Tuesday, July 11, 2006

***a peaceful editorial***

I don't know if it's because I'm to be a father very, very soon for the first time, or because I work with kids on a daily basis, or because my indignation toward stupid stuff is growing proportionately with my age, but I suspect it was because several events seemed to coincide at the right moment to make me want to write this article.

A coworker commented on the relentless broadcast of pictures of Zarqawi's face after his death, and we discussed how it seemed that there is no balance in the presentation of images and ideas in mainstream media, that is, why can't kids be bombarded with peaceful, loving, triumphant, kind images and ideas every once in a while? OK, fair enough, seems like a good idea, but where do you start? How can I do anything about such a seemingly overwhelming issue? Well, I'm a big believer in "from the bottom up" policies, getting things done beginning at the lowest level, starting a revolution one person at a time, beginning with yourself.

A new children's book came across our desks recently, actor Jeremy Gilley's Peace One Day: The Making of World Peace Day, illustrated by Karen Blessen, and published last year by G.P. Putnam's Sons. It's the recounting of Gilley's struggle to make September 21 an annual day of global cease-fire, his meetings with various world leaders, and the pleas he made for his cause. The basic point of his book was that each individual person in this great big world CAN make a difference.

Then an article in the Spring 2006 issue of USBBY (the newsletter of the United States Board on Books for Young People, Inc.) caught my eye: The Sixth IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Regional Conference was recently held at Callaway Gardens, Georgia, and their theme was Children's Books: Messengers of Peace. The conference also unveiled a joint project of USBBY and the Children's Book Council: the Outstanding International Books committee, whose members include a former mentor, I'm proud to say. The committee's goal is to produce an annual list of magnificent children's books originally published outside the United States, in order to bridge the cultural gap between American children and children from around the world. The main point, though, of the conference and the newly inaugurated book committee was that a single book placed in the hands of a single child CAN make a difference.

Finally, I recently relistened to an album I hadn’t heard in years, Harry Nilsson’s The Point!, possibly the greatest kids’ album ever. The basic story is that a kid lives in a land of pointy-headed people, only he doesn’t have a point on his head, and is subsequently banished. While wandering outside his homeland, he discovers that not everyone is like his fellow countrymen, that some things are round. Not only does Nilsson get across an important concept, he uses McCartney-like music and Lennonesque lyrics, along with Beach Boys-inspired harmonies to deliver his message. Through a simple children’s album Nilsson reminds us that each child in our homes, classrooms, and libraries is important, that everyone has a point in this world, that everybody CAN make a difference.

Postscript: the Spring 2006 issue of Children and Libraries (the Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children) contains an article called Books as Passports: How Books Can Aid Global Understanding. The ALSC International Relations Committee created two bibliographies that are designed to accurately depict contemporary life in other countries, another great way to familiarize your kids with children from around the globe, to make our world a more understandable place. Check out this link. Make a difference. Bombard your kids with a little peace, love, and understanding. What's so funny 'bout that?


Eric Herman said...

Good post, Warren. And I love The Point! Gotta watch that again now... "Me and my Arrow..."


Eric Herman said...

Good post, Warren. And I love The Point! Gotta watch that again now... "Me and my Arrow..."


Anonymous said...

thanks for putting this back. I noticed it was gone for a while today. Really thought provoking and thoughtful. Thank you. I followed the links and look forward to reading some of those books with my littles. We are so lucky to live in a place where they get to meet kids from lots of different places every day, but it's still not enough. We don't get to travel as much as we'd like. books will help. You've inspired me. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The Point is THE BEST! Just saw it (Dustin Hoffman version, not the Ringo one) for the first time in years at an amazing Nilsson blog.

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