We are the World
September 11, 2009; 3:00 am by Leigh Goldman Balber
Educators talk a lot about building students into global citizens. A tall order when you consider that just a few years ago, two-thirds of American 18-24-year-olds surveyed couldn’t find Iraq on a map. We’ve got our work cut out for us. You’ve got your work cut out for you. But it doesn’t have to be “work.”
Homa Tavangar is the author of Growing up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World. Born in Iran, Tavangar moved to the U.S. when she was a year old. She’s lived all over the country as well as the Middle East, East Africa and South America and speaks Persian (Farsi), Spanish, Portuguese plus some French and Swahili. She lived with her family, including her three daughters, for three months in West Africa. Talk about a steady supply of teachable moments. Tavangar offers simple, easy methods to introduce young kids to the ways of the world – foods, languages, cultures – and life beyond their own zip code.
Adopt the attitude that the things you introduce and integrate into your child’s life will become the “new normal.” This is a slow shift to expand her comfort zone and exercise flexibility. Tavangar notes, “You don’t have to feel like you have to be an expert on the whole wide world. And this takes off a lot of pressure. This shouldn’t feel like work, and it shouldn’t feel like yet another demand on or checklist for parents.”
Teach your kids greetings in different languages to get them accustomed to the idea that there are other languages besides English, only the fourth largest in terms of number of speakers. If your child is playing, suggest names for her dolls, imaginary friends or stuffed animals that she doesn’t normally hear, perhaps Usha or Xanthe.
Check out fairytale books from other cultures. The author Demi is always a good choice. Her books include The Empty Pot, One Grain of Rice and Magic Tapestry: A Chinese Folktale. FYI … the number of different Cinderella tales from various cultures would blow your mind. And it’s not always about a glass slipper.
Slip some world music into your iPod playlist so it’s mixed in and will become part of your child’s “new normal.”
The master Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (of recent Ponyo fame) comes to mind. His films include My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Castle in the Sky. Check out an international children’s film festival. If all else fails, you can turn to Disney movies. Talk about the different characters and where they’re from. Mulan and Jasmine aren’t exactly Jersey girls. Even Mary Poppins hails from the U.K.
Try the old variation-on-a-theme approach. Kids love bread and pasta (noodles). Introduce them to different forms of these carb-rich favorites and the traditions associated with each. Make a PB&J on Lebanese pitas, Indian chapatis or Jewish challah. Encourage your children to be adventurous in sampling new foods.
Get one or both of these for your home. (Kids can’t resist spinning a globe.) Don’t let it just sit and collect dust. These have endless potential for geography games and open-ended play. Plus they’re good conversation starters for discussing what it’s like to live in other places.
Another way to get your child thinking about life around the globe is to introduce him/her to sports played in other countries. Front and center: soccer. Yes, we have it here but do not seem to share nearly the same enthusiasm for the sport as the rest of the world does. Visit the website for the International Football Association (FIFA) to learn about all the different countries with teams. Pick a few to root for and follow. Use teams as a window into their cultures.
Growing up Global is available at amazon.com.