Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Raising Global Citizens

Note: I can't figure out what's causing the wonky formatting at the end of my post. Sorry.

I've been thinking about the topic of raising global citizens a lot lately. This is something that's always in my mind, but this recent Twitter conversation brought it to the forefront:

KateMessner: Inundated w/ tweets from someone who called me a "Muslim sympathizer" for recommendin this picture book: http://t.co/8BC0ISBuLK Scary world.

MCusolito: @KateMessner To your tweeter: Thanks for inspiring Kate to tweet about it again. I just ordered it. Looks great.

The picture book mentioned is Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini.

The first page of text says
Red is the rug
dad kneels on the pray,
facing toward Mecca,
 five times a day.

The book goes on to describe various colors that relate to the child's religious life, such as the blue of the mom's hijab and the golden dome of the Mosque.

This book does not proselytize (Try to convert a person to Islam). It simply describes basic details about the life of a Muslim child.

I believe that all children should be taught basic facts about major world religions. They should be taught about those religions, not necessarily to believe in those religions. I believe the choice about religious observance belongs with the family, and ultimately the individual. Certainly not with a public school.

In fact, when I was in the classroom, I never revealed my religious beliefs to my 4th grade students. Many children look up to their teachers and want to follow in their path. I didn't believe it was my place to contradict the religious teachings of their parents. It was my place, however, to expand my students' understanding of our world. We had interesting conversations about beliefs of others, though, and even the students who came from devout families left just as strong in their own convictions but with more appreciation for the beliefs of others.

At one point, a set of parents demanded a meeting with me because they were concerned I was teaching their daughter "Pagan religions." Once we sat down and I explained what I was doing, shared my resources, and described the kinds of conversations we had in the classroom, their concerns fell away. Those parents became some of my biggest supporters and their daughter left my classroom a Christian, just like when she entered. But she left as a Christian who had a better understanding of the ways other people worship.

Public schools should help children understand what other members of our country and our greater world believe. If every person had a basic understanding and acceptance of the beliefs of others, we'd have a much more peaceful world.

So back to my Twitter exchange. Following that exchange two things happened:

  1. I began building a Pinterest board to help you teach your children/students about world religions. Golden Domes was the first book I pinned. Then I pinned my favorite books from my own collection. Now I've expanded my search for resources and am adding them as I find them. If you have books, websites, or videos to recommend, please leave them in the comments or email me. michelle(at)michellecusolito(dot)com.
  2. I was contacted by an Associate Editor at School Library Journal who is writing an article on the topic. She saw my tweet to Kate Messner, so she interviewed me for the article. I'm excited that SLJ found this topic important enough to dig deeper and write about it.

I hope you'll visit my Pinterest board.  Check out the resources and let us know how you like them. (Most of the books are available through my library system, so be sure to check yours, too).

Repin the resources you love. Share my board with others via Facebook and Twitter. Let's help other parents and teachers raise global citizens.

You Might Also Like:
Picture Book Biographies
Resources for Readers: New Pinterest Boards


  1. Well said, Michelle. Education is so important. There is so much prejudice/racism/etc in our society that is rooted in ignorance much more than actual malice. That isn't going to change unless we open the door to all cultures, religions, etc. I once had a great talk with the great-grandson of Sitting Bull on this very topic and took away so many insights. Thanks for posting on this important topic...

    1. Thanks for commenting, Mark, and thanks for all you do in your classroom each day to raise global citizens.

  2. Thank you so much Michelle for this wonderful post, and for your support. People like you inspire me to keep writing, with the reassurance that these books are valued and needed.

    1. Thank you for reading Hena. Your books are definitely valued. Thank you for writing them.