Tag Archives | peacemaking

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.


Dear Peacemakers

In recent weeks, we’ve had many requests for books about anger and fear and con­flict res­o­lu­tion.

Book by BookI was imme­di­ate­ly remind­ed of an excel­lent resource pub­lished in 2010 called Book by Book: an Anno­tat­ed Guide to Young People’s Lit­er­a­ture with Peace­mak­ing and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion Themes (Car­ol Spiegel, pub­lished by Edu­ca­tors for Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty, now called Engag­ing Schools).

Peace edu­ca­tor Car­ol Spiegel has gath­ered a use­ful, impor­tant, and intrigu­ing-to-read list of 600 pic­ture books and 300 chap­ter books that will spark your imag­i­na­tion and help you find just the right book to use in your class­room, library, or home.

When Sophie Gets AngryAs she says so well, “Sto­ries can gen­tly steal into the lives of young peo­ple and show the way to peace and con­flict res­o­lu­tion. Children’s lit­er­a­ture is rich with such tales. As an exam­ple, pic­ture this. Annie strug­gles with her anger and then she hears about Sophie who gets just as angry. Annie is heart­ened when she learns how Sophie copes. Had some­one tried to talk direct­ly with Annie about ways to deal with anger, Annie may have been defen­sive. This pos­ture was unnec­es­sary when Sophie was being fea­tured.”

Of course, the book Ms. Spiegel is describ­ing is Mol­ly Bang’s book, When Sophie Gets Angry — Real­ly, Real­ly Angry … (and check out the 2015 book When Sophie’s Feel­ings Are Real­ly, Real­ly Hurt).

There is an Index of Book Themes in the back mat­ter that will help you find books with themes such as:

  • Elder­ly, respect for
  • Emo­tion­al lit­er­a­cy: accept­ing lim­i­ta­tions and gifts
  • Explor­ing con­flict: nature of con­flict, con­flict styles
  • Friend­ship, inclu­sion and exclu­sion

You’ll find good books that will be use­ful for your read­ing and dis­cus­sions, such as:

  • First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez, illus by Robert Casil­la (Over­com­ing Obsta­cles, Bul­ly­ing)
  • Why Mos­qui­toes Buzz in People’s Ears by Ver­na Aarde­ma, illus by Leo and Diane Dil­lon (Lis­ten­ing, Rumors or Sus­pi­cion)
  • Prob­a­bly Still Nick Swan­son by Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff (Accept­ing Lim­i­ta­tions and Gifts, Respect for Elder­ly or Dis­abled, Rumors or Sus­pi­cion)
  • The Reveal­ers by Doug Wil­helm (Bul­ly­ing, Prej­u­dice or Dis­like, Non­vi­o­lent Response)
  • REVOLUTION is Not a Din­ner Par­ty by Ying Chang Com­pes­tine (Non­vi­o­lent Response, Oppres­sion)

Book by Book books

In our cur­rent world, where books have a shelf life of less than five years, you may not read­i­ly find some of these books (because they were pub­lished six or sev­en years ago). Get the book you’re inter­est­ed in on inter­li­brary loan from your pub­lic library, read it, con­sid­er whether it’s impor­tant to have it in your school or class­room library, and then find a used copy online.

The folks at Engag­ing Schools were kind enough to send me two down­load­able PDFs that may help to con­vince you to obtain this book: Table of Con­tents and Sup­ple­men­tal Index. You can order the book from Engag­ing Schools online.

I hope they will update this book … it’s a crit­i­cal ref­er­ence in our unset­tled, grow­ing wis­er, open­ing our minds world.

Seri­ous­ly, you’ll won­der why you don’t already have this ref­er­ence book on your shelf.



Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble?… more