Archive | Peace-ology

No Justice. [No Action.] No Peace.

Caren: “No jus­tice. No peace.” This sum­mer, mil­lions of peo­ple – young, old and from all back­grounds — protest­ed police bru­tal­i­ty and sys­temic racism, all dur­ing an his­toric pan­dem­ic. Ellie Rosch­er and I live in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, not far from where George Floyd was mur­dered by a Min­neapo­lis police offi­cer and close to the epi­cen­ter of march­es and protests. With the school year begin­ning, in-per­son or online, what is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to help chil­dren process these his­toric times and par­tic­i­pate in peace­ful change?

John Lewis

John Lewis, Civ­il Rights leader and Con­gress­man, Feb 21, 1940 – Jul 17, 2020

John Lewis, the late Civ­il Rights leader and Con­gress­man, can guide us. On the day of his funer­al, July 30, 2020, the New York Times pub­lished a let­ter writ­ten by Lewis before his death. In it, John Lewis chal­lenged each gen­er­a­tion to ful­fill its moral and demo­c­ra­t­ic oblig­a­tions to speak out against injus­tice:

When you see some­thing that is not right, you must say some­thing. You must do some­thing. Democ­ra­cy is not a state. It is an act, and each gen­er­a­tion must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Com­mu­ni­ty, a nation and world soci­ety at peace with itself.

We teach med­i­ta­tion to our chil­dren. We encour­age kind­ness, empa­thy, com­pas­sion. We cre­ate wel­com­ing cir­cles, so chil­dren have a sense of belong­ing. All of these offer a way into peace. We also must help our chil­dren learn to “stand up, speak up, speak out,” and take action for peace.

Peaceful Fights for Equal RightsPeace­ful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders and illus­trat­ed by Jared Andrew Schorr, (pub­lished by Simon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers) is an alpha­bet primer of ener­gy, vocab­u­lary, sym­bol­ism, and actions that offers young cit­i­zens the many ways to speak out for what they believe is right. From “Assem­ble. Take Action.” “Cre­ate allies.” “Lis­ten. Learn. Lead. Light a can­dle. Write a let­ter. Pass laws” to “Shake a hand. Lend a hand. Have hope. Be hope.” this col­or­ful pic­ture book embod­ies John Lewis’s mes­sage. In addi­tion, the back mat­ter of Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights gives us a brief his­to­ry of the Civ­il Rights move­ment in the 1960s and a glos­sary of protest words with their def­i­n­i­tions. From begin­ning to end, Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights pro­vides a dis­cus­sion for adults and chil­dren — yes, even young chil­dren — that speaks to John Lewis’s call to action: “When you see some­thing that is not right, you must say some­thing. You must do some­thing.”

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

illus­tra­tion copy­right © Jared Andrew Schorr, from Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights, writ­ten by Rob Sanders, pub­lished by Simon & Schus­ter, 2018

After I read Peace­ful Fights for Equal Rights, images of young activists came to mind: Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai’s clar­i­on call for edu­ca­tion for girls; Sweden’s Gre­ta Thun­berg ral­ly­ing the world to address cli­mate cri­sis; Emma Gon­za­lez and stu­dents from Mar­jo­ry Stone­man Dou­glas High School who spoke out loud­ly for gun con­trol after the shoot­ing at their school, and the videos of count­less young peo­ple protest­ing in the streets for jus­tice in the wake of George Floyd’s mur­der. Young peo­ple are our hope. Let’s teach our chil­dren, and each oth­er, to take action for jus­tice, peace, and our democ­ra­cy.

Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez

Protest after George Floyd murder

Peace­ful protest after the mur­der of George Floyd, pho­to by Catie Viox, Cincin­nati City Beat, post­ed 6/5/2020

Going Deep­er: Caren and Ellie

Teach­ing civics is more than learn­ing about gov­ern­ment and his­to­ry — or should be. How can we help our stu­dents become more informed, engaged young cit­i­zens? How do we, as edu­ca­tors, help our young peo­ple fill their tool­box­es for democ­ra­cy? Pyne Arts Mag­net School in Low­ell, Mass­a­chu­setts, explores a way. From the Cen­ter for Doc­u­men­tary Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, Scene On Radio’s pro­duc­er and host John Biewen with Chen­jerai Kumanyi­ka, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Jour­nal­ism and Media Stud­ies at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, dis­cuss the role of civics in schools and intro­duce the 8th graders at Pyne Arts Mag­net School through Ben James’s report­ing.

