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Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Child, Every Child, written by David J Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong. Kids Can, 2011. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"Children are not equally spread out around the world. Some countries have a low percentage of children, while others have a high percentage. Of the 30 countries with the lowest percentage of children, 27 are in Europe. Of the 30 countries with the highest percentage of children, 25 are in Africa."

This book, another in the CitizenKid series from Kids Can, is inspired by the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child. Its premise is that all children have certain rights that must be protected.

It is evident early in the reading that most of the children who will be reading this book are vastly different from children in other parts of our world. We take much for granted.

The statistics shared will startle interested readers. There are 2.2 billion children in the world. They live in many countries, in many different types of homes, and have unique and widely varied family arrangements. Too many are homeless, many of those in Latin America and in India. Many don't get enough to eat, do not have clean drinking water and will not live to become adults.

The rights to education, personal choice, protection from child labor are also different. Often, boys are educated and freely choose a life partner. Girls are not afforded such rights. Many do not go to school and often have their husbands chosen for them. More than 200 million children work full-time, some as young as 5. Their work is often factories that make explosives, as child soldiers fighting wars they do not understand. Children live in houses, apartments, tents, boats and yurts. They live with families large and small. Some must move far from their home countries and their family to find a better life elsewhere.

While these differences are too often appalling, it is important to note that there are also some similarities. Children all over the world love water and swimming.  They play soccer, ride bicycles, and run! They love to play with toys. I was surprised to read that 500 million children 'use the Internet regularly'.

The topics are wide-ranging. Each one is paired with one of the rights listed in the UN Convention. They are repeated at the back of the book for children to revisit and discuss them. Finally, the author suggests ways for his readers to learn more about the children of the world.  You might use these suggestions in a classroom, or as a family activity. It is often our children whose strong voices inspire the changes that will make a better world. They can teach us all a lesson in acceptance and activism.

We may lead vastly different lives; but, we share the same love of laughter, the same dream of peace and the same hopes and aspirations for a better future.

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