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A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World (DK Reference)

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£82.75 Best Offer by: amazon.co.uk marketplace See more offers
1 Review

Genre: Junior Books / Paperback 128 pages / Publisher: Dorling Kindersley; New ed edition 2 Mar 2006

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      09.12.2012 16:40
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      Very educational and great conversation starter.

      I bought this book after dooyoo featured it. at the time Amazon had a very reasonable price of roughly £2, used but like new. It is slightly higher now, at £2.81 used or £7.16 new including postage. This book was produced by DK in association with Unicef - the United Nations Children's Fund. It is loosely based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child, a human rights treaty which has been ratified by every country on earth except the United States, Somalia and South Sudan. I did look up the original document online. The actual document is extremely long and verbose, and many segments are open to interpretation, others are really unenforceable - I could name a number of clauses that are violated here on a regular basis - but it is is interesting to have a look at all the same. Even the summary would be difficult for a very child to understand. This book simplifies things, so that even the youngest children can get a grasp of what is being discussed.

      The book is exceptionally well illustrated - but that almost goes without saying with DK books. i would be quite shocked to find any book by this company that was not well illustrated. It is produced in their usual style of bright colourful photographs mixed with short text section. There is a mix between traditional fonts and one meant to look like handwriting to show children's voices, but I feel it is all clear and easy to read. The book includes children from a very wide variety of locations, showing very different cultures and ways of life.

      The subjects covered here, as basic rights of children include:
      Survival: The right to clean water, food, housing and health care.
      Development: The right to an education and to play.
      Protection: The right to love and care, not to be exploited through work, not to fight in any war and to extra help and freedom from discrimination for those with disabilities.
      Participation: the right to an identity, a name, a nationality, expression and a happy life.

      Each section features a different child or children from different parts of the world. the very front of the book shows a map with pictures of each child so children can locate the part of the globe they come from. Some illustrate the difference a water pump can make, others show different types of homes, foods and cultural expressions. Quite a lot of the book is dedicated to education. The segment on war is very limited and does not include anything gruesome or especially frightening, but the simple thought of being driven from your home is apt to be frightening to some children. There are also no pictures of children starving or suffering in anyway. the pictures are all happy and cheerful but some of the text is bound to be sad or upsetting to many children.

      I do think the section on refugees as limited as it was had more effect on my son than most children. I did explain this to my son - that we our country has a certain amount of political stability, and we would not end up refugees like the people in the photo. I have told him no one can get into our house to make us move - and isn't at all like a real war. It has come pretty close a few times and I can remember stuffing the letter box with wet cloths to prevent petrol being poured through, keeping the bath tub full at night and a duvet next to it ( a wet duvet is meant to the est way to put a small petrol fire) and armed men running into the house screaming at us to leave. I do have better home security now though, including blast proof doors but the children are aware that certain people would like to force us out. So I suppose it easier for him to see himself in that position and he seemed rather taken by a photo of a family forced out in Yugoslavia.

      He was also concerned with a child in Romania who did not have parents the child was in a good care home and well cared for, but he felt this was still very upsetting to have no family of her own - and I can understand his viewpoint. He did think it would be better for her to to be adopted as an infant was earlier in the book - but of course there are not enough adoptive homes for older children. he was also very concerned by the fact the mention of Aids in Africa, and I really did not know how to explain this to him - but I did tell him it isn't something he could catch here - or that we could catch. I explained it is very hard to catch and you need contact with a sick persons blood - I did skip the sexually transmissible part but he is only 7 and I don't feel he is old enough to discuss this with yet.

      Although there are some sad sections in this book - most are far more upbeat and show ways children are being helped. The overall tone of the book is not sad or depressing, and it is a good way for children to develop and awareness of the world around them. I do think it might promote some understanding of children from other areas - refugees and asylum seekers, and I do think the book is very educational. We had some very interesting discussions on education when reading this - although we both disagree with the fact that the book seems to view school as necessary for education as well as many other blanket statements made in regard to education. In fact the advent of compulsory education has marked a decline in literacy both in the UK and in the USA, but I am not adequately informed in regards to other countries. Many children go to school and fail to receive an adequate education - while others are very well educated without school. Personally - I would have liked some mention of this, but it isn't enough to rate the book down. I also have very serious concerns with the actual wording of the law in the UN document which requires children to be trained in respect for the UN but does not require such basic necessities as literacy - but of course that is not mentioned in the book.

      We also had some very interesting discussions on children working. Most children do some type of "work" even if it is as simple as setting the table or caring for pets. After a lot of thought my son concluded that it is fair enough for children to do work they choose to do for extra money, like chores for pocket money or the neighbour boys who mow gardens for spending money. the critical issue was that the child chose to do the work and could say no if they wanted to. He also accepted that caring for a pet the child asked for is fair in terms of child labour and also minor chores to help the family. He could understand that it is better to work long hours picking crops and such than to starve but felt children working in factories and big businesses was wrong.

      There is one critical section on the rights of the child that is left out of this book - sexual exploitation. I can very easily understand the authors decision to leave this out, In fact I would have been the first to complain had they gone into any detail on this. However I would have liked a brief section on the child's right to be treated with dignity to include the right to self as I see it. I very firmly believe every child has the right to refuse any type of touch they are uncomfortable with. But I do believe the schools are already teaching children their rights in this regard. I do feel every child should be made aware of their rights in this, but of course I make sure my own children are aware of this anyway. I do recognise it would have been a difficult subject to incorporate into this text - so again I am not rating down on this. I also would have liked to have seen something on the right to be treated with dignity in general - a right I feel many adults do ignore with children. No child should be humiliated by an adult.

      We had some very interesting discussions regarding this book. I feel I learned more from my son's viewpoints on education than he did from me. But I do feel this book really encouraged him to express himself and I always like a book that provokes thoughtful conversations. I have to admit I really enjoyed these discussions with my son, and that alone made the purchase price worthwhile. We will be drawing up our own bill of rights next week - listing what my sons feels children should have the right to. I think I may add a parents bill of rights too though. Then we can spend the next few days negotiating. If we can come up with ones each side will ratify this could prove a very useful exercise indeed.

      I am giving this book 5 stars as an educational text. I have a few disagreements - but I have unique views as well. I feel it would be very useful in a school setting, and also for home educators like myself. But if I were not home educating - I would not have bought this book. My son has read it as part of a school assignment, and may look at it from time to time if we study a country that is featured here and when my youngest is older he will do the same - but this book will never be read for pleasure. it is very educational, and well written, but I feel it would be as much fun to receive for Christmas as a maths workbook. Fair enough there are certain to be a few children who would enjoy this, but as far as just reading about other countries for fun - I do feel there are far better books out there. I feel this a text devoted to the rights of the child - not just life in other countries and as such it is well written. But a more general book would certainly be much more fun. The only grounds on which I would recommend this for an average family, would be if the parent will be reading with the child and using it as starting point for conversations and a means for children to express what they feel about their rights and responsibilities.

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