Lis­ten to “S4 E10: Schooled for Democ­ra­cy as 8th graders build con­sen­sus and com­mit to a soci­etal prob­lem that is impor­tant to them — youth men­tal health. Stu­dents research the issue, pre­pare an action plan, prac­tice their per­sua­sive argu­ment, exe­cute their plan, then take their expe­ri­ence to Civics Day at Boston’s State Capi­tol to win first prize. It’s an inspir­ing sto­ry of hands-on democ­ra­cy that teach­es kids they real­ly can make a dif­fer­ence

Ques­tions Toward Action: Caren and Ellie

How can chil­dren of all ages begin to fill their tool­box­es for democ­ra­cy? How can we help them rec­og­nize traits that inspires demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples, such as fair­ness, hon­esty, respon­si­bil­i­ty? How do we best teach young peo­ple how the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment works? How do we pre­pare our pre­cious chil­dren to become engaged cit­i­zens and take peace­ful action to cre­ate “a more per­fect union” and a bet­ter world?  There are plen­ty of resources and inspi­ra­tional lead­ers to guide us. “No jus­tice. No peace”? Let’s expand the call to:

No jus­tice.

No under­stand­ing.

No action.

No heal­ing.

No peace.


Preach­ing to the Chick­ens: The Sto­ry of Young John Lewis, by Jabari Asim and E.B. Lewis, Nan­cy Paulsen Books / Pen­guin Ran­dom House, 2016

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Edu­ca­tion and Changed the World, by Malala Yousafzai and Patri­cia McCormick, Lit­tle Brown, 2016

Our House Is On Fire: Gre­ta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Plan­et, by Jeanette Win­ter, Beach Lane Books, 2019

Nev­er Again: The Park­land Shoot­ing and the Teen Activists Lead­ing the Move­ment, by Eric Braun, Lern­er Pub­li­ca­tions, 2019


For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our web­sites.


War and Peace

SachikoWhat hap­pened to me must nev­er hap­pen to you.”

Caren: Those were the first words Sachiko Yasui, a Nagasa­ki atom­ic bomb sur­vivor, told me as we began our work togeth­er writ­ing her sto­ry. On August 9, 1945, at 11:02, six-year-old Sachiko was play­ing out­side with her friends, mak­ing mud dumplings, when the sec­ond atom­ic bomb of World War II explod­ed over her city of Nagasa­ki. Sachiko and her friends were 900 meters from ground zero, less than a half mile away. Sachiko’s sur­vival was mirac­u­lous and so is her sto­ry of recov­ery, resilience, hope, and peace. I spent six years inter­view­ing Sachiko in Nagasa­ki, Japan, and research­ing the his­to­ry of the atom­ic bomb­ing of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki for a book for young peo­ple. Sachiko: A Nagasa­ki Bomb Survivor’s Sto­ry was pub­lished in 2016 by Carolrhoda/Lerner Pub­lish­ing Group. I intend­ed to write Sachiko’s sto­ry to change young read­ers’ lives — to under­stand the hor­rors of war and the deep need for peace. What I didn’t antic­i­pate is how much Sachiko would change my life. The last words Sachiko offered for our book were these:

What is peace?

What kind of per­son should I be?

Keep pur­su­ing answers to these ques­tions.

Sachiko’s ques­tions have spurred me on to, what is now, a life-long jour­ney to under­stand peace and act in the name of peace. One of those actions is to col­lab­o­rate with peace­mak­er and writer Ellie Rosch­er to write this series of Peace-olo­gy arti­cles. Anoth­er is to become involved in the Peace Lit­er­a­cy Insti­tute under the umbrel­la of the Nuclear Age Peace Insti­tute in San­ta Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia. Each morn­ing, I think of Sachiko and ask myself: What’s one thing I can do to bring a ran­dom act of peace into my day.

Sto­ries change lives. Sachiko’s changed mine. What sto­ries have changed yours?

A Bowl Full of PeaceA Bowl Full of Peace — What do you put in a bowl?

