A positive impact

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Children's Rights series

Health; Safety; Home; Voice; Education

EvansSave the Children pound;10.99 each

Sarah is 10 and loves school, especially drama and netball.

She likes working with other children "because you can make friends and share things together". She wants to be a nurse. Sarah sounds much like any other 10-yearold, but she lives in Uganda and is one of 10 children struggling since their father died of an Aids-related illness. Food is scarce. They have no blankets. She wakes up at 6am to sweep the house and leaves at 6.30am for the hour-long walk to school. When she can't afford the fees she gets sent home and feels bad..

The breadth of work supported by Save the Children, as described in these books, is vast and impressive, especially in the many first-hand accounts of the charity's positive impact on individuals and communities the world over.

Save the Children helps Sarah by supporting Sunday education groups. They help Khamis from Zanzibar by providing nets and rods to catch fish. They help Saranda's dad repair their shelled home in Kosovo.

The titles are based on aspects of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is gaining a higher profile in schools around the world through Unicef's Rights, Respect and Responsibility campaign.

A key theme is providing children with the knowledge and skills to help themselves and their communities. Ali, a 15-year-old from West Africa, volunteers for a project that advises families on the benefits of vaccination. Children listen to him "because he is a child, too". Children also help each other learn about preventing the spread of HIVAids which, in Africa, has often killed one or both parents.

The text is suitable for upper key stage 2 and lower KS3. The high quality photos match the text well. Punchy "Did You Know?" fact boxes contain headline-grabbing, jaw-dropping data, though some details might confuse - eg in Home, we are told that 350 million children work, while in Voice there are "200 million children under 14 working".

These thoughtful and unpatronising books are very effective in underlining the universality of children's lives and hopes, then contrasting them: Colombian children in the playground mimic street-gang shootings. Djike plays for a local foot-ball team, which cleans the streets to get money for school fees. This powerful technique, never sensationalised or overplayed, will hit the reader every time.

Kevin Harcombe is headteacher at Redlands Primary School, Fareham

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