February 11, 2014

When Children Play: The Story of Right To Play

by Gina McMurchy-Barber
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
56 pp.
Ages 8-12

Non-fiction books about organizations such as Right to Play can be incredibly tedious reads.  Their stories may be important and their messages undoubtedly need sharing, but good work does not always translate to good writing.  Many such books are poorly organized, heavy in text and light on non-fiction features of text like information boxes, maps, graphs, captioned photographs or illustrations and differentiated fonts that can enhance the message. With its well-organized format and text that informs as well as personalizes the story of Right to Play, Gina McMurchy-Barber's When Children Play hits all the marks.

A humanitarian organization that supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to engage in play and recreational activities, Right to Play "uses sports and play to educate, improve health, and build confident youth who want to give back to their communities." (pg. 7) Derived from the earlier Olympic Aid group, Right to Play goes beyond fundraising to the development of programs that support its motto, "Look After Yourself, Look After One Another." (pg. 18) By evolving into an NGO that uses play to normalize the difficult lives of children, mentors and coaches are able to spread the important messages of staying healthy, resolving conflicts, gaining self-esteem, developing physical skills and improving mindfulness.  Just as the Olympics have their 5 rings, Right to Play has five coloured rings to represent their 5 key areas of focus: mind, body, spirit, peace, and health.

By telling the stories of children and adults, from Uganda to Thailand and Mali and Toronto, both volunteers and game participants, from refugee camps to impoverished communities to those willing to extend their help, Gina McMurchy-Barber provides a global approach to the story-telling of When Children PlayRight to Play is not about children who need relief and aid.  It's about everyone caring enough about everyone else to improve their lives.  Help others and you help yourself.  And, with the inclusion of instructions for games to try, like Batter Up and Tunnel, When Children Play becomes less of an educational non-fiction book and more an intermutual one that will engage readers and inspire them to play.

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