Blog: Bringing World Events to Children through Picture Books

By Cindy Woodruff

How can parents and teachers bring world events to children in ways that are developmentally appropriate?  Through picture books!  Today’s publishing world offers a wide variety of stunning picture books for older readers, two of which are featured here:

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books By Karen Leggett Abouraya and Susan L. Roth. Dial, 2012

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families By Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Lee & Low, 2011.

Begin exploring both books with children ages 5 to 10 by examining the cover art. Notice the cultural details in the collage artwork, rich in color and texture. In both illustrations there is one person who looks different.  Offer up some “I wonder” questions as you open the large book together and discover the colorful and instructive end papers.  Many picture books actually begin their stories here.  Try to guess what art technique and materials Susan Roth used to create these pages. What are we to learn from these opening images?  Now turn the page to discover the title page.  The large format of these illustrations brings us right into the subject of the book. It is time to turn the page again and learn more!

 Hands Around the Library is the true story of the citizens of Cairo, and later Alexandria, Egypt who revolted against their government in January 2011. The director of the new and beautiful Bibliotheca Alexandrina was worried. His library had no gates. How could he protect the treasures inside? He closed the library during the protests and was amazed when one protester left the crowd to begin a human ring that circled the building and protected it from vandalism. We adults know that libraries are a cornerstone of democracy and this picture book opens the door to sharing this concept with young readers.  The story is followed by pages of factual information, photos, notes from the author (who was part of that ring) and illustrator, and information on the famous libraries of Alexandria.  This picture book allows all of its readers to experience current events up close and personal.

  The Mangrove Tree, winner of the 2011 Green Earth Book Award, is one of the few picture books in written in English about the small African country of Eritrea. A scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, realized that this young and war-torn nation lacked food for its animals and its people. He watched the camels eat leaves from the mangrove trees and thought these same trees might feed others. He taught the local people to plant, cultivate and use over one million trees.  Dr. Sato went on to share his ideas with other countries.  By watching and experimenting with food sources, He changed the future of Eritrea.

To become global citizens, children need to hear and absorb true stories like these. The Peace Study Center is honored to share them with teachers, parents and our young readers and leaders of tomorrow.


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