Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids, #2

Some people have habits that annoy us and challenge our patience, sense of humor, and kindness. Some have bad reputation — whether labels thrown at them are true or not, becoming friends with them comes with some social risks. Will you still be friends with them?

My featured books today tackle this predicament and give us entry points to explore with young ones concrete actions to promote peace. These books are also two of my favorites. They remind me of happy memories, of many firsts and of discovering the joy of peace storytelling.

Aside from the usual ‘in a nutshell,’ peace AHA!, and possible processing questions that I used in my first post on Books for Raising CSPP[1] Kids, I’ve added two more sections here:

  • Introduction – This is an optional short interaction with kids to prep them for the storytelling session. You can be as creative as you want here. This may include questions related to the central theme of the story or the main characters. (I learned this technique from Alitaptap Storytellers Philippines.)
  • Reflection and Application – This provides an opportunity to explore and deepen discussion about a specific concept on peace or conflict related to the story and encourages commitment to promote peace. If time’s limited, this could be a follow-through activity on another day.

ANG DALAWANG HARING SIGA

ang dalawang haring sigaStory by Rene O. Villanueva
Illustrations by Ruben de Jesus
Published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)Arranged for UNICEF by Tahanan Pacific, Inc.
Bilingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7 and above.
*This book is currently not available in local bookstores. It may be possible to seek permit from UNICEF Philippines to use the story.

Introduction 

The following may be used as opening questions to build interest about the story to be told:

  • Who among you lives with your grandparents?
  • What characteristics of your grandparents do you like?

After some students have responded to the opening questions, tell the students that the story that will be read today will be about two kings who are loving grandfathers to their respective grandchildren. However, something irked them about each other that they decided to rage war with the other.

In a nutshell: 

This is the story of two kings who valued their pride more than all the jewels in their kingdom. For as long as people could remember, the two kingdoms were deadlocked in a very silly war. How their fight began is quite hilarious and how they called it quits is quite endearing.

Processing Questions for Kids

  1. What are the names of the two kings?
  2. What were the reasons of the two kings for justifying the war that they started?
  3. What was the advice of others to the two kings?
  4. Why do you think the two kings have difficulty reconciling?
  5. How did the two kings patch up their differences?
  6. What could they have done to avoid raging war?

Peace AHA!

Although told in a funny way, the story is packed with serious stuff about how conflict begins; why war should be avoided; and how to resolve conflict in a non-violent way. Conflict begins when two people perceives that they have incompatible goals or that the other’s need is a hindrance to meeting his/her needs. The highly entertaining story of Ang Dalawang Haring Siga illustrates this well and tells us of the importance of communication in resolving conflict.

The following are some nuggets of wisdom that can be used for generating comments from kids or to highlight lessons of the story.

  • Conflict[2] cannot be avoided because of our innate differences as unique individuals and people of different cultures and experiences. However, violence can be avoided. It is the worst response to conflict.
  • Violence will not resolve conflict; it will only aggravate it. In war no one wins, everyone’s a loser.
  • Too much pride gets in the way of peace.
  • Humility to accept our weaknesses and the kindness to accept our differences are values that we must learn to be able to forgive and make peace.
  • There are other peaceful ways of resolving conflict such as dialogue.
  • All of us can be a peacemaker/peacebuilder just like the grandchildren of King Porong and King Emong.

Reflection and Application

Draw from the students their insights on peaceful ways of resolving conflict (i.e. dialogue, negotiation). Whenever possible, teachers could add additional input to the discussion. To reinforce learning, students could re-enact Ang Dalawang Haring Siga focusing on how to prevent war using their recommended means of resolving conflict. Selected students can pose as actors while others as observers.

PETER AND AHMED

peter and ahmed

Story by Jojie Wong;
Illustrations by Kora Dandan-Albano
Published by OMF Literature Inc. for HIYAS
Bilingual (English and Tagalog); Recommended for children ages 8 and above.
*still available in major local bookstores.

Introduction

Since this is a story of friendship, one possible way to introduce the story is to engage kids to talk about their close friends. The idea here is to surface the good qualities of their friends which are almost always never related to race, ethnicity, religion, physical attribute, gender or status in life. Aside from the issue of prejudice, this is one important message of Peter and Ahmed.

Ask kids if they have a bestfriend or a very close friend. Then request for some kids to share 2 or 3 characteristics that they like most about their bestfriend. Tell the kids that the story for today is about two bestfriends. Why they hit it off the first time and what they enjoyed doing together are two interesting things to watch out for in the story.

In a nutshell 

This is a story of friendship between a Muslim and a Christian boy. In spite of the spiteful words that Peter’s neighbours say against the family of Ahmed who’s a Muslim, Peter found a bestfriend in Ahmed. It also helped that Peter’s mother, unaffected by the prejudices of others against Muslims, even encouraged their friendship.

