Children do not choose to be refugees or immigrants. They accompany their families seeking shelter, freedom from persecution, and opportunities to contribute to society. Before leaving their home country, many children and their families experience violence, hunger, separation and other atrocities that may have long-lasting effects on their health and development. Children must be offered protection, care and support to live healthy, meaningful lives.
That’s the first paragraph in a very timely and important statement issued on Monday by the Canadian Paediatric Society. I am proud to say my daughter-in-law serves on their Board of Directors. The stand these Canadian doctors have taken is admirable. In light of the American president’s recent executive order they are calling on the Canadian government to………
- Increase the number of refugees who will be accepted to Canada in 2017.
- Increase the number of privately-sponsored refugees from Iraq and Syria who can come to Canada in 2017.
- Continue to ensure that Canadians with dual citizenship from one of the seven countries affected by the U.S. ban are able to cross the U.S. border with a valid Canadian passport.
- Suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, so that refugees refused entry into the United States can come to Canada.
- Lead a global response to refugee resettlement.
You can read the entire statement here.
Thoughts on Refugees
Should a children’s book teach a lesson? Yesterday I noticed a call on Facebook from a former student of mine who is now a teacher. She was asking people to share names of good children’s picture books that teach a lesson.
This caught my attention because I write stories for children. When I am preparing a manuscript for submission I always carefully read the instructions from the book publisher or magazine editor about what they are looking for from perspective authors. Many clearly state they are NOT looking for children’s stories that teach a lesson. They are most concerned about whether a story is written in a way that will capture the reader’s interest and not whether it will indoctrinate children with some moral truth or teach them a life lesson in an overt way.
I think the very best picture books motivate each reader, whether that is the child listening to the picture book, or the adult reading it to them, to think about something new or consider something familiar in a new way. And that something can be different for every reader.
This post features a few of the many picture books my grandson and I have enjoyed together in the last four years. These six are examples of books he has asked me to read to him over and over again and because of that I assume he thinks they are good books. He and I have never discussed whether they teach a lesson, but I looked each one up online and apparently every one of them teaches children many lessons. I’m glad my grandson and I didn’t know what they were.
Picture Books Have Changed
Perfect for Pre-Schoolers
Remembering Maurice Sendak
John Hull a British religious educator says, “Religion is a major source of conflict in our world. People won’t be at peace till religions are at peace. It must be part of every child’s education that they learn to respect other religions and understand them.”
A World of Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack is one resource for inter-faith education I can recommend. The book explains in “kid friendly” language the principles of twenty eight different religious groups. It introduces children to the founders of each faith and tells them about the practices and rituals of that particular spiritual tradition. Even more enlightening than its words are the illustrations by Kathleen Peterson. She has created a collage of colorful images that bring to life the important aspects of each faith group. All the pictures have interesting borders which detail symbols central to the religion described on the page. This is an excellent book for parents to read with their children and use as a starting point for discussion about how other faiths are similar and different from their own. I have placed a copy in our church library.
Responding To Changing Understandings of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Children Are Watching
Did you know Winnie the Pooh was from Winnipeg? A statue at Assiniboine Park helps tell the story.
Harry Colebourn was born in England in 1887 and immigrated to Canada at age 18. After graduating as a veterinarian from a Ontario college he moved to Winnipeg. He joined the army during World War I and on his way to a training camp in Quebec he bought a bear cub. The train had made a stop at White River, Ontario and there Harry met a hunter who sold him a female bear cub for $20. The hunter had killed its mother. Harry named the bear Winnie after his adopted home city of Winnipeg. Harry was posted to England and took Winnie with him where she quickly became the mascot of Harry’s regiment, The Fort Garry Horse. Harry was the regiment’s veterinarian. When Harry was sent to France for three years he put Winnie in the London Zoo.
When author A. A. Milne visited the London Zoo with his son Christopher, the young boy immediately fell in love with Winnie the bear cub and named his teddy bear after Winnie. That teddy bear would become the main character in a series of stories his father would write about Winnie the Pooh.
After the war Major Harry Colebourn decided to leave Winnie in the London Zoo and went back to Winnipeg where he practiced veterinary medicine till just a couple of years prior to his death in 1947.
A. A. Milne’s books about Winnie the Pooh became beloved pieces of children’s literature read around the world. Later Walt Disney turned the stories into a movie and television series.
This statue just outside the Children’s Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park recognizes the connection between Winnipeg and the literary character Winnie the Pooh. A plaque nearby explains the story of Harry Colebourn. His impetuous decision to purchase a bear cub and name it after Winnipeg had consequences that reached far beyond anything he might have imagined.
Did you Know James Bond Was From Winnipeg?
