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Geographic Literacy Advocate: Kids Need Preparation for Global Citizenship


Geographic literacy -- and the importance of ensuring that American kids have it -- has been making headlines lately, as legislators and geography advocates move to bring a solid geography curriculum back to schools. The quest has even made its way to Congress, where a recent bill introduced by U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) would authorize competitive grants through the Department of Education to improve K-12 geography curriculum, teacher training and materials.  

The issue of geographical literacy has made its way to Congress.

Among those pushing for better geographic education is Lisa Manzione, a geographic literacy advocate and author of "The Adventures of Bella and Harry" book series, which focuses on exposing kids to different cultures through narratives.

EducationWorld: What are the biggest problems with how geography is currently being taught in schools?

Lisa Manzione: In speaking with many teachers, the problem is "Social Studies" as a whole.  Several years ago the curriculum was changed from Geography to a more general view of cultures and customs, somewhat excluding the focus on geography.


EW: Why is it so important that kids know where countries are on a map? 

LM: We live in a global society.  Our lives are impacted on a daily basis by what takes places thousands of miles away.  Not only is it important to know what goes on in our local area, it is equally important to know how decisions, weather, etc., from other parts of the world impact our country.


EW: What would the ideal geography curriculum look like to you? 

LM: A combination of social studies, but with an emphasis on geography and how events that take place on the other side of the world impact us as a country.


EW: How will geographic literacy among kids benefit them in their adult lives? 

LM: It is anticipated that there will be thousands of geotechnological jobs available in several different industries throughout the world.  As our economy continues to evolve, we as a country need to be prepared to participate in future employment opportunities.


EW: You wrote "The Adventures of Bella and Harry" book series to open children’s eyes to the world around them. How do your books do that? 

LM: I believe the series gives the young person a general overview of where the particular country is located, exposing them to customs along with culture [and] hopefully piquing their interest in the world around us.


EW: How do you choose the countries represented in the books? 

LM: The first three books were chosen because they are popular family vacation areas. I am hoping by piquing their interest in a place they hope to visit, it will add to their desire to learn about other areas of the world.


EW: The books also show kids the value of other cultures. How do they do that, and what’s the benefit to the reader?

LM:  The value of other cultures is shown through the dialogue between the two characters. It is my belief [that] by understanding other countries and cultures, young people will understand more about their own culture and how they may work together as a global society.


EW: What are some ways in which teachers could incorporate your books into a geography curriculum? 

LM: I believe the series could be introduced to the early reader (K-3), exposing the young person to travel, customs and cultures. The series teaches facts in terms a young person finds interesting. For example, the height of the Eiffel Tower is measured both in feet and “giraffes” (approximately 50 “giraffes” equal the height of the tower). I also used the same idea when discussing the Rialto Bridge.


The Adventures of Bella and Harry: Let’s Visit Paris retails for $16.95 and is available from TriMark Press.

Article by Sarah W. Caron, EducationWorld Social Media Editor.