This week, on September 21st, the United Nations will once again celebrate the International Day of Peace. On this day, we join together around the globe to advocate for non-violence and strengthening peace among people and nations.
This year’s theme is: “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”
As a children’s book author, I am a member of Artists and Illustrators for Children (AIC). The motto of AIC is: “We create children’s books because we care—that’s why we’re dedicated to a free, truthful, and safe America for all children.”
This year, AIC members Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle initiated a Padlet project where AIC members can share writing, art, and classroom activities related to peace.
I contributed a classroom-library-literacy coach-art classroom cotaught inquiry unit under the “Peaceful Activities for the Classroom” category.
During the 2001-2002, I served as a literacy coach at an elementary school in Tucson Unified School District. Along with a third-grade classroom teacher, the school librarian, and the art instructor, I codesigned and cotaught an inquiry unit focused on peace: Peace Poems and Picasso Doves.
We introduced this unit of study by reading Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace, Peace Begins with You written by Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated with photographs by Eric Futran and selections from The Big Book for Peace edited by Ann Durell and Marilyn Sachs.
We asked students to share their personal responses to readings with partners or with the whole class. These were the questions we used to frame students’ responses:
1. What do individuals do to find peace?
2. What do communities do to create peace?
3. What are some symbols for peace?
The collaborating educators developed a text set of resources, which students explored as they began to develop their own questions, thoughts, and feelings related to peace. The students’ literature circle discussion around the book Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz were particularly powerful. Students studied and wrote poetry and learned about Pablo Picasso’s peace dove artwork. In their final products, the students’ peace poems and Picasso doves captured the personal meaning they ascribed to the word and concept of peace.
There is an undeniable link between peace and social justice. Expanding out from the personal to peaceful communities based in social justice is a logical next step. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child can help young people see the connection. With primary age students, I have used the child-friendly version and the book For Every Child: The Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures offered by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. For older students, in particular, the possibilities for connections to historical and current events is limitless.
If you have not yet read it, please see Loretta Gaffney’s Knowledge Quest blog post “Hate Has No Home Here: The Post Charlottesville School Library” (9/13/17). Loretta provides us with much to think about and excellent resources for educating for social justice.
School librarians who curate resources and codesign and coteach lessons and units of instruction have an essential role to play in making connections for learning between the classroom and library and across disciplines. We also have an obligation to “make important interventions in a political climate of hatred” (Gaffney).
In your daily practice of librarianship and this week, in particular, I hope you will look for ways to increase the peace and inspire conversations about social justice in your learning community. If you tweet, please use #peaceday to share your work this week.
Gaffney, Loretta. “‘Hate Has No Home Here’: The Post-Charlottesville School Library.” Knowledge Quest, 13 Sept. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/hate-no-home-post-charlottesville-school-library/.
Peace Dove Artwork by Elise – Used with Permission