The earth is home to 6.9 million people, and David J. Smith wants young readers to get better acquainted with their global neighbors. In the second edition of If the World Were a Village, originally published in 2002, Smith offers statistics on what the world would be like it if were a village of just 100 people. Its new companion book, This Child, Every Child, takes an even more in-depth look at the lives of children around the world, from the games they play to whether boys and girls are treated equally. Smith reminds readers not only that people around the world are not so different from one another, but that they have the power to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
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What were some of the biggest changes you saw between the first and second editions of If the World Were a Village?
The most dramatic change was in telephones. In the earliest edition, I believe 14 people in the village had telephones, and now nearly 100 do. There are many countries where there is well over one telephone per person.
Were there any changes that particularly surprised you?
In the first printing, there were nine speakers of English and seven speakers of Hindi. Now there are nine speakers of both of those languages.
The numbers of Christians and Muslims have not changed a bit, which surprises everybody. And the number of chickens has continued to go up. In the first edition, it was 189 chickens and in the most recent, it was over 250 chickens.
What inspired you to write This Child, Every Child ?
I spent a lot of time visiting schools talking about If the World Were a Village and if that particular school were a village or their city, state or town as a village. I kept getting questions about the children from other parts of the world—how many children don’t get to go to school or what’s the ratio of boys to girls in schooling and literacy and so on. All of these led me to think about how to best explain some of these interesting challenges that children face and the interesting inequities in the world.
I came across, and read from one end to the other, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the release of If America Were a Village, one of the people who happened to be there was the Chief of Child Protection from UNICEF, and I asked her about using the Convention as a framework for my next book and she was very enthusiastic. So I built the manuscript around that, and I sent it to her before I sent it to Kids Can Press.
Are the children you mention in This Child based upon real children? Or are they fictional?
They’re based on realistic children but not real children. As I say, I’ve passed it by UNICEF as well as by other people in NGOs before it was published. I was pretty confident that I was telling the story truthfully even if the actual child featured on this page or that page was not the real child.
How did you decide which children to feature?
It was less that than it was which of the articles from the Convention did I want to feature. One of the biggest issues in the world today, which I barely touch on here, is child trafficking. It’s huge. I mention it a little in “Children of War” and “Children at Work,” but there is this huge business going on with people...selling children.
Part of the dark side of this book is that the contents are pretty scary. I’d had some parents reflect back to me that “I read this with my child who has had a lot of experience in the world and every single piece of this was new to her or to him.”
How can young readers help to make a difference in the world?
Don’t just hand a book to your child and say, “Here.” Read it with your child, ask children to imagine what life is like for those people and talk about what you can do. Children do have an amazing about of power to change the world.
Some of the ideas in the essay include things I’ve done with my own grade sevens. Make a public-service announcement ... and take it down to your local TV outlet. Show it to them, they may want to reproduce it.
If the World Were a Village, 2nd Ed.
David J. Smith
Kids Can Press / Feb. 1, 2011 / 9781554535958 / $18.95
This Child, Every Child
David J. Smith
Kids Can Press / Feb. 1, 2011 / 9781554534661 / $18.95