Tough Topics Read Feed: Peace and Conflict

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Tough Topics Read Feed: Peace and Conflict

When reflecting on the 2017 Summer Reading theme “Build a Better World" in the context of current events, the tough topics of “Peace” and "Conflict" come to mind. Why does it seem so difficult to grasp, embody and maintain? Ideally the books from this display will prompt family discussions about peace and the ways in which you can help to nurture and share it.

Peace and conflict play an important part in our character development during childhood, but somewhere along the way, some of us seem to lose respect for the concepts. Today’s youth live in a world in which they are experiencing, witnessing and hearing about terrorist bombings and attacks, police and school shootings, cyberbullies, orphaned refugees, child abductions and child soldiers…all of which weighs heavily on the hearts and collective conscience of adults who endeavor to safeguard children. Below are a few titles that explore concepts of peace and conflict for children of varying ages.

Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz (Toddlers/PreK/Kindergarten)
On International Peace Day (September 21st) and every day throughout the year, children all over the world share their wishes for peace. With Karen Katz's minimal text and richly-hued illustrations of cherub-faced children in their environments, readers embark on a colorful journey around the world to meet a diverse group of children who teach them to say "peace" in 22 different languages.

Children Growing Up With War by Jenny Matthews (Grade 5+)
Jenny Matthews  photo documents the lives of children living in nations beset by conflict and violence around the world, including such nations as Rwanda, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. The reader visits different conflict areas around the world to shed light on the experiences of children impacted by war who live through challenging circumstances and undesirable conditions. Though it may be difficult to view some of the images, the book couches each chapter in the hopeful and powerful language of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (home, family, health, work, education and play) and provides a good prompt for follow-up discussions.

Conflict Resolution by Robin Doak (Grade 5+)
One of several volumes in the "Character Education" series. Ironically, Doak's book begins with "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist" --a historic quote by controversial political figure, Indira Ghandi. It then proceeds to cover different types of conflicts that youth may encounter. "Conflict Resolution" takes a relatable approach to its theme incorporating anecdotal scenarios and clear language with key vocabulary in bold black letters. Relevant chapters like "The Key is Keeping Calm," "Respecting Differences," "Keeping Schools Peaceful" explore realistic scenarios in which suggested approaches to conflict resolution may be applied.

Green Lizards Vs. Red Triangles by Steve Antony (Prek - 1st grade)
Steve Antony's abstract concept book focuses on the senseless conflict between two adversaries with nearly nothing in common: "strong" green lizards (living animals) and "smart" red rectangles (typically inanimate shapes). When an opponent from one side questions the purpose of the fight, he is wordlessly and unceremoniously squashed. This tips off an even bigger and seemingly endless battle! Will a winner emerge from this inexplicable war? Can these two adversaries somehow push aside their enmity to establish a peaceful, harmonious existence? The book will hopefully spark readers to ponder and discuss words like "war," "defeat," "truce" and "peace".

A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley (K - 2nd grade)
True to National Geographic's style, stunning close-up photos beckon to the reader and bids them to ponder how peace can be achieved. "All it takes is one hand... One smile... A single voice." The photo-illustrated picture book goes on to share an uncomplicated, yet touching message about our responsibilities for generating and maintaining peace everywhere at any time with everyone across the globe.

The Peace Book  by Todd Parr (Toddler/PreK/K)
Todd Parr's bright, colorful, quirky cartoon illustrations charm young readers as he explains the tricky concept of peace in ways that are easier to understand. Parr equates peace with "making new friends," "helping your neighbor" and "everyone having a home". He even describes it in a more abstract fashion such as "peace is watching it snow..." As always, Parr's optimistic and engaging books make big concepts graspable for little people.

What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky (2nd - 4th grades)
Vladimir Radunsky explores the concept of peace through the 5 senses with a diverse group of children from an international school in Rome. Radunsky's lyrical anti-war thesis is salve for today's tough headlines of war and terrorism rendered in cheerfully bright painted illustrations. Children of all ages can relate to and share their own visions of peace with each other following this model. "What Does Peace Feel Like?" could provide a wonderful catalyst for engaging children in sensory poetry.

Check these books out, then set aside 20 minutes with your children for reading and discussion!