How would you write a pic­ture book about Sachiko’s sto­ry?” asked Car­ol Hinz, my edi­tor at Carolrhoda/Lerner. The ques­tion stumped me. Then I remem­bered Grand­moth­er’s bowl. When Sachiko’s fam­i­ly returned to Nagasa­ki, her home and every­thing in it had been destroyed. The only object found was Sachiko’s grandmother’s bowl. Sachiko’s father dis­cov­ered the bowl in the rub­ble. By some mir­a­cle it sur­vived with­out a crack or chip.

In A Bowl Full of Peace, Japan­ese illus­tra­tor Aki­ra Kusa­ka cap­tured Grandmother’s bowl, the resilience of Sachiko’s fam­i­ly, and the long­ing for peace. After I read the pic­ture book to a sev­enth-grade class, I asked stu­dents what was going through their minds as I read. One boy said how impor­tant his fam­i­ly was to him. A girl added she hadn’t real­ized how much you can lose in a war. I asked illus­tra­tor Aki­ra Kusa­ka, to share how Sachiko’s sto­ry affect­ed him. He said know­ing Sachiko’s sto­ry changed his art and his life.

A Bowl Full of Peace illustrations

illus­tra­tion copy­right Aki­ra Kusa­ka; from A Bowl Full of Peace, writ­ten by Caren Stel­son, illus­trat­ed by Aki­ra Kusa­ka, pub­li­ished by Car­ol­rho­da Books.

Grandmother’s bowl became Sachiko’s family’s sym­bol of hope and peace. Every August 9th, Sachiko’s moth­er filled Grandmother’s bowl with ice chips to com­mem­o­rate the atom­ic bomb­ing. Togeth­er, the fam­i­ly remem­bered all those who were so ter­ri­bly thirsty from the heat of the bomb’s blast, all who were in excru­ci­at­ing pain, all who died. As the ice melt­ed in Grandmother’s bowl, Sachiko’s fam­i­ly spent the day pray­ing that such a ter­ri­ble war would nev­er hap­pen again. As Sachiko grew old­er, the bowl became her most trea­sured object. On the bowl were the fin­ger­prints of her beloved broth­ers and sis­ter, her par­ents, and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers lost to the bomb. But what Sachiko placed in the bowl was just as impor­tant — hope, love, peace. This August 9th, the sev­en­ty-fifth anniver­sary of the atom­ic bomb­ings of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki, I too will fill my spe­cial bowl with hope, love, and peace.

Peace Lit­er­a­cy: Dig­ging Deep­er

A New Peace ParadigmWhat if chil­dren spent twelve years of their school lives learn­ing about peace in the same way they learn to read and become lit­er­ate? What if schools and com­mu­ni­ties invest­ed in a devel­op­men­tal, skill-based cur­ricu­lum that guid­ed chil­dren, teach­ers, and par­ents in a life-long study of peace­ful liv­ing? What would our soci­ety look like then? Peace Lit­er­a­cy Direc­tor Paul Chap­pell asks those ques­tions and sug­gests:

Our under­stand­ing of peace is only as good as our under­stand­ing of the human con­di­tion and trau­ma. To gain a deep and prac­ti­cal under­stand­ing of extrem­ism, trau­ma, and the nature of human hap­pi­ness, and to solve our nation­al and glob­al prob­lems in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry and beyond, we need a real­is­tic and prag­mat­ic mod­el of the human con­di­tion … Peace Lit­er­a­cy is based on research about basic human needs such as self-worth and belong­ing, and how trau­ma gets entan­gled with these needs.”

For greater insight into Peace Lit­er­a­cy, its phi­los­o­phy and cur­ricu­lum, go to www.peaceliteracy.org .

The first time I heard Paul Chap­pell speak, I was impressed by his deep under­stand­ing of trau­ma, his own and society’s. How do we under­stand bul­ly­ing? School shoot­ings? Racist anger? Sui­cide? The list goes on, describ­ing a war of tan­gled trau­ma. When you see aggres­sion, what are the heat­ed rea­sons under the sur­face? How do we, as lov­ing par­ents, teach­ers, neigh­bors, reach out to our young peo­ple who burn with the heat of fear lone­li­ness, and despair — and take action? One car­ing adult can make all the dif­fer­ence in a young person’s life. That adult could be you. It could be me.

As Sachiko Yasui asked:

What is peace?

What kind of per­son do you want to be?

Keep pur­su­ing answers to these ques­tions.

Ques­tions Toward Action: Caren and Ellie

We are writ­ing this post as the entire world faces the COVID 19 Pan­dem­ic. Ter­ri­ble and chal­leng­ing as this time is for every­one, it may be just the right time to start a prac­tice of peace, even while social dis­tanc­ing. Where to start?

