Wednesday, March 7, 2012

THIRD-CULTURE KIDS and GLOBAL READERS



Hello All! Eden Bodwitch Unger here, new Project Mayhem Team Member! This is my very first post!

I have been doing classroom visits at several school here in Cairo, Egypt. While I feel flattered that all the schools in town are so excited to have me, I know that many had visiting authors cancel because of the civil unrest. With all the, well, mayhem, it’s still safer than West Baltimore at night. When we’re in the US, either in Baltimore where we still have a home, or in Boston, New York, or California where we have family, freedom is curtailed by dangerous streets. In Cairo, the idea of ‘dangerous streets’ refers to heavy signal-free traffic (there are no lights or stop signs) and giant plates of bread precariously balanced on the heads of moped riders. My kids cruise all over the neighborhood in taxis and walk home after dark. In general, Egyptians are kind and friendly. We have never felt the kind of worry that we have felt in large American cities. Things are somewhat different since the revolution, but overall, we still feel this way. There are people taking advantage of the fact there is no real government, but could you imagine what a year without police and leaders would look like in the US? Still, I understand why some people opted not to come as a visiting authors. I suppose it’s the devil you know.
My debut book!
THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF SECRETS



That said, with all these school visits, I’ve gotten to sign lots of books. But mostly, I’ve gotten to talk to kids. These are kids from all over the world who are living in a different country. Or kids from that country who are going to a school full of kids from everywhere else. We call kids who live in a community of expats who don’t live in their own culture ‘Third Culture kids.’ They create a culture that is not integrated fully into the native culture, nor is it a culture on its home turf. For the most part, these kids are poised and engaged. They are all diplomats in a very real way. Some of them have never lived in their native lands, but still identify with them, if from afar.

Another thing about these kids… they read. They read like kids read everywhere, although they tend to travel more so there are more opportunities to be stuck somewhere that has no internet so they are captive readers. And what do they read? They read what everyone their age reads! Rick Riordan, Garth Nix, J K Rowling, and some of us at Project MG Mayhem, too. They are thrilled to meet authors and talk about books. And they are excited to read something new.


I thought that perhaps because they are always experiencing something new- they move around and new people are always arriving at the school- they are more open to reading new things and not just what everyone else is reading. But thinking of class visits in the US, I realize that kids are psyched to read a book they can connect with a face. So what is different about the readers in far off lands? What is different about third culture kids? As far as I can tell, the difference is that they have a harder time getting their hands on books and fewer people come to visit.

Third-Culture kids are often more aware of the world. They might live in third-world countries that affect the way they think of the planet. Third Culture kids might speak or understand more languages and have eaten more strange and wonderful things. But as readers, they are like kids anywhere. They want to be engaged. They want to have fun. They want to read adventures and mysteries and get lost in a good book. Sometimes that book will get them through a war or an evacuation or a separation from their family. However global-minded they are, however poised, wherever they find themselves ambassadors of youth culture, these kids want good books, just like the kid next door.

Thanks for reading, everyone! 

Eden

19 comments:

  1. Fascinating post, Eden! Welcome to Project Mayhem.

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    1. Thank you, Dee! I feel honoured to be here.

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  2. Welcome to PM, Eden! What a wonderful first post.

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  3. Third culture -- that's an excellent description! I went to preschool and Kindergarten in Saudi Arabia, and when I came back to the US was lost in my own culture. I attended an international school like you described. It really was a wonderful time for my entire family and shaped who I am today.

    Welcome!

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    1. It brings families together as you step into another world. At the international honour choir event in Belgium, my son bonded with all the kids from international schools in the ME. I guess you'd be one of his peeps. Thanks, Caroline!

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  4. Great first post, Eden. Welcome to the Mayhem Team!

    You are talking about my childhood. I loved the following: They create a culture that is not integrated fully into the native culture, nor is it a culture on its home turf. For the most part, these kids are poised and engaged. They are all diplomats in a very real way.

    I spent the first 9 years of my life living in Panama, Honduras, and Switzerland--going to local or international schools--because my father was a diplomat. It's nice to know that I was a diplomat too!!

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    1. And I'm sure those diplomatic skills have followed you through life. You learn how to be an ambassador to your own world. Thanks, Michael!

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  5. Enjoyed this post! Family members recently moved from CA to Spain. This gives me an idea of what my young grandson will experience as time goes on. Appreciate the insights--and the take on third-culture kids and books :-)

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    1. It is certainly something that will change him, but for the good. He's lucky to have someone interested in understanding that. Thank you, Kenda!

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  6. Welcome to the Mayhem, Eden!

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  7. So cool that you are getting to meet so many Egyptian kids. Would love to take my family to Egypt and good to hear that you feel so safe there!

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    1. It is an amazing place- and still safer than most! By all means, bring your kids!

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  8. Great post, Eden. Welcome aboard!

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  9. I think we should start a Project Mayhem writer grant that sends one lucky writer to the country of their choice for research. For me, I would have to start with Japan!

    Awesome first post, Eden! Welcome to the Mayhem! :)

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    1. Thanks, Hilary! I love that idea!!! One thing to note for writers- international schools are a wonderful resource!

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!