The gift of books is a gift that keeps on giving, a window to the world. 

Friends Peace Library shares Quaker approaches to peace and justice in the world through children’s literature that model behavior necessary to create regenerative cultures of peace and justice globally. Friends Peace Library includes about a dozen English-language books at each reading level from pre-reading through adult reading. 

“At Friend Peace Teams, we believe that we can create cultures of peace and justice, and we have the tools, courage and creativity to do it!”

Friends Peace Library is a curated catalog of books, vetted by seasoned Quaker educators, according to a published set of criteria. The Peace Library catalog is needed because it is difficult to differentiate among the myriad sources of book lists on the topics of peace and justice. Moreover, who chooses the books and by what criteria is not typically available. Quaker educators have created a list of questions which can be used to evaluate books to meet the criteria for a Friends Peace Library. Under that leadership of the the long-standing Quaker curriculum group, the Sparklers, we:

  • Recommend an English-language collection of about 500 books.
  • Collect books and funding to provide this base collection to villages where we work. 
  • Connect storybooks with peace and literacy training for all ages.
  • Create environments for reading and training in Power of Goodness, mediation, and other community events.

Many librarians have never experienced a leveled reading collection. Friends Peace Library offers an example and experience to guide selection of books in the respective languages of librarians, parents, and teachers. Gaps in books available at specific reading levels in their own languages become apparent. This can guide writers and illustrators on needs for specific books within their own languages. Without such a collection of books, readers struggle with books they do not have the skill to read, which strains comprehension across their lifetime. 

The Friends Peace Library collection is selected under the leadership and skill of the Sparklers, a group of Quaker librarians, teachers, and volunteers, working with the librarians, teachers, counselors, interns, and volunteers in Friends Peace Libraries around the world. We are a group of people who yearn for deeper learning, but not all of us have the background, experience, English proficiency, or time to easily find and choose books.

We commit to English-language learning as an international currency for communication and connection, but use the collection to help us understand how to develop a strong library collection for all developmental reading levels, children through adults, in our own native languages. We understand that children need to read and learn in their native language. We dream that local writers and publishers will find guidance from this collection to understand better how to collect and produce books in their local languages that support the development of comprehension through reading. The Sparklers have joined with Friends Peace Teams to identify a collection that is also consistent with Quaker work for peace and justice in the world.

Books that Foster Cultures of Peace and Justice

Carefully chosen children’s books can be a powerful tool to model the behaviors that foster a peaceful environment in schools, homes and communities. Books can show in concrete terms how people behave when they respect that of the divine or the humanity in the other. These positive ways of interacting can be encouraged through the foundational skills of empathy, kindness, cooperation, respect, positive communication skills, and problem solving.  These are the behaviors that we wish to encourage. 

In selecting our books, we work towards active anti-racism and sexism and avoid some common pitfalls as described by Kara Newhouse (KQED):

  • Show resilience and transformation, not only suffering or rigid patterns
  • Go deeper than surface-level diversity
  • Pay attention to intersectionality
  • Avoid the sidekick syndrome
  • See groups as richly diverse, not as monolithic
  • Include #ownvoices from a wide variety of people
  • Weed out old materials
  • Engage people in the stories

Books to Read Aloud

Children and adults enjoy listening to stories read aloud, whether they can read by themselves or not. A captivating book of any length may be read aloud. The books in this Read Aloud Collection have turning points in the story that can spark interesting discussion. 

Friends Peace Libraries host read aloud sessions with letter, word, and book play as well as literacy lessons. Friends Peace Teams offers online monthly training for librarians, teachers, and community facilitators with a mid-month session for feedback and consultation on their local programs. Practice, training, and consultation develops our skills and riches the questions, discussions, and activities designed around specific books. Together, the Read Aloud and Literacy programs develop strong, independent readers. 