With our­selves: Find some qui­et time to be with your­self. Breathe deeply. Ask your­self: What are you grate­ful for? Who are the peo­ple you love? What is one thing you are glad you did, yes­ter­day or today? What can you do tomor­row that will make you proud of your­self?

Peace Nook

With one anoth­er: Who can you reach out to by phone, email, social media, postal ser­vice, or side­walk chalk draw­ing and send a mes­sage of friend­ship?

Chalk artist

In com­mu­ni­ty: What can you do as a ser­vice to oth­ers to help ease the lone­li­ness of being sep­a­rat­ed, or help with a cause to ease the suf­fer­ing of this pan­dem­ic time?

A Box of Peace Cranes

Origami peace crane

For young peo­ple, teach­ers, par­ents, any­one, the Birds of Peace web­site may spark ideas and invite you to join oth­ers in an online com­mu­ni­ty of peace seek­ers. Please check out the web­site and share it wide­ly.

This is the last Peace-olo­gy post until Sep­tem­ber when Caren and Ellie will resume their peace explo­ration. Until then, stay healthy and safe and let us know what you find along your own path­way to peace.

For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our web­sites.


Compassion and Empathy in Peace-making

One of the activ­i­ties I do with young peo­ple is called speed dat­ing. It’s an empa­thy build­ing exer­cise because, I have found, we actu­al­ly have to prac­tice talk­ing to each oth­er and real­ly lis­ten­ing. I ask the kids to form two cir­cles fac­ing each oth­er. Each pair gets a healthy chunk of time to address a ques­tion I pose. We talk about read­ing each other’s body lan­guage and facial expres­sions and ask­ing fol­low-up ques­tions that get the part­ner to light up. Then I move one of the cir­cles and with a new pair, we do it again. At the end of each ses­sion they ask when we can do it again. “You can do it any time,” I chal­lenge. “You are just talk­ing to each oth­er.” In our fast-paced liv­ing and screens, it helps when an adult carves out time for young peo­ple to lis­ten and con­nect with oth­ers to whom they may not oth­er­wise talk. Some­times peace­mak­ing looks as sim­ple as reach­ing out to the per­son next to you to ask an inter­est­ing ques­tion.

At home, I love using pic­ture books to build com­pas­sion and empa­thy with my kids. Books offer access to peo­ple all around the world who may think, act and live dif­fer­ent­ly than they do. Often, my kids make me stop on a page ear­ly on in the sto­ry so they can decide which char­ac­ter they’d like to be. As the sto­ry unfolds, my kids get to spend time in the shoes of anoth­er per­son or ani­mal, look­ing at the world with a new per­spec­tive.

Sofia: A Young, Empa­thet­ic and Com­pas­sion­ate Peace­mak­er

Sofia ValdezSofia Valdez, Future Prez is the sto­ry of a sec­ond grade girl who coura­geous­ly ven­tures to City Hall to request that a trash heap in her neigh­bor­hood be con­vert­ed into a park. She starts a peti­tion and ulti­mate­ly ral­lies the com­mu­ni­ty to trans­form their shared space. The sto­ry, writ­ten by Andrea Beaty, has a live­ly rhyming cadence, and David Robert’s pic­tures are enter­tain­ing and vivid.

I love read­ing this book to my kids in part because of the story’s com­pas­sion and empa­thy— two key char­ac­ter­is­tics of peace­mak­ing. Sofia’s abue­lo walks her to school until one day he trips on the trash heap and hurts his ankle. Shar­ing her grandfather’s pain moti­vates Sofie to see Mount Trash­more as a prob­lem to solve. What if we place the pain of our com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers at the heart of our work for a change? After get­ting sent all around City Hall— from the Mayor’s office to the Depart­ment of Cheese— a woman in the base­ment final­ly tells Sofia she is too young to build a new park. Refus­ing to take no for an answer, Sofia turns the tables and says, “If you were me, and if I was you, and he was your grand­pa, what would you do?” She is request­ing com­pas­sion and empa­thy. The woman paus­es, thinks, and ral­lies her col­leagues to hear Sofia out. The employ­ee takes a moment to stand in the shoes of Sofia. That moment changes the momen­tum and tra­jec­to­ry of the whole sto­ry. 

