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If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States (CitizenKid) Hardcover – August 1, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–6—As in If the World Were a Village, Smith and Armstrong help children understand large statistical numbers by collapsing the U.S. population of 300 million down to a village of 100. For example, "82 people in our village speak English as their first language, 10 speak Spanish. 1 speaks Chinese, 1 French and 1 German." Other languages that represent less than one whole person are also mentioned. Topics explored include family make-up, religions, jobs, ages, wealth, items owned, energy and water use, and health. Comparisons are sometimes made with historical data to show change and with worldwide numbers for contrast. Lively, cheerful acrylic paintings depict the diversity of our country in a somewhat idealized manner that suits the all-inclusive tone of the book. While the concept is successful in making huge numbers more comprehensible, statistics are known to be slippery, and attempts to classify people by race and ethnic and cultural groups are not always straightforward. Does the term "Hispanic" identify a distinct group? Some say yes, others no; Smith identifies the village as having 75 white members, 12 black, 4 Asian, 1 Native American, and 8 who consider themselves "members of some other race or of mixed race," noting that he's including Hispanics with whites. While readers may or may not agree with Smith's interpretations of the figures, he lists extensive bibliographic resources and provides suggestions for ways to engage children in considering their country and its place in the larger world. At the very least, the book will provoke discussion; ideally, it will inspire deeper thought and consideration of "what distinguishes America from other countries and Americans from other people."—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA END


The premise isn’t new, but it’s never been used to better effect for deepening the understanding that children have about the 306 million (and counting) other people with whom they share this land.

A whole new way to think about our country.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 990L (What's this?)
  • Series: CitizenKid
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press; First edition (August 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554533449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554533442
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.2 x 12.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

image: copyright 2009 Susan Lapides
Read about the new edition of "Mapping the World By Heart", and see an introductory video, by pointing your browser to

DAVID J. SMITH is a classroom teacher with over 25 years' experience teaching English, Geography, and Social Studies in grade levels from 4 to 12. He achieved recognition for his unique method of teaching seventh graders to draw maps of the entire world from memory, now published by Fablevision as a highly successful curriculum, "Mapping The World By Heart". In 1992, Smith won the U.S. Department of Education's "A+ For Breaking The Mold" Award for this work. Since 1992, he has been a full-time consultant, providing lectures and workshops on geography and global issues, and on IT issues, to teachers, parents, student groups, and others in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia, and Asia.

The "Mapping The World By Heart" curriculum directly addresses standard number 2 of the US geography standards, and has achieved phenomenal results in public and private schools throughout the U.S. and in locales as far-flung as Cote D'Ivoire and Japan. It is popular because it works. At the beginning of the school year, students draw maps of the world, and "the results are predictable," said one article about the program; "The maps always show incredible gaps in students' mental images of the world, with the only places included being the places that are real to the students -- where they live, where they've traveled." But at the end of eight months, these same students are able to draw detailed maps that include the names and borders of 190+ countries, with their capitals, mountain ranges, rivers, etc. The technique used is both traditional and up-to-date: lots of memorization, but not the old-fashioned methodology of rote-for-rote's-sake, but rather memorization informed and enriched by the real use of knowledge, study, practice, mnemonics, and games.

Time Magazine, NBC's Today Show, The L.A. Times, and the Associated Press, among others, have acknowledged Smith and the success of his curriculum. Besides the curriculum, Smith has written articles for the New York Times's Education Life section, for The International Educator, for The World Paper, NESA Notes , and Independent School Bulletin.

He has also written five other books -- "If The World Were A Village", which was published in March, 2002, by Kids Can Press in Toronto, and "The CEESA Web-Site Manual" and "Emergency Procedures Handbook for International Schools" were published respectively in 1998 and 2003 by the US State Department.

The sequel to "If The World Were A Village", entitled "If America Were A Village", (isbn 1554533442) was published in August, 2009.

His newest book, "This Child Every Child: A Picture Book For Children About the Rights of Children" (isbn 1554534666), was published in February, 2011.

"If The World Were A Village" (isbn 1550747797) has been widely and favorably reviewed in journals such as Booklist and Horn Book and School Library Journal. It was chosen by the American Booksellers Association as their #1-recommended book on the BookSense 76 Children's list for Spring-Summer, 2002, and Newsweek chose it as one of 10 children's books on their "recommended reading" list in August, 2002. In addition, it won the H.C.Andersen Prize for 2003, the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award for 2003, and was named a Smithsonian "Notable Book of the Year". It has been published in 20 editions, in 17 languages other than English, including Braille.

Besides book visits and assemblies, David offers consultation services, workshops and platform presentations on geography and global awareness for schools and professional organizations.

