Last week we concluded our fifth summer of justice-related book clubs for kids and moms. Each summer I have met new people, discovered a new author, strengthened ties with the larger, global justice community, and been witness to God’s work in the world and in our family.
Last year I shared how I came to start leading book clubs for moms and kids around the topic of justice. This time, I want to process how I see the book club facilitates developing a heart and mind for justice in a child and a family.
~ A circle of moms, daughters, and sons: When we gather at a local park on summer mornings for book club, we form a large circle-ish shape. The moms sit on blankets with their littles and bigs huddled next to them or on laps. I love seeing all their faces – most of whom I know well. Some are friends of friends. Some of their children I already know and love, and all are loved intimately by God.
I heard an interview with Atinuke, an author of books we read last year. She said that her name means: You were loved before you were born. This is what I know about each child and mother in that circle: You were loved before you were born.
We gather together around a common purpose and each of us approaches the learning and activities differently. Each mom brings her own experiences and talents, each child brings her and his own readiness, attention span, and personality. We form connections with each other and to the larger world around us. Seeds are planted and watered in moms and kids, and the One who loved us before we were born will grow those seeds in time.
~ Books: Together, we read a book throughout the summer, one that was carefully chosen to stimulate our heads and our hearts. Our “head and heart” books have been vehicles for discovering different places, cultures, and perspectives that a child growing up in the sheltered environment most of us live in needs opportunities to explore.
~ Justice Heroes: Each time we gather, we learn about a real justice hero – men, women, and children who have stood for justice and acted with courage and compassion in their time and place. These are people who were not bystanders, but acted in the face of injustice, and we are inspired to do the same.
~ Action: Sometimes we read, talk, and listen, and our heads and hearts get smarter, but then we keep that smartness to ourselves and never do anything with it. At book club, we encourage the kids to do something. So, they become abolitionists. They use their words and actions to raise awareness about modern day slavery, and support International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world.
They write thank-you notes to encourage the rescuers, office workers, survivors, care providers, and investigators on IJM’s Ghana Team. They are encouraged think creatively about acting justly now as children and as grownups.
Together as families, we challenged ourselves to read 1,000 books and raise $1,000 for IJM by September! As of this week, we are very close to meeting our goal.
~ What Legos and Dancing have to do with Justice: Engaged brains and happy hearts facilitate learning. But a lot of the content related to global justice issues is complicated and sad or frightening.
So we play with legos, or more accurately, use legos to teach about justice.
We dance. I am so grateful to have a friend to whom I can say, “Hey, you know that one part in “The Year of Miss Agnes” where the village has a dance? Do you think you could teach our book club girls “The Virginia Reel?” I wish you could have heard the peels of laughter in the park that morning (scroll down to hear a sample).
~ Widening the Circle: We teach our children that being an abolitionist means speaking up on behalf of those who are oppressed. So the kids sent letters to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. They answered questions and tried to speak up when a grownup asked them about the book club. They tell about slavery in Ghana and what our book club is trying to do about it.
And the circle widens. Five-year-old Genevieve’s grandfather in California received a letter from his granddaughter and shared it with his co-workers at an auto shop, who were encouraged by the little girl’s initiative and responded with a donation to IJM.
Ripples of relationships from each book club family grow ever wider, and more come to know about modern day slavery through the words and actions of small children.
Together, we grasp the outstretched arm of God who hears the cries of the brokenhearted and uses his children to bind their wounds and set captives free.
We clasp the hands of those that go before us,And the hands of those who come after us.We enter the little circle of each other’s armsAnd the larger circle of lovers,Whose hands are joined in a dance,And the larger circle of all creatures,Passing in and out of life,Who move also in a dance,To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears itExcept in fragments.
(The Larger Circle by Wendell Berry)
Thanks, Katie Jenks and Shawna Demaray for the photos and video!