Processing Questions for Kids:

  1. Who are the best of friends in the story and how did they become friends?
  2. What do they have in common? What are their differences?
  3. Do their differences become a hindrance to their friendship?
  4. What do the neighbors of Ahmed tell about their family? Do you think there is enough basis for their accusations?
  5. How did the family of Peter treat the family of Ahmed?

Peace AHA!

The story provides a good springboard to discuss about stereotype[3] and prejudices[4] and how these could lead to discrimination[5] and even violence if they go uncheck. The story of Peter and Ahmed challenges prejudice against Muslims and shows that it is possible for Christian and Muslims to be friends and happily co-exist.

The story promotes tolerance or the “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of cultures and various forms of human expression (UNESCO, 1995; Castro and Gallace, 2000).

Reflection and Application

Optional for older students: Through a participative discussion, explore with the students different biases/stereotypes[6] (an opinion/judgment about other people that are without the benefit of facts; labels we use which have no basis) about other people or social groups. Ask them how these biases/stereotypes get in the way of creating positive relationships and promoting peace. Explore with kids what they can possibly do to avoid stereotyping.

To wrap up this post, I’d like to share one more tool that could help reinforce lessons learned from peace storytelling. A peace corner may be created inside the classroom where “nuggets of wisdom,” reflections/lessons learned of students, and even commitments to peace can be posted. This could serve as a “wall journal” that teachers could refer back when opportunity comes and a reminder to students about their journey as young peace advocates.

I hope these story options inspire you today. Let’s work for a peaceful society one story at a time. Have fun with your next storytelling session!

 -ems, #iamforpeace

[1] To raise children who are conflict-sensitive, who are able to identify manifestations of violence and conflict, we have to sharpen their critical thinking and enhance their perspective on issues such as human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, etc. To empower them as peace-promoting kids who could act for peace, we must also teach them courage and compassion and skills to resolve issues using non-violent means (i.e. dialogue, negotiation).

[2] Conflict is the perception of incompatible goals (Galtung, 1969).

[3] Stereotype refers to the negative opinion about a person or group based on incomplete knowledge. This forms the basis for prejudicial feelings. (Castro and Gallace, 2008).

[4] Prejudice is the negative feeling or attitude towards a person or a group even if it lacks basis (Allport, 1958; Castro and Gallace, 2008). This may lead to negative action or discrimination.

[5] Discrimination refers to negative actions toward members of a specific social group that may be manifested in avoidance, aversion or even violence. (Franzoi, 1986; Castro and Gallace, 2008)

[6] The Center for Peace Education of Miriam College made a survey on common biases about certain groups of people. This can be found in Chapter 6 (Challenging Prejudice and Building Tolerance) of the book of Dr. Loreta Castro and Dr. Jasmin Gallace, Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace. This chapter also provides several recommendations on how to address prejudice and promote tolerance.. (To buy a copy of the book, email CPE through cpe@mc.edu.ph; a pdf file is also available for free online.)

RELATED POSTS:

Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids

Last week, in my Peace Quote Musing on a Monday post, I raised the following question:

How do we raise children who would choose integrity, fairness, and generosity so that he or she might contribute to a just society; choose dialogue, collaboration and other peaceful means of resolving conflict so that there would be no more war; choose to protect this earth so that all may have enough?

As many peace education advocates would opine,  the ability of young people and adults to make decisions that would contribute to a culture of peace lies on their education.

To raise children who are conflict-sensitive, who are able to identify manifestations of violence and conflict, we have to encourage their inquisitiveness and sharpen their ability to critically think about relevant social issues such as human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, etc. To empower them as peace-promoting kids who could act for peace, we must also nurture them to learn courage and compassion and skills to resolve issues using non-violent means (i.e. dialogue, negotiation).

This is a huge undertaking but it can be done. Let’s start with something simple – some books for our storytelling session, whether at home or inside the classroom!

Below are three of my recommended stories which are still currently available in major bookstores here in the Philippines. For each of these animal stories, I have provided a synopsis (in a nutshell); what I discovered about their potential to teach peace (Peace AHA!); and some questions you may use to explore with your kids some behaviors, attitudes and skills related to building peace.

PARADISE OF THE ANIMALS

IMG_6994
Story by Virgilio S. Almario;
Illustrations by Joanne de Leon;
Published by Adarna House;
Recommended for children ages 8 and above.

In a nutshell:
“Animals once lived together happily and peacefully in Paradise” until the day that the Parrot arrived and told stories that were not true. This sparked mistrust and created divisions among the animals which later escalated into a fierce battle among animals.

