Friday, September 2, 2022

No Voice Too Small

     When my daughter was little, she once asked me why I spent my time as an activist trying to save public education and not trying to stop global warming (as it was called at that time before it was expanded). Her logic was that education justice would not matter if we didn’t have a planet to live on. I paused for a moment before answering, not knowing the answer myself. And then I responded with my own logic. If education was lost, then we wouldn’t have a chance at saving the planet. Only through an educated global population could we begin to mitigate global warming. And so, I continued my work to struggle to maintain an equitable public education with my union and other organizations as well as working in my classroom to develop as a child-centered educator. I was sure I could be a part of positive change in my own little corner of the world.

     Years later, I still believe that losing public education for all would be a travesty, but I am beginning to see that it is undeniably time to actively work to mitigate climate change in a more focused way. Again, I feel like I can only work effectively on climate change in my own little corner of the world. And so, my path leads me back through education and to the very young people I am tasked with guiding.

     There was a moment when Greta Thunberg dominated the news cycle and my kindergarteners pre-Covid became intrigued by her work. This group of young 5-year-olds were interested in what global warming was, what caused it, and eventually they wondered what could be done. The energy of the group took on a life of its own that lead to questions about how to change policy specifically around climate change. We had a staffer from our state senator’s office come and talk about his job focusing on climate change bills. The students’ interest culminated in the writing of policy recommendations that I delivered to our city, state, and federal policy makers. It amazed me how much these young people thought deeply and expansively about such critical matters.

     My own experience with the powerful voices of very young people led me to the book that I learned from this year. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsey H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley and beautifully illustrated by Jeanette Bradley. The picture book combines very short biographies, illustrations, and poetry by 14 different poets to tell the stories of 14 young changemakers. The picture book is laid out in a way that educators from kindergarten to high school can utilize the stories of these young activists to engage other young activists. It’s just what the world needs now. 

See Book Trailer Here

My current students are especially drawn to the illustrations. I am especially drawn to the poetry that precedes the introduction of each new activist. My students engage with the stories especially  because they can relate to the children who are celebrated in the book. This year we have already begun recognizing power and the ability to speak out using this important piece of literature. This spring, this same team will launch their companion title, No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. I am so moved by the first book, No Voice Too Small, that I am including them in a climate activism project that I am developing with my kindergarten class this year. 

     Building the conditions for climate activism to occur with young children, I am working with environmental organizations in Los Angeles to create field trips to natural habitats to build a foundation of environmental engagement. I am partnering with policy-makers to create policy engagement. I am anxiously anticipating the second book, No World Too Big and I have reached out to the authors of these books to create literary engagement. I am proud to know Keila and Jeanette through our Kidlit for Growing Minds group. I am hoping to create an event with a local, Los Angeles, independent bookstore, The Book Jewel, that brings together my current students and the creators when they launch their second book this coming spring. 

     I’m not sure what my young daughter had in mind when she questioned my methods, but I feel like have found my way to engage with the ongoing climate crisis. It is my hope that by bringing together organizations that can get children into nature, elected officials  who can demonstrate that young people can and should be able to access and influence policy making, and authors who can write about and inspire young people to tell their stories (which ultimately makes movements), I am doing my own part in my own little corner of the world. 

You can find out more about Kidlit For Growing Minds from our website, our BOOKTALK YouTube channel and our Twitter page. Find our books on our Bookshop Storefront.

Twitter: @ForGrowingMinds

By Zeena M. Pliska


Carmela Martino said...

I'm a HUGE fan of NO VOICE TOO SMALL, Zeena! I'm so happy to know there will be a sequel.

Linda Mitchell said...

This is exactly the review and post I need to get me to buy this book. I'm starting with my local library. Thank you! I can't wait to read it.