Review: If the World Were a Village

written by ARP editor Tami Winfrey Harris

At this moment, there are more than 6.6 billion people on the planet! It’s hard to picture so many people at one time–but what if we imagine the whole world as a village of just 100 people?

21 people speak a Chinese dialect
10 earn only about a dollar a day
17 cannot read or write
28 have a television in their homes
Only 30 always have enough to eat

So reads the blurb introducing “If the World Were a Village” by David J. Smith (Kids Can Press, 2002). I was thrilled to read the responses to the “share your resources” thread and see that someone recommended this incomparable book that has been sitting in my review pile for a few weeks. It is a treasure–as valuable a global education tool for adults as it is for children.

As the book blurb explains, the conceit of “If the World Were a Village” is that it views our big, wide world as a small village of just 100 people and examines “who we are, where we live, how fast we are growing, what languages we speak, what religions we practice and more.” By doing this, the book offers a more realistic view of our global family than the America- or Europe-centric one children are taught in school. (In the global village, only five citizens are from the United States or Canada; only 11 are from Europe, compared with 61 from Asia and 14 from Africa) Simultaneously, it unveils the privilege most of us (of all races) enjoy in this country. (Nearly a third of our fellow villagers don’t have enough to eat! We all know this on some level, but put this way–making the hungry people neighbors not occupants of some far-off land–makes it impossible not to care…not to want to do something.)

“If the World Were a Village,” which includes charming illustrations by Shelagh Armstrong, makes big, important points in a way that is simple to understand. Booklist recommends the book for children in at least grades 3 to 5. Younger children can benefit, if the book is read aloud. This isn’t a bedtime story–not that kind of book. I believe it is best used as an ongoing resource for teaching global consciousness. Helpfully, the final section of the book instructs parents on how to teach children “world-mindedness.”

“If the World Were a Village” should have a home on the bookshelf of anyone committed to global consciousness and anti-racism, whether you have children or not. I have not ever seen our world and our connection to all its citizens explained so clearly and simply.

More reviews:

Social Studies for Kids

Amazon

Education World (Lesson Planning Article)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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