Ideas for Using Informational Text to Help Students Develop a Global Worldview
The United States continues to diversify and expand to include many different cultures. As we strive to learn and understand the differences in our various backgrounds, it is imperative that students become aware of the value of libraries in establishing a global culture that is respectful of each other’s differences.
Libraries serve as hubs of information, digital exchange centers, exploration polestars, and hearts of learning for whole communities. They help students develop an understanding and respect for people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds through vast resources of books, periodicals, and computer centers, and through the librarians who work there.
The important work of libraries is not exclusive to the United States. Literacy heroes all around the world are promoting global literacy, and many of them are advancing literacy in impoverished and neglected communities by creating libraries. Their stories offer a powerful learning opportunity for your students.
Examples of Global Libraries
Libraries in many rural, poverty-stricken global areas provide hope to many who long to live in a free nation. Librarians in these areas continue to create ingenious ways of reaching their communities, which are in dire need of literacy support. Take the following, for example:
- In Afghanistan, some schools are hundreds of miles away, and a child’s education is further obstructed by a lack of resources, including print books. Saber Hosseini is a literacy hero who believes in the power of education and brings Afghan children books on his bicycle library, providing them access to a world of knowledge. Saber, a schoolteacher in one of the poorest areas of Afghanistan, attests to the fact that a library is more than just stacks of books—it is also a community of individuals willing to learn and discuss and grow.
- Ridwan Sururi, known as the Don Quixote of Literacy, rides his horse to a remote Indonesian village to bring books to children.
- The Elephant Mobile Library in Laos brings children’s books and additional educational materials to schools in the northern province of Xaybouly.
- “Bibliomuleros,” mules carrying books and clothes, make weekly visits to schools in Venezuela.
- The Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha library boats in Bangladesh promote literacy in flood-prone areas.
- Dashdondog Jamba is a mobile librarian who travels via camel to bring books to children in the Gobi desert.
- Mobile libraries in Thailand provide books for children who reside in remote, impoverished areas.
Benefits of Learning about Global Libraries
Your students will benefit in many ways from learning about the work these literacy heroes are performing. By including this topic in your curriculum, students will practice the following skills:
- Analyzing evidence critically and demonstrating an understanding of how socio-economic factors affect communities.
- Recognizing how cultural differences and factors affect economies.
- Engaging with content-rich informational text to gain a broader understanding of the world around them.
- Experiencing opportunities for reflection, discussion, and debate.
- Writing arguments based on reasoning and offering evidence-based support.
- Constructing cross-cultural interdependence, as well as developing an appreciation of how impoverished communities can prosper when literacy and education are brought to them through library initiatives.
- Moving beyond their immediate environment and viewing the lives of others through a global lens to inspire learning about other cultures, and most importantly, to foster global connections.
- Gaining comprehension and expectation that no two cultures and no two libraries are alike and that the world continuously changes over time.
- Making personal connections to the text that can lead to engaging global discussions about poverty, denial of the right to education, lack of libraries, and social injustice.
- Gaining positive role models and understanding of how important promoting literacy is.
Incorporating the Topic into Your Lessons
Lesson plans should include a variety of informational texts throughout the year that highlight a specific country’s library. This social interaction around complex informational text will lead to rich, structured discussions. You can scaffold informational text about global libraries through close reading and discussion questions. Use the following activities to get started.
- Introduce a discussion about the availability of library services in other countries. Ask questions such as these: Do other countries have school libraries and free public libraries? How do people in remote places get new books? Why are libraries important? How do you think literacy rates around the world differ for males and females? What does it mean to be a global citizen?
- Tell students they will have the opportunity to explore the availability and types of services provided by school and free public libraries in specific countries such as Egypt, Iran, Argentina, etc.
- Ask students what they know about the countries you will be reading about and record their answers. Then read aloud articles gathered from various news sources, and follow up with short segments of videos from broadcasters such as the BBC and CNN.
- Have students reflect on the articles and videos in their journals or discuss what they learned in small groups. Were their prior perceptions about the countries correct? What questions do they still have?
- In small groups, have students conduct web research on a particular poverty-stricken region of the world and report out to the class in a 5–10 minute presentation. In addition to providing a brief geographical and historical overview of the area affected, each group should address a set of analytical questions. For example: To what degree does the affected area’s colonial past contribute to lack of libraries for children?
- Have students choose three areas of the world they’ve learned about to compare and contrast with the United States. Compare population density, average income, literacy rates, birth and death rates, industries, natural resources, etc. What conclusions can they draw from the comparison?
- Assign opposing roles to a critical statement, and have students prepare for and participate in a debate. Statements could include the following:
- The gap in literacy rates around the world is fair.
- Literacy equals power.
- The work of literacy heroes is worthwhile.
- In some places around the world, people don’t need to be literate.
- Improving the lives of a few improves the lives of many.
- Skype with different global classrooms, and have students read stories to the students in the classrooms to improve reading skills.
- Have students collaborate with other students via PenPalSchools.
- Explore lesson plans at Global Oneness Project.
- Have students choose a global literacy project they would like to support and brainstorm ways they can raise money for the nonprofit.
Resources for Teaching about Global Libraries
Following is a list of informational texts and videos based around global literacy initiatives.
- This Bicycle Library Is Raising Literacy Rates in Afghanistan
- A Quixotic Mission: Indonesia’s Library on Horseback
- Luang Prabang Library Boat Attracting More Young Readers
- Bringing Books to Children in Thailand’s Remote Mountain Districts
- Syria’s Secret Library
- The Elephant Mobile Library in Laos
- The Bibliomulas of Venezuela
- “Floating Schools” Bring Classrooms to Stranded Students
- The Camel Librarian of the Gobi Desert
- Horseback Library Serves Indonesia’s Remote Readers
- Mekong River Library Boat
- Uncovering a Secret Underground Library in Syria
- A Knowledge Transporter in Afghanistan
- Bringing Books to Children in Remote Areas