The Banana-Leaf Ball
Deo - the main character in the book - leaves frantically with his family but soon finds himself alone and struggling to survive. The reader is never sure where Deo was fleeing from, but we know he makes it to the Lukole Refugee Camp in West Africa.
If you were forced to leave your home quickly what would you bring?
Deo's story in The Banana-Leaf Ball is based on a true story.
Benjamin had to flee his home country of Burundi in 1993 when conflict broke out. His journey to Lukole was much like Deo's. While he reunited with his father and some cousins in Lukole, his mother and sister did not survive.
It would be through an organization called Olympic Aid, now Right to Play, that Benjamin would work through his grief and start connecting with his new community.
Benjamin eventually made it back home. Understanding the power football has to bring kids together, he began coaching. He is now working for the very organization that renewed his life.
The Football Bridge
Professional football (soccer) is the most popular sport worldwide. Aside from the estimated 3.5 billion fans, the 2006 World Cup collected 30 billion viewers (accumulated viewing audience across multiple games).
Where communication and cultural differences create barriers, football forms bridges! The Banana-Leaf Ball by Katie Smith Milway is a poignant story that shows the power one sport can have to bring people together.
But, it's not the only story!
The Panyee FC in Thailand is another example. This 5 minute video shares the incredible ingenuity a group of young boys had to form their own football club and build their own pitch; on the water!
Finding What Unites Us
The Right To Play's mission is: "To protect, educate and empower children to rise above adversity using the power of play."
We all face adversity, it is one of many things that unite us all. While there are many ways to respond to adversity, maybe we should consider the power play can have to rise above it.
The power ONE person has to impact another with ONE word. The healing power of ONE touch. The ripple effect of ONE action. The joy or strength in ONE connection. Verde removes the overwhelming complexity to bring about change by repeatedly drawing her readers’ attention to the power of ONE.
The author ends the book with an empowering message: One person's small start is enough to trigger a collective action.
I am one. And I can take action. We are each one. And we can take action.
A Vibrant Journey To Collective Action
Peter Reynolds is an author and illustrator who brings I Am One: A Book of Action to life with soft lines and vibrant colors. With each page, he escorts the viewer deeper into a relationship with the main character.
Reynolds' illustrations depict the journey of one child taking repeated actions to culminate in a collective movement. This visual representation of the story deepens the textual message. While the author does not draw the reader's attention to a main character, the illustrator does.
The juxtaposition of Verde's feasible approach to action with the evolution of Reynolds' more complex illustrations impact the reader in two ways:
There is no doubt the illustrations and the text in this book could stand on their own; however, the potential impact they have together is more than either could have achieved solitarily.
The collaborative effort of the book itself is a tangible example of the story’s main idea. ONE idea, ONE word, and ONE stroke have developed into ONE book.
While the author and illustrator may humbly question the impact this book has or will have to create a movement. I would argue, it has and it will.
I Am One: A Book Of Action simplifies a complex and substantial message for young readers. The harmony of Verdes' words and Reynolds' illustrations engage young readers and inspire them to believe they too can be ONE of action.
Truly, the world has been waiting centuries for someone like you! Waiting for someone like each one of the children on this planet! Imagine the impact our youth would have if they owned this truth.
Unfortunately, maybe is being ignored.
What they might accomplish, achieve, or who they might become is overshadowed by present day tasks and responsibilities that are disconnected from a "picture of a special future".
Is it really about them getting A's in school? About them excelling with an instrument? In a sport? As an artist?
It is not about their excellence today. It is about how their experiences today will contribute to their impact tomorrow.
My son is not an academic, my daughter is. My daughter is not a natural athlete, my son is.
Regardless of where they excel, their potential to impact this world is equally grand. Their unique gifts, strengths, and interests help me to instill in them a "picture of a special future".
A Picture of a Special Future
Kobi Yamada exemplifies what I try to instill in every child we have the pleasure of working with, including my own.
They are not here on this earth to get good grades, to become a soccer star, or an exemplary musician. They are here to absorb as much growth and development as they can in order to provide the greatest impact possible.
When we share future possibilities with our children, they become motivated to bring them to fruition. Additionally, we teach them to visualize their future potential as well.
