ServLife board member and author/activist, Elizabeth Hankins, has written a new novel for students in the fifth through ninth grades. Through the voice of a quirky, eleven-year old boy learning about genocide for the first time, I Learned a New Word Today…Genocide (Key Publishing 2009) serves as a genocide primer, defining genocide (according to the Genocide Convention) and highlighting six major genocides of the twentieth century. Amid other student-centered themes, the novel also introduces information like the role of the United Nations, the American political process, reasons for, and possible solutions to, ending genocide and words such as impunity, political will, witness and forgiveness. But the overall objective in writing the novel, Hankins says, is to educate children in such a way that they are compelled to action.
“Kids almost innately care about injustice and brokenness in our world,” she says. “So showing them the nature and constructs of genocide is just part of the story. My hope is that their understanding and senses of justice will lead to action – getting involved, finding the things that they can do to help end human atrocities – and then doing them.”
Here’s a look at the back cover/summary of I Learned a New Word Today…Genocide:
“The word for what we’ve studied these past few weeks, boys and girls, is genocide.” I watched Mr. Steinberg turn from the chalkboard to face our social studies class. He looked sort of strange, like he was sad or something. “And if you want to help end it…if you want peace and protection for all people…you have to get involved and do the thing that you can do.”
Javier Mendoza has learned a new word and he doesn’t like it. But as his fifth grade class explores the shocking history in countries ranging from Armenia to Sudan, Javier realizes that the past – and even the present – is telling him a story that he can’t ignore. Then he overhears a conversation that triggers a mysterious chain of events at his school. Now Javier is faced with the reality that no one is immune to the consequences of genocide. And perhaps everyone has a responsibility to help end it…even Javier himself.
For more information on I Learned a New Word Today…Genocide and Hankins’ other work, check out: www.elizbethhankins.com