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Book Review: Raising Global Children

By Carl-Martin Nelson, Director of Marketing and Enrollment | Published: May 14, 2014

UNESCO designated April 23 as World Book Day to celebrate the importance of books and publishing. To recognize World Book Day 2014, Concordia Language Villages is posting a series of five book reviews from a wide range of contributors.

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Raising Global Children by Stacie Nevadomski Berdan and Marshall S. Berdan provides the rationale and a host of practical ideas to develop a global mindset in children. Published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, this book explores the challenges and successes of many Americans who want to foster an important set of global skills in their children to help them both become better citizens and increase opportunities for success in college and beyond.

Using quotes, anecdotes and longer narratives from academics, politicians, teachers, students and parents, the authors connect the important ideas discussed in the book with people and their concerns. This blend of research and real people make Raising Global Children a book that speaks both to the head and the heart.

The authors define a global mindset as “an ability to live in and work successfully across multiple cultures – including, but not necessarily, in other countries.” Drawing on research she has done in the past, Stacie Berdan explores life skills important to successful cross-cultural encounters including the ability to build teams, the importance of patience and persistence, intellectual curiosity, adaptability, and communication skills.

While learning another language is a key communication skill tied to developing a global mindset, it is not the sole focus of the book. They do encourage parents to help children learn languages at a younger age if possible. “Adding language to the mix creates even richer dimensions, not only in the cultural doors it opens, but in the benefits it bestows upon general education and career opportunities.”

While the authors discuss experiences that children and families have abroad, a remarkable percentage of the book focusses on the cross-cultural and global experiences that happen every day in American schools, neighborhoods and communities. Developing a global mindset, they stress, is not something that only wealthy families can explore. There is a wealth of global experiences to be had all around us and much of developing global citizens is tied simply to intentional parenting with specific, global goals.

Although an early chapter warns of confusing global-mindedness with a dilettantish or glib engagement with international foods and cultures, the authors appropriately explore the importance of food and fun and provide specific tips for helping children move beyond the bland food that so many American children eat. Having a broad and courageous palate can be a valuable asset for a child in the future: “Once you have cultivated a reasonably adventurous eater, you’ll find that both family meals and travel become much easier.”

While much of Raising Global Children addresses encouraging young children to develop the skills and attitudes of global-mindedness, chapter 7 addresses the very specific needs and interests of teenagers and their ability to more intellectually engage the world. Stacie and Marshall Berdan discuss the kinds of things that high school students can do along with practical suggestions for exploring college and career opportunities for older teens. High school students should be thinking in high school about where they want to study abroad in college, for example.

Raising Global Children provides both specific, manageable suggestions for helping children become global citizens as well as inspiring stories of people who are accepting this important challenge and encouraging others to do so.

About Carl-Martin Nelson

Carl-Martin Nelson, a former dean of Waldsee, the German Language Village, is Concordia Language Village’s director of marketing and enrollment. Carl-Martin has been on staff at Concordia Language Villages for 25 years. He is fluent in German and has studied Norwegian. A National Board Certified Teacher, he earned his master’s degree in writing from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. Prior to assuming a full-time position at the Villages, Nelson was on the English faculty at St. Johnsbury Academy, an independent day and boarding school in St. Johnsbury, Vt. for 19 years.

While at St. Johnsbury, he also directed the Colwell Center for Global Understanding and the new teacher induction programs. Nelson has presented at regional and national conferences on the subjects of language program advocacy, marketing and technology, global citizenship and leadership development.

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