Friends Peace Library Collection

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Book Selection Criteria 

  1. Books/stories may be nonfiction or fiction.
  2. Authors and characters are from a diversity of communities or multicultural.
  3. The characters treat each other with respect, kindness, and caring.
  4. The characters care about the environment and preserve and protect it.
  5. The books avoid racial bias, gender bias, and stereotypes.
  6. The books include different religions and viewpoints, but do not proselytize.
  7. The children have active roles in the story and show positive behaviors.
    1. The story talks about children’s experiences from their perspective, from sibling rivalry and starting a new school year to homelessness and war.
    2. The children learn and demonstrate positive behaviors to deal with situations.
  8. Children demonstrate honesty, kindness, simplicity and peace.
  9. Children feel they belong, they are not outcast, and they can rely on others.

Developmental Reading Levels

English-language books are typically written with a particular reading level in mind. Books with good illustrations, simple sentence structure, and limited vocabulary are suggested for beginning readers. Books with more complicated sentence structures, multiple lines to a page, and expanded vocabulary are for more advanced readers. A really good book, however, will have a message for people of any age.

Reading is a learning process where students move through stages of skills and levels of difficulty. Our sister program, Literacy for Peace and Justice, organizes storybooks by stages that cover specific literacy skills.

The Friends Peace Library organizes storybooks by levels of reading difficulty mapped out by educators and researchers at Fountas and Pinnell (F&P). This system gives detailed guidance to writers, illustrators, and publishers on aspects of book production, such as: thickness, size, and selection of fonts; spacing of letters, words, and sentences; number of words or lines per page; relationship of written words to illustrations; details of illustrations; and so forth. This guidance aligns the book to the developmental ability of readers. F&P has twenty-seven overlapping levels from preschool to adult reading. Our goal is to provide a list of books at each F&P reading level.

Because reading levels are used, readers can find books which are not so simple that they get bored and not so difficult that they get overwhelmed or discouraged. Children can pick books that they can read successfully. English-language readers who had access to children’s books at a young age take for granted the skills built naturally through books written, illustrated, and published adherent to such levels of difficulty. They develop an identity as a capable reader from a very young age, and build the skills to move beyond mere decoding to actual understanding.

Providing a physical example of a leveled reading collection means that librarians and teachers can begin to level books in their own local languages. Parents, teachers, and librarians can enlist writers, illustrators, and publishers to produce books that support reading with meaning and comprehension, closing a major gap in global injustice. We go beyond functional literacy for exploitation as a labor force and marketplace, to reading for understanding, insight, and meaning.

Friendly Book Collaborative People

Literacy for Peace and Justice Coordinator: Maida McKenna, New England YM
Power of Goodness Coordinators: Chris Hunter, Britain YM, and Nadine Hoover, New York Yearly Meeting
Friends Peace Libraries: Erika Mittag, South Central YM, and Susan Hopkins, North Pacific YM
Technical Coordinator: Turtle MacDermott, SAYMA
Advisory Committee:  Turtle MacDermott,  Maida McKenna, Nadine Hoover, and Erika Mittag
Facilitation Teams: Chechnya, Ukraine, Nepal, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Java, Papua

Advisory Group
Members: Nadine Hoover NYYM, Turtle MacDermott SAYMA, and Maida McKenna, NEYM
Peace Libraries Contacts, Erika Mittag SCYM and Susan Hopkins NPYM
Literacy for Peace and Justice Contacts, Maida McKenna NEYM, Sally Farneth PhYM, and Anne Collins, SCYM
Power of Goodness Contacts, Chris Hunter BritainYM and Nadine Hoover NYYM

Peace Libraries Local Contacts

  • Indonesia, Ratih Puspito and Nanik at Peace Place in Pati
  • Rwanda, Francine Muhaw and Shukulu Murekatete

Literacy for Peace and Justice Local Contacts

  • Indonesia, Nanik at Peace Place in Pati and Ratih Puspito
  • Nepal, Palmo and Gita Sitaula, Hands in Outreach
  • Rwanda, Francine Muhaw and Shukulu Murekatete

Power of Goodness Local Contacts

  • Indonesia, Ratih Puspito and Nanik at Peace Place in Pati
  • Jeju Island, Korea, Park Jungjoo 
  • Malaysia, Melanie Siaw
  • Nepal, Ram Paudel and Subhash Chandra
  • N Caucasus, Rustam Musaev and Venera Minazova
  • Philippines, Kins Aparece
  • Rwanda, Francine Muhaw and Shukulu Murekatete