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Stories that Stick

David Robinson, one of the founders of Nord Anglia's Global Library, discusses the books that made it to the 2017-18 reading list and their significance for international school students. Whether it is opening children's minds to the possibilities through science fiction or telling the struggles of refugees, this year's reading list has something for every student of all ages.

  • British International School of Chicago, South Loop | Private School Chicago

By David Robinson, Global Campus Leader & History and English Teacher at Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong

It is no fairy tale to suggest that the stories we experience when we are young have a huge influence on the rest of our lives, preparing us for academic success and helping us to make sense of our world. Increasingly, neuroscience has been telling us that our brains are wired for storytelling – an observation that is increasingly affecting the worlds of business, marketing, technology and politics.

Recently many of the stories we tell ourselves have become confused as our social and political circumstances have changed in unpredictable ways. In her much-admired TED Talk, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie outlines “The Dangers of a Single Story” in which she suggests that narrow understandings of different cultures limit our personal and professional opportunities and present potential dangers for our societies.

To see beyond single stories, a group of passionate teachers have collaborated to create Nord Anglia’s Global Campus Library, also known as the Global Library, a worldwide reading club across all 46 Nord Anglia schools for students of all age groups with 80 books that prepare students to thrive in the international communities of the 21st century and have lots of fun along the way. This club contains something for everyone with contemporary and classic fiction, non-fiction, poetry and graphic novels included for every age group.

While many prominent reading lists have been criticized for their narrow focus, the Global Library specifically selects accessible, exciting and inspiring stories from countries as diverse as Lebanon, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and South Korea to name but a few. In addition, we have several bilingual titles to allow students to share stories in multiple languages such as the poignant and beautiful Arabic tale Stepping Stones, which bring tales of Syrian refugees to life.

The Global Library is designed to offer stories that supplement Nord Anglia’s global partnerships. For example, our Julliard collaboration can be extended by reading When Stravinsky met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer: a delightful picture book that provides the context and expansion upon the music and dance works students encounter in class. Equally, the MIT collaboration is supported with books with a STEAM focus, including several with empowered female protagonists developing their engineering and coding skills such as Detective Dot or Ada Twist Scientist.

This year’s Global Library selection will also support Nord Anglia’s commitment to develop student’s understanding of UNICEF’s Global Goals. For example, Goals 14 and 15 (Life on Land and Life Below Water) are developed by titles highlighting some jaw dropping wildlife for our younger children in Giant Squid by Candace Fleming. Meanwhile older students can access a beautifully illustrated paean to our planet from the world’s leading scientists such as James Lovelock, Martin Rees and Edward O. Wilson.

The tech entrepreneurs who have done so much to shape our present, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, have all been dedicated readers since early childhood. In fact, both Gates and Zuckerberg have run their own online reading groups in a similar style to the Global Library. They often cite early exposure to science fiction as a key influence on their outlooks. To encourage our students to imagine new technological paradigms and create future utopias, Global Library includes several influential sci-fi titles from classics by Ted Hughes and Isaac Asimov up to the latest Chinese sensation Liu Cixin.

We have only managed to scratch the surface of what the Global Library has to offer. There are opportunities to share reading experiences through debate, competitions and reflections with a worldwide network of engaged, open minded readers. Students also have opportunities to connect with the world’s greatest writers, illustrators and thinkers either face to face, online, or through our Meet the Writer events. Altogether the Global Library uses stories which are diverse, beautiful and relevant to create and connect a worldwide network of readers and experts. Tell us what stories you think we should include in future lists by posting on Twitter using the hashtag #GlobalLibrary.