EX­PLAIN­ING CON­FLICT TO KIDS

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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - RAY­MOND M LANE

WHY Do We Fight? Con­flict, War, and Peace, by Niki Walker, 80 pages.

Jack Wi­wcharyk is bug­ging his mom about some­thing he heard on the ra­dio. The first­grader says his par­ents lis­ten to a lot of pub­lic ra­dio.

“Talk, talk, talk,” Jack says dur­ing a phone con­ver­sa­tion with him and mom Niki Walker from their home near Toronto in Canada. “I don’t un­der­stand all of it.”

What he didn’t un­der­stand were re­ports that the US and other coun­tries may at­tack Syria, a coun­try in the Mid­dle East, be­cause they think Syria used poi­son gas on civil­ians, in­clud­ing chil­dren. Other coun­tries and many Amer­i­cans are against an at­tack, and the ar­gu­ments fly back and forth on the ra­dio, in news­pa­pers and maybe in your house, too.

“Why is there war, any­way?” Jack won­dered.

The ques­tion is dif­fi­cult for kids – and adults – but he is ask­ing the right per­son.

Niki Walker has a new book called Why Do We Fight? Con­flict, War, and Peace. It’s writ­ten for 10to-14-year-olds, and it starts with big ideas about war and peace, and in the end leads read­ers to think about con­flicts with sis­ters or broth­ers, at school, at home – any­where.

“I did not write a book that (says) we just hold hands and sing Kum­baya peace songs, and ev­ery­thing will be okay,” said Walker, 40, who has writ­ten 20 books for chil­dren and edited more than 100 oth­ers.

Both of her grand­fa­thers served in the army in World War II and helped free peo­ple who were held in Nazi prison camps. Jack’s grand­par­ents on his dad’s side of the fam­ily sur­vived the Nazi in­va­sion of the area that is now the coun­try of Ukraine.

“Hu­man be­ings are in con­flicts for real rea­sons,” Walker says. “Kids hear about this all the time, but do they know how to ask the right ques­tions to un­der­stand what hap­pens in the world around them?”

She doesn’t think so, and she says it doesn’t help that schools and li­braries are filled with kids’ books about wars and bat­tles. As young­sters grow into teenagers, of­ten they’re drawn to video games that seem to re­ward peo­ple who kill the most bad guys.

To have a book on peace is a step to­ward help­ing kids think on their own now and through­out their lives, she says.

In six chap­ters filled with sim­ple draw­ings and charts, Walker de­fines con­flict – whether a war, protests, strikes, crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity or even a school­yard tus­sle – and ex­plains how they may start and even­tu­ally end.

She also raises in­ter­est­ing ques­tions.

Land, wa­ter and food are scarce (that means not avail­able to ev­ery­one) in most of the world, the book says. Bil­lions of peo­ple are af­fected. How well do peo­ple share in each coun­try or neigh­bour­hood, Walker asks. Do peo­ple who don’t have things con­sider that a rea­son to fight with those who do?

In a democ­racy, peo­ple can vote and have con­trol over their gov­ern­ments. But do peo­ple in demo­cratic coun­tries have ac­cess to the truth? And can they make govern­ment re­spond to needs fairly?

What about peo­ple who are taught to hate one an­other, Walker asks. Some kids grow up in a society or a home where they learn to distrust or hate oth­ers with­out ever know­ing them face to face. Should wars be fought over what peo­ple be­lieve, their re­li­gion or skin colour?

“There are deep roots in many con­flicts,” Walker says.

“If young­sters un­der­stand that on their own and think it through on their own, they’ll grow up to face con­flict bravely and with hope.”

“I don’t un­der­stand all this,” Jack says, paus­ing. “But it’s like at school some­times, when kids hit each other. I don’t hit anybody. Hit­ting is so last year.” – The Wash­ing­ton Post

Why Do We Fight? Con­flict, War, and Peace PIC­TURES: THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A new book, Walker, helps us think about con­flicts large and small.

by Niki

QUES­TIONS: Niki Walker

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