Title: This Child Every Child: A Book About the World's Children
Author: David J. Smith
Illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Concepts: child schooling and work, discrimination, natural resources, poverty, scarcity, wants and needs
Review: This Child, Every Child consists of twelve sections each highlighting one issue affecting children and their rights (i.e., family structure, access to necessary resources, child labor, child soldiers, etc.). One spread is devoted to each section, which presents the stories of fictional children that represent real-life situations and illustrate the statistics given on each topic. Each section also contains select articles from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The entire document (in a child friendly version from UNICEF Canada) is included at the end of the book. The final pages of the book also include discussion questions and steps for action that adults can share with children, as well as the sources of information used in the book.
Throughout the book, the author makes connections between the facts and what they mean on a day-to-day basis for children across the globe. For instance, after giving statistics on the percent of the population children make up in various countries, the author explains that “countries with a high percentage of children often have a hard time providing services for all of them. Education, medical care and other resources are expensive, and, therefore, not widely available.” Comments like these add humanity to the bare numbers and point out realities to children that they were most likely unaware of formerly (such as the idea that seeing a doctor when sick may not be possible if the required finances are not available).
Likewise, the author notes early on that “children who live in poverty, generally speaking, have shorter life spans than children elsewhere because they do not have adequate food supplies, medical care or access to schools and clean water. Other more fortunate children don’t have to worry about these things.” It is also noted that family sizes and structures are affected by monetary resources as some families will have more children who can support the overall family income or will have extended family living all under one roof to save money. In addition, the author notes that less education and other beneficial opportunities for girls means more women in poverty later and that the 220 million children who work full-time for little or no pay are often in hazardous jobs with high risks of accidents. Again, this helps put the numbers in context and explain why the current situations for some children are disastrous. These explanations also help to illustrate economic concepts such as scarcity and wants versus needs. And, they make the concept of money more tangible to children – and show the wide-reaching effects of poverty.
Shelagh Armstrong’s gentle illustrations perfectly match the text, but their soft coloring and shading help to disarm images that could be potentially very disconcerting, such as a child sleeping next to a gun in the section on war and its effects on children.
As some of the book is disconcerting, the author notes that “this book may not be comfortable to read, but the topic – the presence or absence of basic human rights in the lives of children – is an important one.” Among the uncomfortable topics touched upon are child marriage, kidnapping, and homelessness. This is reason to give parents and educators pause about introducing this book to very young readers. Nevertheless, the book is packed with relevant and timely facts and lessons not only about economic concepts, but also about the worldwide population, cultural differences, and mostly importantly, children’s rights in a global society. It is a read not to be missed.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children