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.
The Need for Belonging and How We Help It Flourish in Our Schools
Belonging at school is a critical component of student success, academically, socially, and emotionally. However, across the globe, students have been reporting experiencing lower rates of belonging in recent years. Upon reading this, the questions for educators are as follows: How exactly does a student’s sense of belonging impact their life in and out of school? How do I know if my students feel like they belong at school? What can we do to foster a sense of belonging in all of our students? Let’s address those questions now.
Rise Of The Amphibians
I was delightfully surprised and slightly disheartened by a New York Times op-ed piece, The Rise of The Amphibians, by David Brooks.
Delightfully surprised because his article filled a great need: increased awareness of the challenges faced by children who are raised cross-culturally. His piece also presented some clear ways this growing population will contribute to global advancements and help close cultural gaps surrounding us.
I was slightly disheartened because only one paragraph (quoted below) glossed over the challenges that these children will face throughout their lives:
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.