How are you helping your children to realize a picture of their special future? Does this picture go past their current school year? Calendar year?
Do they see their unique gifts and strengths and connect them to their potential for impact now?
Encourage Children To Do Big Things
My daughter is 13. She is a pianist, a cellist, a basketball and lacrosse player, an artist, an innovator, and a leader.
Despite all these wonderful gifts and qualities in her, nothing brings her more joy than working with young children. She comes alive when she is put in a role to care for or teach "littles".
She has wanted to be a teacher since she was two years old and has not wavered from this for a moment.
Her future is undoubtably special.
However, she is not waiting for her future to use her gifts. She is actively using her gifts now to impact the world. She has everything it takes to do big things.
Aside from babysitting, she looks for any opportunity to work with children. She has organized and led a week-long camp for kids and consistently volunteers at our church's children's ministry.
Despite all of this, I am sure she does not know how much she truly matters. This book has prompted me to remind her and her brother everyday.
Do Your Children Know How Much They Matter?
Kobi Yamada, uses Maybe to deepen readers' curiosity about themselves, their purpose, and their potential. He presents many valuable life lessons within this short book that should be adopted and exemplified in each person's life.
Your children matter!
It is up to us - parents, educators, and school leaders - to instill this message in our children.
We have a responsibility to remind children daily how much they matter. If we do this, then maybe their "picture of a special future" will become a reality. And maybe, their future reality will change the world.
Author Kathryn Erskine grew up cross-culturally, splitting her developmental years between Europe, Africa, and North America. Like many Cross Cultural Kids (CCK's) - a person who has lived in or meaningfully interacted with two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years - Kathryn had to re-establish a sense of belonging at each school and with each move. She had to cultivate her "we".
Have you ever considered that "we" is not possible without "me"?
This is one of the many reasons why we love, All of Us. The author starts and ends the book with "me". One little girl, all alone in the world, who introduces the collective possibilities of humankind.
Effective Global Citizenship
Another reason why we love this book, is because we feel it exemplifies our definition of global citizenship and supports our mission to unify school communities.
We believe you can be an effective or ineffective global citizen. It is because of this, we champion effective global citizenship, rather than global citizenship. Effective global citizenship requires three elements:
This last criteria may be the most challenging, but is also the most rewarding. It is through our willingness to learn from others that we become more effective. This requires vulnerability and empathy; skills not readily practiced and that cause discomfort.
The third, and most significant reason we will use and share, All of Us, is because of the vision carried through the story. Erskine's story presents a utopia of unity. She captures the possibility humanity has when we shift our perspective from a local "we" to a global "we".
I am sure Kathryn carries challenging memories of division and separation throughout her moves as a child. But, I would hasten to say, she also witnessed unlikely collectives providing a positive impact on this world. I am sure she has seen the potential in specific examples throughout her travels. It is through this lived experience, that All of Us carries an authentic and hopeful message.
Ultimately, whether you are a child or adult, this is a beautifully written and illustrated book that provokes greater unity and instills hope.
Cultured Kids boasts the potential for picture books to transform individuals, families, classrooms, and schools. We believe picture books are for all people, all ages, all stages.
The right picture book could simplify a message you have been trying to share with your staff, your classroom, or your children. Additionally, the introduction and discussion around picture books can be a refreshing change of pace.
It is with this in mind that we have created a book discussion and resource tool for school leaders, educators, and parents. Additionally, while I would encourage you to use this tool to insight change within your school, classroom, or home, I would also encourage you to reflect on your own personal development as well.
Jacqueline Woodson is one of Cultured Kids’ favorite children’s book authors. I will openly claim a bias. However, regardless of our preferences, I do believe many children’s literature professionals would agree with me.
Woodson’s skill as a writer has proven itself through the extensive collection she has produced for all ages. Although, it is not her skill per se that causes us to use her literature in our programs and curricula.
Jacqueline Woodson’s work has a depth to it that is hard to find. Her soulful work reaches out of the book pages and grabs ahold of children’s hearts.
Cultured Kids uses literature as a tool to support positive identity development, empathy, and sense of belonging. We search for these themes in books. Our goal is not to teach children what they mean, but to help children internalize and exemplify them in their own lives. Woodson’s books transform the reader, and quite simply, expand our impact.