Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cultures Connecting Through One Book

Often people connect in the most unexpected and impromptu times and it's truly a beautiful thing. Even better is when two cultures find a connection when they're not even trying. But best of all (at least in the eyes of this librarian), is when the cultural connection is made possible through a book.
Back in the summer, I contacted author Allan Stratton about the possibility of visiting our school to discuss his book, Chanda's Secrets. I was struck by the story of this young girl's struggle to survive amongst the AIDS epidemic in her African village, and believed it could make a great impact on our students studying World Cultures. As I spoke to Allan on the phone to propose his visit, it became immediately apparent that he had many stories to tell which need to be heard. He is not only a prolific storyteller, but someone who cares about the real people of whom he writes. He shared with me his time spent in Africa and how touched he was with their human spirit.
Recently, Allan shared with me an email describing the impact that Chanda's Secrets had on one particular boy in Namibia. A young woman, Aly Martin, in the Peace Corps and teaching in Namibia gave the book to a troubled, orphaned boy and it made a very obvious impact on his life. The book spoke of the pain which this boy knew only too well. With the help of Allan and this woman's mother, Tracie, Aly and I are now corresponding about a collaborative effort between our students so that they may appreciate each other's culture. In the fall, as our students begin to read Chanda's Secrets, our school will be conducting a fundraiser for the many obvious needs of these Namibia students.
Indeed, books can make the greatest of impacts in people's lives. Thank you, Allan Stratton, for writing an important story. Thank you, Aly Martin, for making a difference in the real children about which Allan wrote. And thank you, Tracie Martin, for making sure the everyone hears these important stories - both fictional and real.

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