Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids - Book Review & Discussion Questions

The idea for Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights grew out of National Geographic’s involvement with a group of statesmen, The Elders and an online writing project through ePals. The book is based on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a 1948 United Nations document illustrating 30 rights and freedoms that all humans inalienably possess. The declaration was written in the wake of WWII with the hope that the unimaginable things that had happened would never happen again.

There are three things I'd like to discuss about Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights: the textual layout, the writing, and the ideas as applied to the classroom.

Each section of Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights contains a simplified statement of one of the thirty articles of the declaration, an ePals contest winner’s poem, and captioned photographs illustrating the right/freedom. It is a visually pleasing and learning conducive layout that works wonderfully. The end includes an appendix of great resources and especially enjoyable mini-biographies for each of the ePals child poets.

Where Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights falters is with the writing. The captions for the photographs are most times unbiased, but there were a few that seemed controversial to the point of being antagonistic. Examples? A young black man gaining respect by joining a gang? Free Cuban education held up without acknowledgment of brainwashing within that education system? Violence against women in US is COMMON? Using a wall of graffiti as an example of speaking out in a community? These poor examples could have easily been rewritten and I wondered why, considering all the people involved with this book, they weren’t better edited.

That being said, Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights offers tremendous potential for classroom use. Each declaration is a lesson waiting to happen, a fantastic discussion lingering on the lips as you read. There are so many dynamics (political, cultural, legal, personal) to ponder with secondary students. While an upper elementary student might be able to begin considering human rights, the depth of understanding needed to consider the ideals advocated in Every Human Has Rights are best left for secondary students.

Even though there are some faltering moments requiring extra discussion, I think most dedicated educators, willing to provoke in-depth discussions with their students, will find Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights a great addition to their classroom.

Recommended for elementary libraries and secondary libraries and classrooms.

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Genre: Nonfiction. Age: Middle Grades & High School. Pages: 48.
Themes: Dignity, Equality, Life, Freedom, Safety, Respect, Justice, Protection, Privacy, Movement & Refuge, nationality, Marriage, Property, Religion, Expression, Assembly, Social Security, Democracy, Work, Leisure & Health, Education, Participation, Peace, Responsibilty, Future.
Thank you to The Picnic Basket.
Publisher: National Geographic Children. Date: November 2008.
ISBN-10: 1426305117 / ISBN-13: 978-1426305115
Buy Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights Here

Here are some discussion questions I wrote while reading the book. They are divided according to the book format:

1. Dignity: What is dignity? How do we strip others of their dignity? How does the poem relate to dignity? (discussion of women’s rights)

2. Equality: What does one do to earn respect? Can you use force to gain respect? How is religion tied to equality? Gender? Etc…. (discussion of racial & religious rights)

3. Life: What does it mean to be free? To be safe? How can the Cuban government, a dictatorship, use education as a way to suppress the people? (discussion of government power vs. will of the people)

4. Freedom: Why do humans use another human as a slave? How can a human break free from the bonds of slavery? (discussion of child labor)

5. Safety: Do you think violence is ever a means to en end? How do the works of people like Ghandi and King show that nonviolence can be used as a method for change? What is the difference between ‘punish you too severely” and a fair punishment for criminals? (discussion on violence & preying on the weak)

6. Respect: Why do we sometimes forget to see each other as all human? How can one human hurt another human without remorse? What is the difference between feeling prejudice and acting to harm someone based on that prejudice? Is there a difference? (discussion on the Holocaust & genocide)

7. Justice: How do money, power and influence affect a legal system? (discussion of criminals and cruel & unusual punishment vs. safety of public)

8,9,10,11. Protection: Why must a society have rules? Who decides the rules? What is a fair trail? Why is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ so important to a fair legal system? (discussion of a fair legal system & recent developments with DNA testing)

12. Privacy: What is slander? When does the public safety and security override personal freedom? Does having security cameras help to solve crimes? Does having security measures make you feel safer? (1984 example, discussion of Patriot Act)

13, 14. Movement & Refuge : Why would a person need to move? Why would a person ask to leave their country? Does a person have the right to return to a country if he/she has broken its laws? What is globalization? How is it affecting economies and people’s ability to obtain free living? (discussion on globalization, refugees and a world market)

15. Nationality: What is a national identity? Why are people proud of their country, sometimes even when their country does things to be ashamed of? Why do people like displaying flags and cheering for sports teams? (discussipn of patriotism, community and culture)

16. Marriage: Why do humans seek a mate? What is an arranged marriage? Is this cultural practice an infringement on an individual’s right? Who has the right to get married? (discussion on gay marriage & cultural customs of marriage)

17. Property: What are squatter’s rights? Does the government have a right to evict someone if they need the land for the good of all? Who should be able to own property? (discussion of female land laws & environmental issues and laws vs. personal property)

18. Religion: Why do people fight over religion? Why do you think it’s so important for people to believe that their religion is the ‘right’ one? Should religious views have a place in government? (discussion of separation of church & state)

19, 20. Expression & Assembly: Why is it important for people to be able to say what they feel? When does law enforcement have the right to intervene in a demonstration? Should there be laws governing morality in art? (discussion on freedom of speech, freedom of the press)

21. Democracy: How does politics sometimes lead to an abuse of power? How does a democracy help to dissuade abuse of power? Why do you think people want to run for political office? Can one vote really make a difference? What if you lost that right to vote, have your opinion counted? (discussion of various forms of government & what constitutes a free and fair election)

22. Social Security: Do we have a responsibility to take care of our fellow citizens when they are unable to care for themselves? What constitutes being unable to care for one’s self? At what point is someone abusing the social system? (discussion on social services, mental illness, addiction, responsibility to the infirm & small)

23, 24, 25. Work, Leisure & Health: Why do we have a minimum wage? What is workplace discrimination? Why is time away from working important to humans? In a country as wealthy as America, why do we still have hungry citizens? (discussion on sexual harassment & broken healthcare system)

26, 27, 28. Education, Participation, Peace: Why is it important for a person to have an education? Why would a government (the people) want everyone to have an education? Why would they NOT want it? Why is a peaceful existence important to humans? What must it be like to live in fear? Why is it important for everyone to be able to participate in the human experience?(discussion on free vs. private education & humans with disabilities equality & peace vs. fear)

29. Responsibility: How can we make our needs known without infringing on another’s needs? Why should we protect the rights of others? (discussion on free will vs. egotistical taking of so much as to negate rights of another & difficulty between pride and accountability)

30. Future: What are the many ways that someone can have their future stolen from them? How can someone steal the futures from themselves? What does inalienable mean? Which things are inalienable? (discussion on self-worth and goal setting)

Easily 3 weeks of social studies discussions in one book!

A final personal thought and one more discussion activity: I was listening to an NPR show where the guest was speaking about human suffering in various parts of the world. A caller phoned in to say that we should first help the poor people here in the United Sates. This caused a debate as to who is really poor. After all, Americans have many blessings that other countries lack: everyone gets an education, there’s places to get free food, drinking water is safe,...... This was the question nagging me as I finished Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights. At what point does degree of suffering trump suffering? Isn’t a person in need the same? Why must it be quantified? How does our ‘one tiny drop’ make a difference? This would make an excellent high order thinking discussion for high school students. An educator could start it off with this:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” - Mother Teresa

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© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

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