I remember the day I headed out on my own. No classmates. No chaperones. No host family. I got on a bus and went into the city center.
Looking back on it now with my anxious mother-eyes, I think it might have been a little crazy. I’m quite certain my parents wouldn’t have been thrilled. But it gave me a new perspective, even though it had all been right in front of me for weeks.
It was the summer after my sophomore year in college, and I was doing a short month-long Spanish-intensive study abroad in Costa Rica. I lived with a host family, was served lengua (cow tongue), saw the Caribbean Sea, the rain forest, and wild iguanas and sloths all for the first time. It was amazing.
But until that afternoon I had spent my time either with my host family, or with my classmates in the program. On that day, most of my classmates had gone ziplining. I had already spent too many colones on incredible outings to spring for this one, so I decided I would just spend the day in town on my own.
It felt like I was seeing the city with new eyes. I had walked the same path over and over since I’d been there, but I saw things I’d never seen before. Talked to people I’d never spoken to before. I didn’t realize until then that I had been walking around in my American bubble, surrounded by my familiar friends. For the first time, I felt like I was really there, as a part of the city, not simply as an observer of it. That was the day when I truly felt immersed in a new country.
I haven’t been a world traveler. I’ve only left the US about five times, total. But each trip made me realize how much variety there is in this world. And yet, how much there is there is to unite us.
As a young adult, I often returned from such trips saying that everyone should spend some time out of the country to get that broader perspective on the world. Now, as a mom, I want that for my kids.
As much as I’d love to pack my family up to experience a different continent or area of the world each week (and have lived vicariously through others doing something like that) our currently family plan for the near future is more focused on putting down roots than on taking up wings.
The great news is that we (and you!) don’t have to wait until we get our family set of passports and a personal jet in order to share a global perspective with our children. We can start where we are and still do quite a lot.
Give Your Child the World
My friend Jamie Martin recently released her book, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time*. (*affiliate link) In it, she shares how she shares the world with her own family through books, discussions, and family activities, and how each of us can give our children a broader global perspective without ever booking a ticket.
The first 30-40 pages introduce Jamie and her family’s amazing story, and why her heart is drawn to raising children with a global perspective. The majority of the book, about 150 pages worth, is devoted to lists of books, organized by region, and separated by recommended age groups. The index also allows you to search the book list by author, time period, country/region, or title. An amazing resource for families and educators alike!
Or perhaps a better word choice would be “An invaluable resource!” as LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow, called it. (Seriously, if you wrote a book about children’s books, can you imagine anything better than LeVar Burton giving it his stamp of approval?) As he said, “An invaluable resource for any and everyone who has children in their lives! Jamie Martin has scoured the best in children’s literature from around the globe and compiled in one volume, book recommendations sure to appeal to the reader in your life.”
Clearly this isn’t just a quickly pulled together list of books. As Jamie says, “As I researched over a thousand titles for these lists, I aimed for quality over quantity. I tried to select books that truly convey the culture in which they take place with both inspiration and depth. My goal has been to sift through the piles of books myself, saving you as much time as possible — time that you can spend reading!”
With both fiction and nonfiction selections, Jamie’s book lists are organized by chapter into a multicultural section, Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East, North America, Latin America, and Australia, Oceania, and the Polar Regions. Each regional list is then segmented by age, with books recommended for ages 4-6, 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12. For every book on the list, there is a thoughtful synopsis on what the book is about and whether or not there are any themes within the book that require extra consideration. She’s done tons of homework to help you pick the very best titles for your own children, without investing the time or money required in order to get that same information on your own.
On a Religious Note
Jamie’s book is printed by the Christian publishing company, Zondervan, and Jamie is certainly not bashful about her Christian beliefs. I recognize that the collective audience of Not Just Cute comes from a variety of religious backgrounds. While there are some religious references in the introductory chapters of Jamie’s book, I don’t find this to be an exclusively Christian resource. I found the references to be largely autobiographical (how she prayed for her adopted children, for example), or relatable on a human level (the biblical reference to Christ’s admonition to “love thy neighbor”). I found it to be an act of authenticity, not in any way proselytizing or overbearing.
The book as a whole is focused on learning about and respecting the diverse cultures in the world, and religion is a part of those cultures. The books included in the reading lists come from a variety of backgrounds and diverse belief systems. While most of the books in the lists have no or only brief religious references, Jamie actually makes a note in the summaries when the book does (including Christian references as well) as a courtesy to readers.
I don’t think we can truly learn about the variety of cultures in the world while ignoring the religious aspects of those cultures. Imagine exploring India without discussing Gandhi and his work for religious harmony, Egypt without its ancient gods, Cambodia without referencing its Buddhist temples, or France during WWII without mentioning Judaism. Rest assured that this book carries a respectful, pluralistic perspective.
Read the World
I’m planning to use Jamie’s book to select titles to share with my family as we focus on different parts of the world this summer. What a perfect way to get ready for the Olympics in August! You can get in on the action too. Pick up your own copy of Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time* (which is currently discounted on Amazon) and be sure to check out Jamie’s Read the World Book Club.
Whether you choose to read the world this summer, or all year long, Give Your Child the World* is a resource you’ll be able to turn to for years, to help your child see the world with new eyes. And you don’t have to send them into the city center all alone at the tender age of 6 to accomplish it.
As Jamie wrote, “Creating a family culture of books means our kids have the chance to live a thousand lives before leaving our home. Isn’t that incredible? They can travel the world (and beyond), all while safe within our four walls. They can feel the pain of a character’s flaws and learn from their mistakes, without having to experience the actual consequences. Far from a way to escape reality, reading actually prepares our children for real life in a unique way.“
Where will you start your journey with your family? For now, renewing my passport will wait. With this book in my hand, my first stop is the library.