David was born in the United States, but is a permanent resident of Canada; he and his wife live in North Vancouver, BC.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When David Smith's earlier book, If the World Were a Village, was published a few years ago I was immediately captivated by the concept as well as the actual product. I've purchased several copies over the years to give to teachers and libraries, and I've recommended it to many others. So, I was glad to note the publication of If America Were a Village, and I wasn't disappointed when my copy arrived. I am a consultant to schools and now will recommend both wherever I go.

The book makes fascinating facts and figures understandable to all of us by placing them in the context of a "village" of 100 people. For example, if America were a village of 100, 5 people would have more than half of all the wealth. And the 60 poorest would share only 4 percent of the wealth. That certainly puts things in perspective for me! There are many more of these insights on everything from religion to jobs to where we live.

As an educator himself, David Smith also includes about a dozen very practical suggestions for teachers and parents "to support our children in unraveling this complex, multi-faceted" country. I'm going to make sure the children in my own world have access to this book as a tool for expanding their own international horizons by first understanding their own country. I can imagine that students in schools all over America will soon be doing worthwhile research projects with titles like "If Tulsa Were a Village." Or Wyoming. Or any community in the world.
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Format: Hardcover
There are more than 306 million people living in the United States today, but if you decided to statistically break down these numbers into a village of one hundred people you would see some very amazing things. For example, in that village you would see an assortment or "rainbow of colors." You would see thirteen foreign-born people, some of whom would be citizens and some not. In that number you would see Latin Americans, Europeans and one person who could come from anywhere from Oceania to Australia. Of the remaining one hundred, seventy-five of them would be white, twelve would be black and one would be Native American. In a small village of one hundred, we can easily see our differences, but can also see how alike some of us really are depending on what we look at.

In this book, depending upon which way you looked at the village of one hundred people you will discover some amazing facts. Due to the fact we are a nation based on an immigrant population you will find people from around the world living here. You will find people who live in the urban, suburban and rural areas, the percentage of people who live where and the changes that have occurred over the past one hundred years. You can take a look at the family composition, what types of people compose a household, religious practices of people, what people do (work, go to school, stay home, etc.), how old we are, how wealthy we are, what kind of "stuff" we own, our energy consumption in comparison to the rest of the world, how healthy we are, and a brief glimpse into the future.

This is an amazing book that has a lot of potential for classroom use. It is a really interesting eye-opener, a lot of fun to read and very informative.
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Format: Hardcover
Wikipedia defines demography as "the statistical and mathematical study of the size, composition, and spatial distribution of human populations and how these features change over time." And so one can teach a new vocabulary word and concept when explaining to students how IF AMERICA WERE A VILLAGE provides a great lesson in demography.

But, more importantly, by imagining America to be a village of 100 people and then providing answers to a series of questions about the make-up of those 100 villagers, David J. Smith offers readers the invaluable opportunity to look beyond the ends of their noses and their own neighborhoods in order to get a broader and more objective view of the three-hundred-and-six-plus million people ("1 birth about every 8 seconds and one death every 12 seconds") who collectively make up these United States of America.

The questions addressed in the book include:
"Where do we come from?"
"What religions do we practice?"
"How old are we?"
"How wealthy are we?"
"How healthy are we?"

I have spent most of my life living in four places. I grew up in Plainview and Commack on Long Island; lived my years right after college in Southampton, Long Island; and have spent the second half of my life here in Sebastopol, California. Are these places like the U.S. as a whole? Not even close! Thus, many of the facts I learned from this book are as surprising to me than they will be to younger readers.

"A new immigrant arrives every 27 seconds," and "In our village of 100 about 13 are foreign-born."

For instance, like Holling Hoodhood from THE WEDNESDAY WARS, I have repeatedly lived in communities in which a large percentage of the families was Jewish. That only 1 person in our U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
Written by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong, "If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States" is an educational book for children ages 8-12, grades 3-7, that portrays America as if it were a village of 100 people. It shows exactly the sharp contrasts between the "haves" and "have nots" of America. In this village of 100 souls, five people have over half the wealth, 60 of the poorest people have about 4 %, and 14 people live below the poverty line. Thirteen people are under age 9, while interestingly enough, 74 people have television. "If America Were a Village" is part of an award-winning collection called CitizenKid, which is designed to deal with complicated world issues and to inspire young people to become good global citizens. Acrylic artwork by Shelagh Armstrong makes colorful splashes to illustrate the text. Another interesting area racial grouping represented and languages spoken. If America were a village (of 100 people), 82 people would speak English as their first language, 10 would speak Spanish, I speaks Chinese, 1 French and 1 German. 75 people would be white, 12 would be black, 1 is Native American and 4 are Asian, while the 8 remaining are of other races or mixtures of races. Many more fascinating details unfold to teach students more about America as a global country.
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