Blog Action Day: Human Rights, For Every Child

Apparently today was Blog Action Day, where thousands of different bloggers from all over the world post about the same theme.  I felt inspired to write a post about this year’s theme, which is human rights.  After all, I'm guessing it's a topic that teachers care about, even if this post ends up with a slightly less "teachery" flavor to it than my usual posts.

I learned about this day from one of my favorite webcomic artists over at Zen Pencils.  If you've never heard of it, have a look.  Gavin Than illustrates inspirational quotes in narrative format.  There's an awesome cartoon here about teaching (What Teachers Make), and one here about reading.  Well, on October 16 (technically yesterday, since he's in New Zealand and the 16th has already passed for him) he posted this comic about human rights.  And I thought, "That's just like the book I use with my class!"

You see at my school, we are all expected to create classroom rules with the children at the beginning of the year.  We also teach about the Constitution on September 17, as required by federal law.  It's a natural progression to lead from classroom rules in our fourth grade classroom into the idea of a document that outlines the law of the land, but I like to take it one step further.  I also teach about the Bill of Rights because I feel it's even more uplifting than the Constitution alone.  So in order to lead into the Bill of Rights, every year after we create classroom rules, I also talk to my students about their rights in our classroom (getting up for a tissue without raising their hand, having time each day to talk to me about problems or questions, and so on).  And to get them thinking about the difference between a right and those things they'd like to do but are really privileges I always read For Every Child. I said, it reminds me a lot of the comic.  Both are written by UNICEF, so there is a lot of overlap between the rights of children and human rights in general.  Some other rights have to do with the right to a name, an adult to care for them, and protection from harm.  Each double page spread is illustrated by a different artist, making every page feel like a nice surprise as you're reading.  It's one of those books that has very few words, and will spark a lot of discussion.

I recommend it for a read aloud because one of the illustrations might not be suitable for every young audience (I put a sticker over the part of an image I thought was questionable).  Plus although there are very few words, they are so poignant that some of the rights would be confusing or lost on children who just breeze through it (for example, "Every one of us shall have a name and a land of our own").  The ideas in the book need to be digested slowly, questioned, and discussed with an adult.  However it's a great way to illustrate for children how lucky they are to be growing up in a democratic society that honors and protects children's rights.  During my Classroom Rules and Rights mini-unit (available for purchase) this book is a great bridge between what students need to do and what they are owed.

Do you have a favorite read aloud that you use to empower your students?

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