Dig­ging Deep­er

Mark Yaconelli

Mark Yaconel­li

Mark Yaconel­li is an author, sto­ry­teller, retreat leader, com­mu­ni­ty activist, hus­band, and father. He is the founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of The Hearth: Build­ing Com­mu­ni­ty One Sto­ry at a Time, a reg­is­tered non­prof­it that assists cities and ser­vice-based agen­cies in employ­ing per­son­al sto­ry­telling prac­tices to assist com­mu­ni­ties in deep­en­ing rela­tion­ships, bridg­ing divi­sions, and cel­e­brat­ing indi­vid­ual courage. One of Mark’s sto­ry­telling chal­lenges puts work­shop mem­bers in pairs. Each per­son tells a sto­ry about them­selves. After lis­ten­ing care­ful­ly, per­son A tells per­son B’s sto­ry but uses “I” as if it hap­pened to them. Try­ing on each other’s sto­ries is a pow­er­ful tool for build­ing empa­thy and com­pas­sion. It asks us to go out­side of our­selves for a moment and expe­ri­ence the world as the oth­er.

Ellie and Caren: Dwelling with Com­pas­sion and Empa­thy

There is a dif­fer­ence between peace keep­ing and peace mak­ing. To be a peace mak­er, we must get com­fort­able with being present to pain and heartache with peo­ple with­out jump­ing in to fix, gloss over, or avoid. Peace­mak­ing requires us to sit with folks while they are griev­ing or angry. Dwelling with oth­ers is a place to grow our mus­cles of com­pas­sion and empa­thy.  This video gen­tly address­es in an ani­ma­tion empa­thy and com­pas­sion. What does it look for one per­son accom­pa­ny­ing anoth­er in his or her pain. So often we do not want a sit­u­a­tion fixed, we just want to feel seen and heard. We want to feel less alone. 

Ques­tions Toward Action

Who in your fam­i­ly, your work or com­mu­ni­ty would ben­e­fit from your com­pas­sion and empa­thy? Who in your life is will­ing to dwell with you when things get hard? What does that per­son do well to help you feel heard and accom­pa­nied? When was a time you sat in pain with some­one and lament­ed with them— either through words, tears, art, or sim­ple pres­ence? How would you artic­u­late the dif­fer­ence between peace keep­ing and peace mak­ing? Which is hard­er for you?  

For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our web­sites.


Peace and the Sense of Belonging

Caren: “More Togeth­er than Alone,”
Peace and the Sense of Belong­ing

Home. Com­mu­ni­ty. A sense of belong­ing. Don’t we all long for love and con­nec­tion? And when the anchored sense of belong­ing dis­ap­pears, we spot it — on the drawn face of a child alone on a play­ground or on an elder­ly face of some­one alone on a park bench. Haven’t we all felt that moment of dis­lo­cat­ed lone­li­ness? If no one reach­es out to us and brings us into a cir­cle of kind­ness, lone­li­ness can twist into dan­ger­ous alien­ation. “More togeth­er than alone” a phrase used by poet, author, and teacher, Mark Nepo, is my new mantra.

Recent­ly two pic­ture books have caught my eye that speak to a sense of belong­ing. In each of these qui­et sto­ries, a child reach­es beyond her own secure cir­cle to include a lone­ly per­son in need of a friend:

I Walk with VanessaI Walk with Vanes­sa: A Sto­ry About a Sim­ple Act of Kind­ness by Keras­coet (Schwartz & Wade Books) is an expres­sive, word­less pic­ture book that cap­tures Vanessa’s lone­ly feel­ings as a new stu­dent and her fright when the class bul­ly ver­bal­ly attacks her on her way home from school. A girl in a yel­low dress watch­es from a dis­tance then finds kind­ness and courage to reach out to Vanes­sa in friend­ship. It’s a small ges­ture, but one that mul­ti­plies. Even­tu­al­ly an entire com­mu­ni­ty of hap­py friends accom­pa­ny Vanes­sa on her way to school the next morn­ing. The mantra, “more togeth­er than alone” res­cues Vanes­sa and strength­ens the com­pas­sion of the com­mu­ni­ty of kids.

