As librarians, the world can be “our oyster”. We are privileged to not be constrained by borders when it comes to excellent books for our students. In fact, many of our schools are adding to their missions some type of “world citizen” plank intended to make our students aware that there is more to this world than their town, state or even country. Lucky for us, there are resources and events that allow us to help support that tenet, allowing us to lead the way to the abundance of world riches around us. Following are a few resources to start finding your way on your journey to be a citizen of literature without borders.
The United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY): Whether you get involved in the International Children’s Book Day or use their excellent curated list of of International Books of the year, USBBY is a great resource for dipping your toe into the world of books from all around the world. Their mission is “Building Bridges Through Children’s and Young Adult books.” They are the United States section of IBBY, The International Board on Books for Young People. Both organizations are an incredible resource in not only finding out which is the best of international publishing for youth, they have opportunities to collaborate with fellow colleagues beyond our borders.
Taking a cue from “one book, one school/town/university” initiatives, Global Read Aloud, “One Book to Connect the World” features books for several different reading levels. You are welcome to sign-up any time before September 30th, when Global Read Aloud kicks off. Since 2010, over four million students have participated in this program. It’s a great entry into the international community, with support from the organizers along the way.
What does radio sound like in other countries? Well, you could try a shortwave radio or you can go to Radio Garden and listen to radio stations from all over the world. While there’s not the interaction with others that you can find in some of the following websites, Radio Garden is a free resource allowing immersion into a culture that may be different than your students.
If you are interested in helping create connections with other classes and students around the world, you can try Kidlink Global Education Projects. As Kidlink explains it, they “ make it easy for students and teachers to participate in the numerous collaborative projects by creating web pages in an independent and extremely simple way. Kidspace allows you to integrate in the page other tools like e.g. Google Drive, Padlet”. While the initial website looks dated, the treasures are found in the both the teacher’s room and student works.
Ready to try something bigger? Penpal Schools bills itself as the ‘world’s largest collaborative community.” With over forty projects and the ability to create your own, your students (and your teachers!) might enjoy one of their self-contained projects that include video, an article and questions to answer which in turn will be turned into a discussion among the penpal students. Librarians might be intrigued with lessons on “Fake News” or “Digital Literacy”, while one of your teachers might be interested in using “The Human Body” or “Homes around the World” written by Oxford University Press.
Epals have been connecting classrooms around the world for many years. While it can be used for something as basic as pen pals, you can also collaborate with teachers from all over the world. What about a battle of the books with a school across the US or across the world? Share book reviews with another classroom in another country? Epals can help you with that.
If these programs excite you, maybe it’s time for you to fly away and experience international travel first hand. The United States supports international teacher experiences through the Fulbright’s Global Classrooms Program, Short Term Projects or their Semester of Research Abroad. Teaching Traveling has a list of teacher opportunities all over the world. I’ve personally been abroad going through Oxbridge Academic Programs. Imagine spending a week at Oxford visiting behind the scenes of the Weston, the Bodleian, various college libraries and the Oxford University Press. It was a pinnacle experience for me, and the other librarians with me
No matter what our stated mission is, as librarians we want our students to become responsible world citizens. What better way to introduce them to the world outside with not only literature representing others, but actual experiences writing to or working with students like themselves that live in other parts of the world? If you have a favorite international resource, please pass it along in the comments below. Have a great and informative September!