Winnipeg’s Millennium Library
A Quick Visit to Assiniboine Park
“I like me! No doubt about it. I like you. Can’t live without out! We are free! Let’s shout about it! Hooray for freedom’s child.”
That mantra is adapted from Freedom’s Child written by children’s author Bill Martin in 1970. I learned it at an educational conference I attended in 1979 at the University of North Dakota. We recited it every day.
Me and Bill Martin in 1979
For a week children’s author Bill Martin and his colleagues introduced us to poetry and music and wonderful books and great children’s authors. One of the things they talked to us about was how good literature could change children’s lives by making them more open minded and caring, giving them a window into a world where people liked themselves and accepted and liked others, even if they were very different than they were.
As I follow the American election campaign I’ve considered sending some voters and politicians a copy of I Am Freedom’s Child. They need to take to heart its message that acceptance of all kinds of people and their differences is necessary to make freedom’s dream come true.
I’m So Tired of You America
A Bible on the Ballot Box
A Fire Changed Her Life
On Monday Dave and I went on a twenty kilometre bike ride. On our journey we drove through Kildonan Park. It was a hot day and the pool in the park was crowded with kids. I stopped to take a photo because it made me happy to see all those kids outside being active and having fun together. I was glad my tax dollars were paying for that opportunity.
As I give tours to kids at the art gallery this summer I have come to realize just how many great programs are in place to help families get their children involved in worthwhile healthy activities during the months they aren’t in school. Many tour groups come to the gallery from schools, community clubs and government sponsored programs across the city that offer fun and educational activities in summer to kids for free or at a very nominal fee. I am glad my tax dollars are paying for this too.
If we want a healthy society we need to have future generations of citizens who are happy, active, curious, educated and hopeful. I am glad my tax dollars are helping to subsidize programs and places that try to encourage those things in kids all year long.
I’m Glad My Taxes Are Paying For This
I Don’t Want a Tax Break
Photo by Ian Froese- used by permission
Last week the Carillon, a newspaper I work for as a columnist, featured this photo that graphically illustrated different local attitudes towards changing understandings of gender identity and sexual orientation.
In the photo one school trustee listens attentively to a young woman asking the Hanover School Division for a more supportive environment in local schools for young people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. The trustee looks right at the high school student speaking and appears to be near tears. Her empathy for the speaker is reflected in every line of her face.
Another trustee is expressionless and has her eyes down not even looking at the young woman speaking. The photo caption tells us she has been a spokesperson for constituents concerned about allowing Gay Straight Alliance groups to meet in division high schools.
Behind the two trustees sits a high school graduate who has advocated for a voice for LGBTQ teens in division schools in the past. He has become something of a national hero and has received a generous university scholarship for his courage.
Handsome and Majestic
As I read The Carillon online last Thursday the photo jumped out at me. I was in Toronto and had just seen two documentaries at the city’s Hot Docs film festival. The first called Handsome and Majestic was about a teen from Prince George British Columbia who decided to be honest about his transgender identity in his school. This led to so much bullying, including death threats, that his parents had to pull him out of school and his mother quit her job to educate her child at home. The documentary traced the family’s journey through this difficult time. When the film was over we were introduced to the transgender youth whose story is featured in the movie. He had traveled to Toronto with his mother for the film’s premiere. The Toronto audience gave him a standing ovation. The part of the Handsome and Majestic documentary that had me getting me out my Kleenex was when the father of the transgender teen talked about the transformation of his own attitude from anger and intolerance to acceptance, understanding and love for his child.
Suited was the second documentary I saw. It was about two New York tailors, who specialize in providing well- fitted suits for people in the transgender community. As various clients come into the tailor shop the audience is introduced to them and then the camera takes us into the clients’ private worlds as they prepare for special moments in their lives. One is getting married, another interviewing for their first job, a Jewish teen is celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, a lawyer is presenting a case to the Supreme Court and a popular cab driver is throwing a grand fortieth birthday party. They all need a suit for these events and the ones they find on racks in stores just don’t fit their transgender bodies so they have turned to the specialty tailors for a custom made suit. What brought me to tears was the way the families of these people supported them. The grandmother adamant her transgender grand child will look great in a suit at their Bar Mitzvah. The parents of the groom who say their transgender child will receive their unconditional love and support to their dying day.
We’re on a sharp learning curve when it comes to understanding the biological, social and psychological factors that cause human beings to identify with various gender roles and sexual orientations. How can we best support each one? Films like Handsome and Majestic and Suited offer an informed and compassionate perspective. Could they be shown at a future Hanover School Division board meeting?
Teaching Kids About Diversity
Crossing the Line
Take Time to Listen