Grade 4 students listened to and discussed Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman, written by Sydelle Pearl. This picture book tells the true story of Jella Lepman, a German Jew who spent World War II in England, writing for British and American newspapers. After the war, at the request of the U.S Army, Lepman returned to Germany as a cultural and educational advisor. Asked to determine the needs of the children in Germany, Lepman saw the children's desire for books. After much hard work, Lepman was able to organize the first international event held in postwar Germany, an exhibition of children's books donated from all over the world that originated in Munich and traveled throughout the country. In addition, she persuaded a German newspaper to print 30,000 copies of her own translation of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, so she could distribute it to German children during the traveling book exhibit. In 1949, Jella Lepman founded the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany with the goal of promoting international and intercultural understanding.
If the war is really over, if one is to believe in peaceful coexistence, the first messengers of that peace will be these children's books. -Jella Lepman
After reading this book together, fourth grade students were able to connect it to the books that they had read in Language Arts, Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry and Extra Credit by Andrew Clements. They were also able to connect the metaphor of books as a bridge to peace and understanding to their previous discussions of bridges across cultures.