Reading can be a powerful and accessible way for students to “travel” and learn about the world,” said Sandra Kowalczyk, Reading Specialist and Go Global Club Advisor at Patrick Marsh Middle School (PMMS) in Sun Prairie.

“It’s more important today than ever before for students to learn about other countries and cultures,” she said.

Kowalczyk advanced global understanding and awareness by initiating a Global Reading Challenge to encourage students to read literature from diverse cultures and with diverse points of view to help them view the world through a global lens.

Like all world travelers, students were issued “passports” entitling them to “book” trips and document their reading. After finishing each book, they designed artistic passport stamps with symbols or images from their books along with maps. In-flight magazines and international newspapers helped create a “departure lounge” atmosphere. “Boarding passes” contained country-by-country itineraries of suggested books and encouraged them to read their way from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.

A Global Diversity Award mini-grant from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin-Madison (RPCV Madison) supported the purchase of a wide range of culturally diverse and global literature books with settings around the world.

PMMS School Community Organization (SCO) supported the additional purchases of books set in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, as part a three week visit in April by five students and teacher from Thailand. Kowalczyk served as the PMMS Coordinator of this partnership program between the Thailand Ministry of Education and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Kowalczyk plans to build additional cross-curricular connections through experiential learning and interactions with authentic literary resources, books, artifacts and ideas garnered from her upcoming month-long travel to Peru as part of a United States Department of Education - Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminar.

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