A Map into the WorldA Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang, illus­trat­ed by Seo Kim (Car­ol­rho­da Books), is a touch­ing sto­ry of Paj Ntaub, a sen­si­tive young Hmong girl whose fam­i­ly moves into a new home in a new neigh­bor­hood in their new­ly adopt­ed coun­try. Across the street are Bob and Ruth, an old­er cou­ple who sit on a bench and wave hel­lo. Sum­mer turns to fall. Paj Ntaub’s home fills with the live­li­ness of baby twin broth­ers and Paj Ntaub’s own grow­ing up. Win­ter comes. Sad­ly, neigh­bor Ruth dies. Then spring arrives. With­out Ruth, Bob sits on the bench by him­self. Paj Ntaub sens­es Bob’s lone­li­ness. With her buck­et of chalk, Paj Ntaub draws pic­tures of her year on the side­walk and an arrow point­ing to her house. The chalk draw­ings are an invi­ta­tion, “a map into the world,” a way for Bob to recon­nect after loss. The mantra echoes again: “More togeth­er than alone.”

Caren: Going Deep­er

More Together Than AloneI shared Mark Nepo’s book titled More Togeth­er Than Alone with Ellie. Nepo’s book is a col­lec­tion of sto­ries that lift up moments across his­to­ry and cul­tures when human beings came togeth­er in cre­ativ­i­ty, empa­thy, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and enlight­en­ment.

To con­trast cul­tur­al moments, Nepo first intro­duces two fic­tion­al tribes: The “Go Away” tribe believes in strict laws, clear bor­ders, and loy­al­ty. The “Go Aways” meet the stranger and says, “You’re dif­fer­ent, go away.” The oth­er is the “Come Teach Me” tribe. This tribe is will­ing to cross bor­ders, build bridges, and wel­come the stranger. Wise­ly, Nepo reminds us that “we are born into both tribes and can move from one to the oth­er, depend­ing on the lev­el of our fear.”

Nebo com­pares the “noise lev­el” of fear and vio­lence and acts of kind­ness. Fear and vio­lence are loud, dis­rup­tive, dis­turb­ing, and can blind us like a sand­storm. Acts of com­pas­sion and kind­ness are qui­et and often go unac­knowl­edged. More Togeth­er Than Alone lifts up qui­et, his­tor­i­cal times of enlight­en­ment for adults. I Walk with Vanes­sa and A Map Into the World offer the same mes­sage to chil­dren.

Lis­ten to Mark Nepo speak about More Togeth­er Than Alone.

Ellie: Action Steps

Often chil­dren are nat­ur­al bound­ary crossers, will­ing to reach out to one anoth­er. How do we lose that unen­cum­bered audac­i­ty as adults? We can prac­tice togeth­er as we cross bound­aries to bet­ter under­stand our­selves, cross inter­per­son­al bound­aries to bet­ter know the per­son next to us, and cross sys­temic bound­aries to bet­ter know peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from us. The work is not easy, nor com­fort­able. It takes prac­tice, a will­ing­ness to be open, a desire to be a mem­ber of the “Come Teach Me” tribe.” Each step, no mat­ter the effort, takes us clos­er to under­stand­ing that we are “more togeth­er than alone.”

  • Ask your­self where are the bound­aries in your school or com­mu­ni­ty? What and who are you taught not to see?
  • Walk around your school or com­mu­ni­ty and see some­thing new.
  • Make a point to talk to a neigh­bor or some­one new at your school.
  • Put your­self in a sit­u­a­tion where you are inter­act­ing with some­one who the world has called “the oth­er.”
  • Invite a part­ner to come on this jour­ney with you.

For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace — out loud. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, chil­dren and liv­ing our lives, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it their web­sites.


Knowing Your Past to Make Peace

Wel­come to Peace-olo­gy. We are two children’s authors team­ing up to review children’s books with peace in mind. 

Ellie: The oth­er day, I looked over the shoul­der of my five-year-old to see what he was draw­ing. There was the Ire­land flag on the left, the Nor­way flag on the right, and he was fin­ish­ing the Unit­ed States flag in the mid­dle. Simon was born on the day his great grand­moth­er died. He has always been curi­ous about his ances­tors. When my spouse’s extend­ed fam­i­ly sings the Nor­we­gian table prayer in har­mo­ny, Simon joins in enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. I love feed­ing this curios­i­ty of his in part because I believe we need to know where we come from and where we are cur­rent­ly stand­ing to move toward a peace­ful future.

