Promoting Peace with Poetry and Art
Written by Baptiste Paul & Miranda Paul and Illustrated by Estelí Meza
Published in 2021 by North South
What is peace? The answer to this question is both individual and collective, and both simple and complex. In their inviting new picture book poem, Baptiste and Miranda Paul explore the concept of peace, moving readers from concrete (Peace is a hello,/ a smile, / a hug.) to abstract (Peace is on purpose./ Peace is a choice./ Peace lets the smallest of us/ have a voice.) The rhyming text invites readers young and old to consider the roles they can play in creating peace and the benefits that all can enjoy. Estelí Meza’s warm and whimsical illustrations expand the concept of peace to the animal kingdom, depicting children with a range of skin hues playing with smiling animals. An author’s note reminds readers of the interconnectedness of all living beings and remarks on the ways that animals suffer due to human conflict. The last lines link past and present and serve as a call to action: “Peace is old as the stars / and new as a birth. / And if we embrace it / peace cradles the earth.” A powerful reminder of the potential of poetry and art to create change, this beautiful book is meant to be shared, discussed, and cherished.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom
Concept Mapping: Peace. After reading Peace, engage your students in discussion about the meanings of peace that are explored in the picture book. Revisit the text and create a concept map on a large piece of chart paper, supporting students to visually represent the related and nested ideas about peace that the authors and illustrator explore. Next, invite students to share their own idea about peace, adding them to the concept map, using a different color(s) in order to visually demonstrate the interconnected ideas that relate to the concept of peace.
Sharing Definitions for Peace. A read-aloud of Peace is a clear invitation to explore other definitions of / meanings of ‘peace.’ Invite your students to share their responses orally and then provide a way to document, publish, celebrate their ideas. Some ways to do this might be:
- Class Big Book – Each student can write and illustrate their ideas about peace on a large piece of construction paper; these can be bound into a class book to be shared in the classroom, scanned and shared digitally with families, and with other classes at your school.
- Peace Posters – Use Estelí Meza’s vibrant illustrations as models for peace posters that reflect students’ ideas about the meanings of peace and how to achieve it.
- Greeting Cards – This time of year, we often share wishes of peace with loved ones, friends, and colleagues; provide students with art materials to design greeting cards to share their messages about peace in this format
Peace Interviews. In addition to exploring students’ own definitions for peace, the book could launch an inquiry into the meanings of peace held by community members more broadly. For example, you could connect via video with a local hospital, nursing home, or assisted living community to connect intergenerationally. Work with students in advance to develop a list of interview questions, such as ‘What does peace mean to you?,’ ‘What are some examples of peace?,’ and/or ‘How do you think we can create peace?’ Have students practice interviewing skills by asking you these questions? Next, ask students to list people they would like to interview and arrange for the opportunity to do so. Students should make notes during their interviews and share what they learn with their classmates.
Words for Peace. The end papers of this picture book depict a many-branched tree with leaves. Each of the leaves has the word for peace written on it in a different language. Explore this visual, identifying the languages that are included (using a tool, such as Google Translate). Use this as an opportunity to celebrate students’ home languages, inviting them to create an illustration that includes the word ‘peace’ in the languages that are most meaningful to them.
Cultural Symbols of Peace. In the author’s note at the conclusion of the book Baptiste and Miranda Paul note Estelí Meza’s illustrations include animals that are cultural symbols of peace. Guide your students in an investigation of other symbols of peace, using the resources in the Further Explorations section below. Inspired by Meza, students can create a mural for your classroom or school hallway that incorporates an array of symbols of peace. Consider introducing the Peace Pole project as a symbol for world peace – research whether there are any peace poles in your community and consider engaging in this global initiative for peace.
A Peace Text Set. Work with your teaching team and your school or public librarian to develop a multimodal multigenre text set that focuses on peace by curating songs, poetry, painting, sculpture, etc that address the concept of peace. After experiencing and discussing these many different texts, students can select a genre and modality to express their own understandings of and wishes related to the concept. For example, after reading Barbara Kerley’s photo essay A Little Peace, students may be inspired to create their own photographic portraits of peace.
Peace Poetry. Peace is a poem in picture book format. Discuss the literary techniques used by the authors, including rhyme, line breaks, repetition, and figurative. Next explore additional poems that center the concept of peace (see the resources in the Further Explorations section below and our entry for Irene Latham and Charles Waters’ Dictionary for a Better World). After experiencing a range of poems about peace, students will be able to compose their own.
Peace Activists. Read Peace to launch a text set study of peace activists. Collaborate with your school or public librarian to gather a collection of picture book biographies and digital resources to explore the lives and commitments of peace activists such as Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Malala, Jane Addams, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Wangari Maathai. Invite your students to explore the lives of peace activists, providing opportunities for them to share their learning with classmates. Learn more about the Nobel Peace Prize, but also emphasize the many ways of working for peace that extend beyond this global recognition.
Costs of War: Author’s Note. Read Baptiste and Miranda Paul’s author’s note at the conclusion of the book. They note the costs of war, paying particular attention to the impact that war has on animals and the environment. In developmentally appropriate ways, engage your students in a discussion of the impact of war. Depending on students’ age and experiences, they may want to talk about loss of life, home, and mental health. Extend the ideas of peace creation found in the picture book into a conversation about actions that students can take to promote peace – what impact can youth have in creating a more peaceful ,just, and inclusive world? Connect with Miranda Paul’s newest book: Right Now! Real Kids Speaking Up for Change.
Harris J. (2017). Salam alaikum: A message of peace. Ill. by W. Jenkins. Salaam Reads.
Hines, A.G. (2011). Peaceful pieces: Poems and quilts about peace. Henry Holt.
Kerley, B. (2007). A little peace. National Geographic.
LeBox, A. (2015. Peace is an offering. Ill. by S. Graegin. Dial.
Paul, M. (2021). Right now: Real kids speaking up for change. Ill by B. Jackson. Clarion.
Scanlon, E.G. (2009). All the world. Ill. by M. Frazee. Beach Lane Books.
About Erika Thulin Dawes
Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.
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