Rural communities often create strong bonds between generations, with older folks passing down not only their wisdom, but their stories as well. Deb Bowen, founder of nonprofit Understanding Works, created a project that aims to do just that for Holocaust survivors, veterans and everyday heroes, and champions for human rights.
Started in 2003, A BOOK by ME follows a “by kids, for kids” approach to its content, with the aim of making these narratives accessible to all. Children work with an adult advisor to interview key figures in their communities and synthesize their stories into an illustrated book.
Deb explains that the project not only preserves the stories of the older generation, but facilitates a sense of empathy and understanding in young people:
"I want to build compassion. I want to build that muscle in students and adults. We don’t tend to think about what other people have been through or are going through." (Quote from interview with WQAD)
Recently, Deb was awarded a grant to share these stories with an even broader audience by sending out 60 sets of stories created through A BOOK by ME. She hopes that rural communities especially can take advantage of the opportunity for community engagement, whether that be in the classroom or through an “intergenerational book club.”
“One plan is that they read the books in the classroom,” Deb explains, “and, if there is a student interested in finding a story, that they might network on social media and possibly find a WWII veteran or Jewish survivor story to preserve. Another option is to split the book set with a senior center and have students share what they have learned…and have the seniors tell stories from their youth or about someone famous in their community. Simply talking and learning together.”
Learn more about A BOOK by ME by visiting their website: https://www.abookbyme.com/
Request a book set or learn more.
For more information on how to get involved, including requesting a book set, check out the interactive poster Deb sent with the button below. Through A BOOK by ME, over 100 stories have been written, and the number is growing. Deb encourages anyone interested in creating their own “Story Hunters Club” to reach out to her directly at email@example.com.