The following story, for grades 3-6, will help North American children to understand the varieties of lives of their peers in other places. It is most effective if it is read by at least two people. Encourage comparisons (similarities as well as differences) amongst the characters in the story and also with your own lives.

Story:
Reader 1:
Brian is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a small city in the United States. Imagine him in gym class at school. Wearing a tee-shirt with the logo of his favorite football team, he bends down to tie his new shoes. The teacher then throws the basketball to him, and the game begins. Later, after a quick hot shower in the locker room, Brian heads to the cafeteria where he buys a soda and gets in line for hot lunch. It is pizza today, and he takes three large pieces. As he gulps down his food, Brian rummages through his backpack to make sure his new calculator is still there.

Reader 2:
Bhola is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a village in India. Like Brian, he too is at school. The school building is too small for all the children, so classes are held outside. Bhola sits in the sun with the older students. That way he can be close to the teacher who is writing on the blackboard on the school wall. He feels the sun’s intense heat on his head, and also feels the warmth from the other children he sits with, shoulder to shoulder. Gone is the cool feeling he had when he scrubbed down at the well earlier this morning with his brothers.  Bhola’s teacher is showing the students math problems which Bhola will have to solve on his slate later. He wants to make sure he understands how to do them for he has no worksheets or books to refer to. The school does not have any math or other textbooks.

Reader 1:
Brian grabs a few of his books, slams his locker shut, and heads out the door with a crowd of students. Inside his bus it is noisy as children shout and tease each other. Brian sighs because the bus is almost full and he will have to share a seat, probably with one of the little kids. He wishes his older sister could have picked him up today. Sometimes she does when she drives the car to her high school. The bus stops at Brian’s driveway, and he gets out.

Reader 2:
Min-Wha is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in the huge city of Seoul in South Korea. The long school day is over, and she is on her way home to get her violin for her lesson. She gets onto the subway. It is filled with passengers as usual but everyone has a seat. There is only one seat left. Min-Wha’s backpack is heavy with tonight’s homework, so she is glad to sit down. At the next stop three women get on, so Min-Wha immediately stands up and offers her seat to one of the women. It is a custom that a younger person always gives her seat to someone older. Soon the train arrives at Min-Wha’s stop. She gets off the subway and walks the remaining streets to her home.

Reader 1:
Brian unlocks the front door to his house. Everything is quiet. He’s hungry, so he puts a bag of popcorn into the microwave. Brian flops down on the family room couch and flips on the television. He watches an old cartoon while he eats the popcorn. Then he goes over to the computer to play a game, taking the television remote control with him so he can flip tv channels. He is engrossed in his game when his mother comes home from work. “I brought some take-out food for dinner,” she says. “Your dad is working late, and your sister is at play practice, so they won’t be here to eat with us.” “My hockey game is at 6:30,” Brian reminds her. “I remember,” his mom assures him.

Reader 2:
Tem-Tem is a ten-year-old boy who lives on one of the many islands that make up the Philippines. He has just walked home from his nearby school, carrying his social studies and math notebooks. School is over for the day. Now it is time to help his brothers shuck oysters, part of the family business. He hears his mother humming the baby to sleep as a gentle breeze passes through the bamboo house.

Reader 1:
As Brian and his mother get into their van, his mother yawns. “It’s been a long week,” she says. Brian looks at her anxiously. “You are staying for the game, aren’t you Mom?” She nods. “Mom, did you remember that tonight we have to turn in our money for the tournament?” “Oh, that’s right,” she says. “How much?” “Two hundred dollars,” Brian answers. His mother’s eyebrows go up. She says, “That’s a lot of money!” Brian nods and says, “But I really want to play in that tournament! Please, Mom?” “I know,” she says, reaching for her purse.

Reader 2:
Tem-Tem is a ten-year-old boy who lives on one of the many islands that make up the Philippines. He has just walked home from his nearby school, carrying his social studies and math notebooks. School is over for the day. Now it is time to help his brothers shuck oysters, part of the family business. He hears his mother humming the baby to sleep as a gentle breeze passes through the bamboo house.

Reader 1:
As Brian and his mother get into their van, his mother yawns. “It’s been a long week,” she says. Brian looks at her anxiously. “You are staying for the game, aren’t you Mom?” She nods. “Mom, did you remember that tonight we have to turn in our money for the tournament?” “Oh, that’s right,” she says. “How much?” “Two hundred dollars,” Brian answers. His mother’s eyebrows go up. She says, “That’s a lot of money!” Brian nods and says, “But I really want to play in that tournament! Please, Mom?” “I know,” she says, reaching for her purse.

Reader 2:
Maria Luisa is a twelve-year-old girl in Guatemala City. Each day she goes with her mother to the city dump. There they search through rotting food and other garbage, looking for glass, metal, and plastic containers to sell. The money from these recyclables is the only income Maria Luisa’s mother has. There hot sun causes the garbage to release poisonous methane gas. “Cover your mouth,” her mother says anxiously. But Maria Luisa cannot dig for containers and cover her mouth at the same time. “Watch out for broken glass! It’s all over. Try not to get cut,” her mother cautions. Maria Luisa does the best she can, proud that she can help her mother, but she hates to come to this horrid place. It is difficult to walk, for a person can easily sink into something that has rotted. Maria Luisa pauses to watch a young woman with a baby tied securely on her back. The young mother struggles to pick through the garbage and not lose her balance. “Stay close to me,” Maria Luisa’s mother says in a low voice. “We will leave soon.” Maria Luisa knows that it is reaching the time when the drug addicts and thieves arrive, and her mother is frightened. Maria Luisa moves closer to her, and works on.

Reader 1:
Home at last after the hockey game, Brian relaxes in the shower. Too tired to even listen to music on his compact disk player, he crawls into bed under the cozy flannel sheet and comforter. He turns out the light next to his bed. The light from his digital clock and the street light near his window give his room a soft glow. Brian stretches himself out in his bed and goes to sleep.

Reader 2:
Pedro is a twelve-year-old boy living in the mountains of Bolivia. It is night, and very cold. Pedro is tired after a day at the market. Today he went to town with sacks of potatoes his family raised. After a long, bumpy and crowded truck ride, he sold all the potatoes at the market. He is glad that his father didn’t have to go to market and proud that his father is able to depend on him. Shivering now, Pedro crawls into the small bed he shares with his little brother, Pablo. The heavy sheepskin blanket will keep them warm tonight. Still, in his sleep, little Pablo cuddles up to Pedro for more warmth. Outside, the cold night is silent. No sounds come from the sheep, cows or llamas. Everything is quiet inside their adobe home, too, and completely dark. Pedro can still smell the beans and potatoes his mother cooked earlier. Pedro curls himself up under the heavy blanket and is soon fast asleep.