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How Geographically Literate is Your Child?

Despite the war in Iraq and the daily reports of suicide bombers in Israel, studies show that less than 15 percent of young U.S. citizens can locate either country. (By the way, Canadians don't score much better!) According to the National Geographic-Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey of more than 3,000 young people around the world, the USA is geographically illiterate.

Roger Downs, head of the geography department at Pennsylvania State University and National Geographic geographer-in-residence from 1995-1996, feels that U.S. schools have generally slighted geography. He says that if geography is not a curriculum-tested subject, students see it as not being valued. According to Downs, schools are not totally to blame. Parents can make a difference by teaching global awareness at home.

While driving your child across the country, map in hand, or traveling around the world might offer the best lesson, here are a few less expensive teaching aids that work well. Most of these resources can be found at your local parent-teacher store.

1) Laminated placemats, which are maps of the world, can be used to teach geography during meal times.

2) Inflatable globes, which look rather like beach balls, can be good to have around. One company called Hug-a-Planet makes a wonderful pillow, which is actually a globe.

3) A large map of the world can be taped onto your child's bedroom wall. Countries can be identified while collecting stamps or writing to pen pals.

4) A "world map" jigsaw puzzle can be an on-going family project.

Surfers of the internet will appreciate some of the free games and activities we have found online for teaching geography. You can find links to these great sites here.

By teaching global awareness and celebrating cultural diversity now, we can help to promote a world of tolerance and peace for future generations.


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