Asia West Pacific

Reading and Beyond: Peace with People and Nature

By Ratih Puspito Rini

The Peace Library in Ketanggan engages in the peace movement by collecting books for the themes in Creating a Regenerative Culture of Peace and Justice, such as: friendship, agreements, affirmation, conscience, transforming power, communication, and cooperation. We hope children will find reading resources that inspire them to nurture peace within themselves and with their environment and communities.

At the end of 2020, Read Aloud Training with the Sparklers Working Group on Zoom opened our horizons to explore more ways to use books with children. It also brought us the new idea of connecting books with activities and reflection.

We practiced using tools from Read Aloud with Sparklers by preparing a lesson plan before we read the story. Our theme was Earth Care: Love Mother Earth and we chose the book Akan ke mana Boti? (Where is Boti Going?) by Watiek Ideo and illustrated by Novita Elisa, about the journey of a plastic bottle.

Bridge Activity: Before reading, we sat down, looked around and felt the air of our breath coming out. We considered the many things the earth gives us: water, air, soil, that grows food, animals; all freely given. Then we asked, “What do I do to love the earth?” This question emphasizes our theme for that day.

Story Reading: Boti is a plastic bottle that has been thrown into a trash bin. Due to improper final disposal, however, he ended up adrift in a river. A child who found Boti stranded on the bank of the river picked him up and used Boti to make an eco-brick. Boti seemed happy because in the end he could benefit others.

Thinking Out Loud: We thought about the fact that although Boti was thrown in the trash bin, there were still problems. We reflected, Is it enough just to throw the trash in its place? Do we know where our trash goes? Have you ever met or found something similar around you? The children began to share their experiences of how they manage waste in their homes. The book has a lot to do with our condition. In Indonesia, we usually put our trash in the trash bin, but eventually its disposal remains a problem. Thinking out loud helps the children connect the ideas in the book with their experiences in daily life. One child said in her house all the plastic trash was burned. The other children agreed. Their families also burnt the plastics. The process of thinking out loud brings more insight through discussion and we become a resource to one another. We become curious, and look up ideas, questions, and issues on the internet (websites and YouTube). We search plastic waste, the garbage mountain phenomenon, the dangers of burning plastic, which informs and enlivens our thinking out loud.

Wondering Questions? We can use Wondering Questions to enrich our thinking out loud. I invited the children to imagine by giving them wondering questions, such as: “I wonder where you are in the story? I wonder what part of the story is most about you?” Some children say they are the children who take Boti from the river. One child says she is Boti who loves to play with her friends. They share what they like and don’t like in the story. The wondering questions helped us self-reflect. Each person learned to deliver their own opinions and respect each others’ opinions.

Wondering Questions
I wonder what part of the story you liked best.
I wonder which part of the story is most important.
I wonder where you are in the story or what part of the story is most about you.
The wondering questions allowed us to self-reflect.

Related Activity: The book gives us a model of how to take care of plastic waste by making eco bricks.The next week we began making eco-bricks. The children decided to collect plastic waste and bring it to the library. The children cut and rip up large plastics into smaller pieces and fill into the bottle. They used sticks to push down around the sides of the bottle. To maximize the density, they mix soft, then hard plastic. When the bottle becomes solid and strong with plastic filling, it means the ecobrick is done. Once we have enough ecobricks, we are ready to make a table. We have been doing it now for four weeks and still want to continue.

Leader’s Learning: From this activity, I learned how reading books can be made more meaningful for children. The tools were very helpful for us to improve our comprehension and the reflection is very useful for creating cultures of peace.

Children’s Learning: In the end, we asked the children, “What did you learn from the story?” They said, “It’s better to take care of our own trash to keep our families and the Earth healthy.”