Shi-Shi-EtkoIn rais­ing peace­mak­ers capa­ble of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, I have com­mit­ted to fill­ing our house with books writ­ten by and about Native peo­ple so my chil­dren will know the his­to­ry of the land we inhab­it. One of our cur­rent favorites is Shi-Shi-Etko by Nico­la L. Camp­bell. Shi-Shi-Etko (Ground­wood Books) tells the sto­ry of a girl spend­ing her last four days with her fam­i­ly before being tak­en away to a res­i­den­tial school. Her extend­ed fam­i­ly fill her mind and heart with mem­o­ries, knowl­edge and love so she will not for­get where she came from. She vis­its the woods, the riv­er and the creek, gath­er­ing bits of nature to take with her. It is trag­ic and beau­ti­ful. The stun­ning images pair well with the poet­ic words, both infus­ing our hearts.

The book has led to ques­tions about native plants, lan­guage, Native peo­ple, and our own ances­tors. It has fed the curios­i­ty of my chil­dren and opened up room to talk about where we came from and where we live. As peace­mak­ers, we must know the his­to­ry of our land. We must name that res­i­den­tial schools hap­pened, and name how we all lost out because of it. We are chal­lenged to learn our own ances­tral his­to­ries, cel­e­brate them, and cre­ate space for oth­ers to do the same.

Bde Maka Ska

Recent­ly the name of a lake by my home was changed from Lake Cal­houn to Bde Maka Ska. My moth­er-in-law dri­ves by it with my boys on her way to drop them off back home. If she ever calls it the old name, my son cor­rects her. We are slow­ly cre­at­ing space for the his­to­ry and ancient cul­ture of our land to breathe and make us bet­ter.

Find oth­er great Native books

Scene on Radio, a pod­cast out of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, is one of my favorites. I rec­om­mend all their work, espe­cial­ly Sea­son 2: See­ing White. Sea­son 4 is about the his­to­ry of democ­ra­cy in our coun­try. Episode 1 of Sea­son 4 starts with the Chero­kee, and how they were and are arguably more demo­c­ra­t­ic than the Found­ing Fathers.

Jim Bear Jacobs

Jim Bear Jacobs

Caren: Dig­ging Deep­er. Ellie, know­ing our own his­to­ry and acknowl­edg­ing and appre­ci­at­ing the his­to­ry of oth­ers is crit­i­cal to build­ing peace. I’m remind­ed of a talk I attend­ed with Jim Bear Jacobs, a Min­nesotan, mem­ber of the Stock­bridge-Mun­see Mohi­can Nation, and rec­og­nized Twin Cities cul­tur­al facil­i­ta­tor. Jim Bear’s mis­sion is ded­i­cat­ed to strength­en­ing rela­tion­ships between Native and non-Natives by the telling of heal­ing sto­ries (Heal­ing Min­neso­ta Sto­ries) and the com­pas­sion­ate teach­ing of his­to­ry. The focus of his talk that Novem­ber day was Thanks­giv­ing, the holiday’s his­to­ry and myth mak­ing. To begin, Jim Bear intro­duced him­self by acknowl­edg­ing gen­er­a­tions of his ances­tors. He knew their names, where they lived, their place with­in his fam­i­ly and tribe. I won­dered how many of us could do the same. We tried, but none of us in the audi­ence had as an exten­sive fam­i­ly his­to­ry com­mit­ted to mem­o­ry as Jim Bear. The rev­er­ence for fam­i­ly his­to­ry as Jim Bear so clear­ly mod­eled chal­lenged each of us to reach back to our own with the same respect. The sim­ple act of rev­er­ence and respect brought an audi­ence of indi­vid­u­als into a cir­cle of one.

Ellie and Caren: Ques­tions Toward Action

Who are the sto­ry tellers in your fam­i­ly? What language(s) did your ances­tors speak? What words, recipes, prac­tices, folk­lore or cel­e­bra­tions are part of your own his­to­ry and place? What words remind you of your child­hood or feel like home? What have we dis­cov­ered about our­selves that we can share with oth­ers?

Don’t Sell Pic­ture Books Short!

Pic­ture books are for all ages. As writ­ers, par­ents, and teach­ers, we both have learned so much so quick­ly by pulling from the non­fic­tion pic­ture book sec­tion of the library. We’ve used pic­ture books in class­rooms, not only for young stu­dents, but with teenagers, as poet­ic illus­tra­tive mod­els, sam­ples of writ­ing con­structs and sto­ry struc­ture, or sto­ry truths for their lit­er­al minds. The pithy nature of pic­ture books can get to the heart of the mat­ter and lead to rich dis­cus­sions that take us to new places togeth­er.

