CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 2 . . . . September 9, 2011
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a set of universal rights that is the inspiration for this thought-provoking book. Through statistics and stories about children in different parts of the world, readers will come to realize that the lives and opportunities they take for granted in Canada are not at all like those of most children. There are 2.2 billion children on Earth, accounting for one-third of its population. They live in different types of homes usually shared by extended family members, yet 100 million children remain homeless, 40% of them in Latin America and 20% in India. In Ethiopia, 50% of the children are undernourished, and water quality and sanitation are serious concerns. Equal rights for both genders are elusive in many places throughout the world: males are encouraged to attend school to obtain higher education, and they can seek wives of their own choosing, yet their female counterparts are denied an education and are forced into arranged marriages between the ages of 10 and 14. Sadly, 220 million children, aged 5-17, work full-time, one-third of them in hazardous jobs, such as making fireworks in factories, and in some countries, kids as young as seven work as soldiers. Though there are many differences between the ways that children live in different parts of the world, there are also some similarities. Swimming is the most popular pastime in every country but one, and tag games and playing with toys are common.
In This Child, Every Child, readers will be introduced to fictional children whose stories will sometimes inspire, but, more often, evoke shock, surprise, sadness or anger due to the conditions in which the children live. Each of the 15 chapters covers a specific topic, such as health, school or war, and is paired with one of the articles of the Convention (this article appears in a text box on each double-page spread). The Convention's entire list of rights can be found near the back of the book and is written in kid-friendly language. The final chapter offers ideas for classroom activities. Some examples include inviting a guest speaker from another country or culture to speak to the students, discussing issues such as boycotting products made by children, having a fundraiser to help underprivileged children, and holding a "starvation meal" to teach participants about the inequalities between the "haves" and the "have-nots". The most important message is that kids can do amazing things to change the world, and adults are encouraged to model the behaviour they want to see in their children.
The illustrations appear to be watercolour paintings mostly rendered in medium and muted tones of blues, greens and golds. Though most of the illustrations depict village life, there is one in particular that stands out. This poignant illustration is that of a clearly fearful young boy trying to sleep in a fetal position on a patterned rug. Looking closely at the details, readers will notice that the rug's pattern depicts war planes, grenades and tanks. On the floor, near the boy's head, is a huge machine gun. This illustration, along with its accompanying chapter about children and war, is sure to elicit an emotional response.
Part of the "CitizenKid" collection of books that teaches kids how to become better global citizens, This Child, Every Child shows readers that all children are fundamentally the same and have similar needs, but that they lead very different lives. Hopefully, through the various children's stories, the statistics, and the discussion and activities presented, readers will be spurred to action so that the rights of children everywhere are upheld.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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