Peace AHA!
The story provided a good contrast of what it is like to live peacefully together and live in conflict with others. Specifically, it would be good to explore the feelings and behaviors of the animals during these different times in their lives:

  • Animals live in harmony when they were still able to share Paradise’s resources with each other as this passage says: “Everyone weak and strong, big and small, shared their food with the rest.”
  • Animals live in harmony when they accept and respect each others’ differences as these passages illustrate: “They were different yet they treated each other with respect. They understood one another even if they spoke and thought in different ways. They accepted one another. They tolerated one another’s likes and dislikes, no matter how odd, as long as no one was harmed.”
  • Animals lived in conflict “when they came to mistrust and think ill of one another” then others became violent while those that got hurt became angry and fearful.
  • Animals were unable to resolve their conflict when they ceased to talk and listen to each other.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • How would you describe the relationship of the animals when they were still living peacefully together?
  • What broke the relationship among the animals?
  • How could the animals mend their broken relationships?
  • What do you think Elephant could have done to make his interventions to promote peace successful?

SI BAS BAYABAS AT ANG TROPANG OK
(Bas Guava and the OK Group)

IMG_6989

Story by Luis P. Gatmaitan, M.D.;
Illustrations by Raketshop Studio;
Published by OMF Literature Inc. for Hiyas
Bi-lingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7 and above.

In a nutshell:
Animals with disabilities were being ridiculed and ostracized by other animals in the farm of Mang Bayani. Fortunately, they found solace under the shade of Bas, the guava, and found new friends among each other. In spite of their disabilities, they actually helped save the farm from burning down.

Peace AHA!
The story highlighted the importance of seeing people with disabilities as people who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They may be vulnerable but they have other capacities and deserve to be heard, supported, and included. There are many like them in our society and ensuring that their needs are met makes development more inclusive, thus building just peace for all.

The story could be a springboard to explore your kid’s feelings towards people with disabilities or other vulnerable people in general and begin to reinforce positive behavior towards them.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • What do you think of the Tropang OK?
  • Do you know or have seen anyone with disabilities? How do you feel or think about them?
  • How do you think you can show your support to people with disabilities in a way that they will feel dignified?

ANG HUKUMAN NI SINUKUAN
(Court of Sinukuan)

IMG_6990Story retold by Virgilio S. Almario;
Illustrated again by Mitzi Villavecer;
Published by Adarna House
Bi-lingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7-9.

In a nutshell:
This is a story of a vengeful mosquito and how his anger caused trouble among other animals in Mount Arayat. After processing the incident with everyone involved, Maria Sinukuan, the queen of Mount Arayat, punished the mosquito and asked him to pay for the damages he has caused.

Peace AHA!
Although the story is intended for teaching about justice and resolving disputes in the proper venue, it is an interesting story to explore how conflict begins and escalates.

  • Unexamined perception could trigger conflict. Many of the animals involved in the story acted out of fear: Frog was afraid that Turtle’s house would fall on him; Turtle was afraid that Firefly might burn his house; and Firefly was afraid that Mosquito will stab him with his bolo. Their lack of understanding of each other’s nature and misguided assumptions caused them to be scared and suspicious of each other’s motive. There is an apparent lack of communication that could have clarified their assumptions and fear.

    On the other hand, it is important also to note that fear because of threat to security cannot be ignored, whether the threat is real or perceived. To feel safe is an important indicator of peace and a fundamental right! I think teachers and parents can use this to ask kids what they think would make them feel safe or to describe instances when they felt unsafe. This could perhaps lead to a discussion on bullying at school or other forms of threats that children experience. As this  may be  a sensitive discussion, handle this discussion with extra care and check for signs of stress.

    For older school kids, this story has potential as springboard to explore the essence of security beyond physical safety, which is to include other fundamental human rights (or child’s rights) and “access to other opportunities and choices essential to achieving full human potential.”[1] This will provide a broader perspective on what it really means to have peace. Of course these are tough topics to jump into and would require longer time to process so this can be a follow-through activity in a classroom setting.

  • Violence will not resolve conflict. Mosquito was very angry of Talangka, the crab, who tried to snip him with his pincers one day. His anger made him vengeful and careless with his weapon. The story teaches that violence will not resolve conflict and that one needs to practice self-control, to refrain from reacting rashly. The story can also be a springboard to explore with children other non-violent means of resolving conflict such as dialogue.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • Why was Mosquito punished by Maria Sinukuan?
  • If you were Mosquito, what could you have done to resolve your conflict with Talangka?
  • What can you possibly do to control your frustration/anger so you don’t act rashly or violently?
  • Do you think Frog has a reason to be scared of Turtle? Why?
  • Try relating to the feeling of fear of the animals in the story. Were there instances when you feel unsafe and afraid?

In all of these stories, communication is a key component in resolving conflict in a non-violent way. For students to benefit more from the lessons of these stories, it may be good to add a follow-up activity such as role play where students can use their creativity in simulating dialogue among conflicting parties.

Well, that’s it folks. I hope these recommendations will be helpful and will get you started with raising more conflict-sensitive and peace promoting (CSPP) kids. Let’s work for a peaceful society one story at a time. Happy reading!

 -ems, #iamforpeace

[1][1] Annan, Kofi, 2000. United Nations Millenium Report. (Human Security).