Let us know:

Do you have children’s books or ideas with peace themes you’d like to share? Please do. We would like to incor­po­rate your rec­om­men­da­tions into upcom­ing arti­cles, and of course, acknowl­edge you. Let’s cre­ate Peace-olo­gy togeth­er. Write to either of us and describe your sug­ges­tion. Include your name, con­tact, and pro­fes­sion­al or orga­ni­za­tion­al affil­i­a­tion and send to www.ellieroscher.com or www.carenstelson.com .

We look for­ward to being on this peace jour­ney togeth­er.


Reading Books Through the Lens of Peace

Wel­come to Peace-olo­gy. We are two children’s authors team­ing up to review children’s books with peace in mind. 

Caren Stelson

Caren Stel­son, author and edu­ca­tor, peace advo­cate

Caren: After all our inter­views for our book Sachiko: A Nagasa­ki Bomb Survivor’s Sto­ry, I asked the book’s inspi­ra­tion, peace edu­ca­tor Sachiko Yasui, if she had any last words she would like to share with chil­dren.

Sachiko’s response was to think about this:

What is peace?
What kind of per­son should I be?
Keep pur­su­ing answers to these ques­tions.

I haven’t stopped think­ing about Sachiko’s ques­tions. When I met Ellie, we dis­cov­ered we ask the same ques­tions when look­ing for books for kids.

Ellie Roscher

Ellie Rosch­er, author and edu­ca­tor, peace advo­cate

Ellie: I read to my three- and five-year-old chil­dren every sin­gle day. They mem­o­rize lines from books and book char­ac­ters are the basis for our imag­i­na­tive play. I also teach peace lit­er­a­cy to teenagers. I am fas­ci­nat­ed as a par­ent and teacher which books spark curios­i­ty in kids and broad­en their uni­verse. Which books lead to true explo­ration around pow­er and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion? Which beau­ti­ful­ly show human­i­ties unfold­ing with a bend toward jus­tice? I am active­ly on the look-ut for books that inform our imag­i­na­tions about what kind of healed world is pos­si­ble.

Caren and Ellie: In our upcom­ing Peace-olo­gy series, we’ll be on the look-out for peace books we can rec­om­mend to you. What is the lan­guage of peace? Which sto­ries cap­ture peace in ways that inspire inquiry? How can children’s books help adults and chil­dren explore the mul­ti-lay­ers of peace togeth­er… because Mahat­ma Gand­hi said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world … we shall have to begin with the chil­dren.”

PeaceHere is the first book we’d like to share to ring in the New Year: Peace by Wendy Ander­son Halperin, Atheneum Books for Young Read­ers, 2013.

Weav­ing the words from the Tao Te Ching, “For there to be peace in the world …” as well as oth­er quotes from world’s peace­mak­ers, chil­dren explore a peace jour­ney through Wendy’s exquis­ite­ly detailed draw­ings, inspired by ele­men­tary chil­dren. Snug­gle up and togeth­er wend your way from peace in the world to peace in your heart.

What can you do in 2020 to cul­ti­vate peace in your body, your fam­i­ly, and your world? Maybe it’s design­ing a quilt of peace inspired by Wendy’s book, or lis­ten­ing deeply to per­son­al sto­ries of a friend, fam­i­ly mem­ber, or a staff mem­ber in your school. Or maybe it’s slow­ing down, adjust­ing neg­a­tive self-talk, and help­ing our chil­dren appraise the pos­i­tive. Our world needs more peace, and it can start with each of us.


illus­tra­tion copy­right Wendy Ander­son Halperin, from Peace, Atheneum, 2013

Do you have children’s books or ideas with peace themes you’d like to share? Please do.

As we can, we would like to incor­po­rate your rec­om­men­da­tions into upcom­ing arti­cles, and of course, acknowl­edge you. Let’s make Peace-olo­gy inter­ac­tive. Write to either of us and describe your sug­ges­tion, includ­ing your name, con­tact, and pro­fes­sion­al or orga­ni­za­tion­al. www.ellieroscher or www.carenstelson.com

Hap­py New Year to all. We look for­ward to being on this peace jour­ney togeth­er.