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Shaping global awareness in young minds

Written on April 4th, 2011

Students at Hamilton District Christian High (HDCH) in Ancaster, along with visitors from four other schools involved in the Christian High School Book Club, were visited last week by a Burlington author who eagerly shared her experiences.

OACS News spoke with author Sharon McKay after the visit to discover what she sees in the youth she visits, and the importance of engaging young minds through literature.

“I absolutely love it,” she says, of her school visits.

“Of all the things about being a writer, that’s the best by far.”

She says the experiences are always different. She’ll go from sitting with a group of kindergarten children, who want to talk about Robert Munsch, “to Grade 12 where they’re asking questions about the validity of armies going into other countries.”

“You have to be nimble.”

The books she writes are geared towards young adults, but they discuss weighty issues like child soldiers in Africa, the war in Afghanistan, or the Holocaust.

She says as a writer, she has a great opportunity to open young minds to global issues, and she does so by writing stories centred on characters and relationships that are accessible to young people.

Thunder over Kandahar, for example, focuses on two young girls from different backgrounds who forge a deep bond under the umbrella of war in Afghanistan.

“It’s a story about the best of friends, and girls who read the story can relate to the devotion each character feels for the other,” she says.

As the reader sees that story through the eyes of the characters they become immersed in the overall theme of the story. McKay’s hope is they can then learn more about the history being written today in the deserts of that war-torn region.

She gets great deal of satisfaction when she visits a school whose students are in tune with global issues, as they were at HDCH last week  — not all students are engaged in the same way.

“It’s absolutely dependent upon the teacher,” she says, about sparking interest and dialogue about current events.

In an ever-changing world, inspiring the leaders of tomorrow to think globally is as important today as it has ever been. The enthusiasm of teachers and writers like McKay, is a major component of this drive.