The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Powerful Pinky Touches

Hands across continents.  This spring, middle school students in Grand Forks, ND fanned out into their community for a work day to raise money for a library that will be planted by Ethiopia Reads ( in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

A former Ethiopian national football player–now working on his PhD at AAMU–visited the school when he was back in Ethiopia earlier this year.  He reported that the school has 1973 female students and 28 female teachers: “very unusual for Somalis to have this many female students and teachers.”  He added that most of the students travel from 5 to 10 kilometers to get to school.  “There is a library building that does not have anything in it with a hope of being furnished one day.”

Kids and little dogs in Grand Forks are making sure that day will come in 2012.

When I was inventing a character for American Girl in 2009, I researched a lot of projects where kids are doing citizen science.  Lanie discovers that the littlest efforts can make a difference–the plants we choose to plant, the ladybug spots we count, protecting a caterpillar climbing on milkweed.

What about words and pictures?

Kids in a school in Boston where I did an author visit this spring made books and sent them to Ethiopia with Liz McGovern from Mudula Water (  She delivered them to the Ethiopia Reads/Tesfa Foundation mercato school along with supplies for kids to make their own books.

It’s a powerful thing, getting to tell our stories.

Kids in Ethiopia are in school in increasing numbers.  There’s wide open opportunity for team work pinky touches in those schools.

This fall, some schools are going to do it through Bring a Book,  Buy a Book days to raise money to get books to kids in Ethiopia.

And then there’s the impact teachers can make by sharing skills and ideas.  This month, my brother from Portland, a teacher from the UK, and two educators from Kansas are in Ethiopia doing that kind of pinky touch.

The PhD student who visited Somali wrote, “I had a great time staying in that area talking and walking with those individuals and learning from them as I observed what is going on in and out of the school environment.”

Walking and talking are powerful.

Sharing and listening are powerful.

Up with students and teachers, readers and writers, doing their everyday powerful work across this world.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

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