Do We Really Need Another Story Book?

What does it take to spark “a revolution, an evolution of the mind?” Is a fine film, a smooth album, or a slick TV show going to make youth and adults stand up to change the world? Well, thanks to the International Youth Foundation (IYF), we now have another story book to move us closer to that goal.

Our Time is Now: Young People Changing the World is the title of a new publication out by the IYF, who brings us YouthActionNet. A well-intended program with some great people at the helm, YouthActionNet promotes young people changing the world around the world as they travel to the far corners of the planet to engage young people in the work of changing the world.

Along the way they’ve collected stories, which it looks like are featured in this new book. That’s cool. According to their site, the book “tells the stories of more than thirty young people in over twenty countries who are taking action to contribute to their local and global communities.” That’s cool – or is it?

This book joins the library of other well-intended, but little-needed publications that highlight youth-led action. I don’t say “little-needed” lightly: Young people surely do need stories to inspire and motivate. A small constelation of websites, including Freechild’s, strive to do exactly that. But the Internet is dynamic, and many groups that have put out hot story books simply don’t exist anymore, reinforcing the perception that youth are transient activists, here today and gone tomorrow. Instead of dumping money and time into a publication like this, wouldn’t it be more responsible to develop a deeper program with more thorough impacts that could mobilize young people? Make your website better or something!

Instead, the youth engagement community is presented with another book telling great stories that will never hit the New York Times bestseller list. On their way to obscure library bookshelves everywhere, though, these books will pass by what young people really want to read today: “DIAL L FOR LOSER”, “HARRY POTTER”, “OLOGIES”, and “THE BOOK THIEF” – or so says the New York Times.

But instead of good fiction, or a comprehensive guidebook, or a supportive adult, young people get another collection of inspirational stories about people just like them – only, not. To this I have to say thanks, IYF, but do we really need another story book?

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