The book For Every Child, published in 2001 in association with Unicef, with text by Caroline Castle and a forward by Archbiship Desmond Tutu, lists some of the rights enumerated in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, in accessible language and with magnificent illustrations by 14 different artists. For example, the rights listed include the following: all children should be allowed to live and grow, to have a name and land to call their own, to play and rest, and to say what they are thinking and feeling.

This is a great resource for exploring children’s rights with young people. You can couple this book with the following exercise, which I’ve adapted from a game created by my colleague David Shapiro.

In session 1 of this lesson plan, first explain what a right is. Can the students give some examples? Then distribute index cards, each of which has a right written on it. Some are serious – right to life, right to health care, right to sleep, right to a home, right to have children, right to food and water, right to think for yourself, right to vote, right to be friends with people you choose, right to attend school, etc. – and some are more frivolous – right to watch television, right to not have people sit on your head, the right to eat candy, the right to stay up as late as you want, etc. 

Ask the students to draw the right on the card they’ve been given – but they shouldn’t let anyone else know what it is. Then break up into small groups (3-4 students), and the students then share their pictures and try to guess each other’s rights. 

In session 2 of this lesson plan, break the students up into the same small groups as class #1. Each group decides which two of the rights on the index cards distributed to the group in the previous session are the most important, and then chooses a member of the group to report back to the whole class. When the class comes together, all the rights chosen are listed on the board.

Then read For Every Child to or with the class. The class then creates its own list of children’s rights. First, examine all of the rights that have been written on the board. Are there any that the students now think shouldn’t be there? What other rights should be included? Are there rights that belong to adults that shouldn’t belong to children? Rights that belong to children that shouldn’t belong to adults?

This will be my last blog post for the summer, as I am again devoting the summer to working on a writing project. I’ll be back in September!

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