Water day, educating students and raising funds to help build more wells in Africa. A picture book, to use with younger students to tie into the same theme is Hope Springs by Eric Walters. ISBN 978-0-547-57731-9
Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action by Darlene Foster. This book is the latest in a series of action/travel novels about Amanda. Each one is set in a different, real location and shares details about that country. In Holland, Amanda and her best friend Leah, see all the popular sights: tulips, canals, Anne Frank House, windmills, and even a wooden shoe factory. They learn about customs and traditional dishes. But Amanda is also here to discover what happened to her great uncle, who never returned to Canada after World War II. In the midst of her adventures, following clues about her uncle, she rescues an abandoned puppy. While trying to find him a home, she meets a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener and a strange woman on a bicycle. Upper elementary and middle school readers will enjoy following young traveler Amanda around Holland as she encounters danger and intrigue while trying to solve another mystery in a foreign country. Other locations in this series of print and ebooks include the Danube, New Mexico, Alberta, Spain, England and more. ASIN: B07L9LVK4J
Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts author talks and writing workshops for international schools, in person and via ZOOM.