Getting children in on the `Covenant'

Books

October 07, 2007|By Felicia Pride | Felicia Pride,Special to The Sun

When media personality Tavis Smiley unveiled The Covenant With Black America in 2006, Charisse Carney-Nunes, a 40-year-old mother of two, felt something was missing from the blueprint for social change: children.

In an adamant voice, Carney-Nunes recalls what she announced to her colleagues at the Jamestown Project, a think tank involved with the Tavis Smiley Group to advance the goals of the New York Times best-selling book: "No movement for social change has ever been successful until you tap into the young people, reach into their hearts and minds and inspire them to get involved and make a difference."

It wasn't long before I Dream for You a World: A Covenant for Our Children was born.

Carney-Nunes of Washington, who serves as the Jamestown Project's senior vice president for knowledge and development and media relations, authored the book. Like the Smiley-edited book, Carney-Nunes' work highlights the major concerns in the African-American community -- but from a child's perspective.

It helped that Carney-Nunes, a Harvard Law School graduate, owned Brand Nu Words, the publishing company that released I Dream for You a World. She is also the author of a 2006 children's book called Nappy, which features illustrated biographies of influential black women. She wrote the book to introduce her now-7-year-old daughter to some of her "sheroes."

Released in February, I Dream for You a World seeks to engage young people in their history and future. The book is an exploration of 10 principles based on values included in the adult covenant.

At first glance, the picture book seems to be appropriate for younger children because of the mosaic of black children's bright faces provided by illustrator Ann Marie Williams.

"My 2-year-old loves the book and loves to hear me read it to him," Carney-Nunes says.

For older children there is a discussion of the covenant's principles -- including strengthening the family, health care and well-being, education, economic prosperity and closing the digital divide -- and suggestions of specific actions that they can perform, such as making a family tree or visiting an African-American museum.

Smiley wrote the book's foreword."It is to be used as a call-and-response tool that will encourage verbal affirmation of their potential to dream, to create, and to just `be,' " he wrote.

To become a "Covenant Kid," a youth can make a promise to take action to make dreams for a better world a reality.

"Much like the covenant for adults, the book has real meaning and real impact," says Robin Green, manager of Karibu Books' branches in Security Square Mall and Bowie Town Center. "It almost requires parents and educators to go over the principles and explain them.

"My youngest would particularly benefit from it," says Green, who is the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 16.

Carney-Nunes makes it clear that "the book is intended to be intergenerational and foster teachable moments between children and the grown folks who love them."

Schools are beginning to tap into the book's value. Carney-Nunes has partnered with the Baltimore Curriculum Project to turn I Dream for You a World into a curriculum for civil engagement. The BCP operates three Baltimore City charter schools: City Springs, Collington Square and Hampstead Hill Academy.

"We want to work with our young people and focus on family, their roots, who they are, and how they can have a brighter future through knowledge and bettering themselves," says Tara Gates Anderson, director of training for BCP.

Anderson says one school plans to teach the book throughout the school year.

About 10 to 12 fourth-grade students from City Springs Elementary School on South Caroline Street will meet five days a week for 40 minutes before school to learn the various principles of the children's covenant.

The goal is to have the young people show their families and community what they've learned. Eventually, Anderson would like to see the covenant taught as part of every school day across grade levels.

unisun@baltsun.com

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