Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Battistoni on Non-Fiction and Global Issues

This month, Rebecca Battistoni is a guest blogger in my place. Rebecca is the librarian at Santa Cruz Cooperative School, an international school with an American curriculum in Bolivia. Previously, for thirteen years, she was a middle school teacher. As you will see, Rebecca is passionate about inspiring students to take action to solve the world's most pressing problems. Two days after I visited SCCS, Rebecca and a group of her students left for Brazil to attend the Global Issues Network Conference.

When I met David Schwartz for the first time, it was at the Santa Cruz airport in Bolivia, around 2:00 am, and still very hot outside.  David had come to Bolivia on the last leg of a three country school tour – first Venezuela, then Peru, and finally, Bolivia.  Our school had invited him to speak to our elementary and middle school students about math, science, and nature – topics that align with one of my other passions, global issues. 

As librarian of our 600+ student, Pre - K through 12th grade school, I am always looking for great non-fiction that helps teach our students about the world around them.  And since taking on sponsorship of the school’s Global Issues Network (GIN) group, I have become even more interested in finding books and resources that will help our students make sense of global issues that will impact their lives. 

One of the components of a GIN conference is using research-based, factual information as a framework to discuss a local problem.  Imagine how important it is, then, to offer students only the best in well-written, well-researched non-fiction in order to complete their projects.  Most of you know this already, just as you know the impact of the Common Core State Standards on the teaching and publishing world.  So why write about it here? 

Maybe you are not aware of the GIN movement.
It hasn’t reached the United States in the same way it has in Europe, Asia, Africa, and now South America – namely, through the student conferences held yearly, bringing together hundreds of students from international schools to create networks of global citizens.  But you may have heard of Challenge 20/20, a similar program run by the National Association of Independent Schools.

The goals of both programs are based on the book High Noon: 20 Global Problems and 20 Years to Solve Them by Jean-Francois Rischard, former Vice-President at the World Bank.  The 20 global issues are divided into three main categories: Sharing our planet; Sharing our humanity; and Sharing our rulebook.  The issues range from global warming to water deficits and deforestation, from peacekeeping and the digital divide to illegal drugs and eCommerce, to name just a few.

But how easy is it for students to understand the 20 issues?  How does one go about explaining biotechnology rules to middle school students?  Or what about international labor laws to second graders?  Not an easy thing to do at all.  However, now is the time to tackle these issues, finding quality books written in clear, easy to understand ways that our students can understand.  Now is the time to teach about topics that are not traditionally found on “Easy” bookshelves.  Many teachers, librarians and authors have already begun, and there are many books which are the starting off points for our student researchers.  Authors, please write more of these books. Teachers and librarians, please look for the best of these books and use them with your students!  Please teach the tough topics. Our students are interested in learning, and the world needs them to learn about these subjects. Global issues can be ignored no longer.  

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