I saw Chelsea Clinton interviewed on NBC’s Today, where, among other topics, she promoted her new book, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, & Get Going. I went to my local book store and read the book. It’s Your World reaches out to adolescents, but not in a condescending manner, as do some books of this type written by adults. On the other hand, there aren’t many books of this type for kids. It’s Your World defines things clearly in a way that kids of many ages can understand: for example, she explained part of water treatment as where they “separate poop and water”.
Topics covered range from viruses and vaccines, to bullying, and being supportive of friends with autism, to poverty and homelessness, to public health, climate change, and child marriage (even Massachusetts allows girls to marry at age 12 with parental consent!). She also took on the worldwide gender gap in education and vocational opportunities. In describing these things, she tells of visits with her parents to third world countries where she met girls much like herself, but without many of the social advantages she had growing up.
At the end of each chapter, there is a section entitled, “Get Going” that lists many things kids can do. Some examples are:
- If over age 13, use social media to share information about clean water;
- Empty any outdoor containers of standing water;
- Petition magazines to stop airbrushing photos of models;
- Play an online game such as “Nightmare Malaria”;
- Recycle, and encouraging family and friends to recycle;
- Start a garden at home or at school;
- Trade books and videos with friends instead of buying more;
- Visit websites such as GirlsNotBrides.com and LetGirlsLead.com;
- Attend movies with strong female characters.
This is only a small sample of her suggestions of things that kids of many ages can do to improve their world. Ms. Clinton adroitly demonstrates the connections between the world’s social problems. For example, living in poverty makes it more difficult have enough food, which can lead to stunting of growth. Children whose growth is stunted are often weaker both physically and mentally. She reports that adults whose growth was stunted in childhood often more likely to be poor.
As a public health educator, I know just how much poor nutrition affects success in school. Living in poverty makes it more difficult to have transportation to and from school, and to complete school projects. All of this decreases the likelihood of acquiring a good job, which increases the likelihood of continuing a life of poverty.
Also, as a public health professional, I was especially impressed with the connections drawn between climate change and public health: the lack of clean drinking water, for example. She pointed out something I am ashamed to say I had not previously considered. The weather extremes caused by increasing climate change wreaks havoc that makes it difficult for public health and medical professionals to reach victims in areas most in need.
The method of self-disclosure was used in this book, and I quickly saw how different her childhood was from mine, excluding the obvious – that my dad was not a governor or a president. She described how she loved reading the newspaper as a child, and how her parents expected her “to have an opinion or point of view on everything”, what she learned in school, what she saw on the news, or read about.
She shares a heartfelt story of asking her grandmother to stop smoking as her birthday gift to the then 8-year-old Chelsea. Grandma Ginger did quit. When she (Ginger) developed breast cancer some years later, her physician said that she had a better chance of fighting the cancer because she had already stopped smoking prior to becoming sick.
The material I have covered here is miniscule compared to the wealth of information contained in this extremely well-written book. Although its target population is adolescents, it will appeal to adolescents and adults alike. Chelsea Clinton has revealed more ways kids can contribute to their world than I had time to count. She showed them how they can contribute now, as well as when they are grown. She made an excellent case for kids being able to be able to see that this is already their world, not just ours. I highly recommend It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, & Get Going to everyone. I especially recommend it as a gift for your favorite teen or pre-teen.