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As a kid, Chelsea Clinton spent her mornings with a bowl of Cheerios, a big splash of honey (Mom didn’t allow sugary cereal), and a newspaper. She’s a little older now, but that urge to stay informed has never left her. And through her new book, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!, Clinton is inspiring a new generation to get informed, too. Blending personal stories with informational text, the book acts as a roadmap for young readers (ages 10–14) for some of the greatest challenges of our time, including food insecurity, gender equality, epidemics, and climate change. Alongside each problem, Clinton presents strong solutions from organizations such as Heifer International and kids like Alex, who founded Brickshare to provide LEGOs to local homeless shelters. The message is simple: These people are changing the world, and you can, too.
Q | Why did you write It’s Your World?
A | I wanted to write this book for young people who are the age I was when I started to believe I could make a difference in the world. I hope this book will enable more young people to have that same sense of empowerment and the compulsion to try to make a difference.
Q | How did you first realize you could make a difference?
A | I was lucky to have parents, grandparents, and teachers who created those expectations and opportunities. There was an expectation that if I really cared about something in the world, I had the opportunity and the responsibility to try to make a difference. They were willing to provide opportunities for me to do that, whether helping me write a letter to the president when I was 5 to working with my classmates on a recycling program. I’m grateful that I had family members and teachers who believed that young people could make a difference in the future.
Q | One of your first big projects was a paper recycling program in your elementary school.
A | That was [encouraged by] a couple of teachers at my school. [My classmates and I] were learning about climate change in a science module. We had to convince our principal [to start the program], because it wasn’t something she’d been planning. After I left elementary school, the program expanded beyond just paper into aluminum, glass, and more. That was exciting—to know that we helped start something that was impactful, but it was just the beginning.
Q | One message in the book is the importance of perspective. How has your unique childhood shaped your perspective?
A | An area that I’m aware of now, particularly as a new mom, is how hard my parents worked to ensure that I knew parts of my life were rather extraordinary while also ensuring that parts of my life were rather ordinary. We had dinner together every night, except for when my parents were traveling. They came to my softball games, my soccer games, my plays, my recitals and performances. That was an important balance for me because I was aware of the ways in which I was blessed, and I was told and came to feel and believe that I had a responsibility to, as my grandmother said, “always expand the circle of blessings.” As I think about what I hope to create for my daughter, I hope she’ll have that same sense of being rooted in our family but also feel a responsibility in the world because of how blessed she is.
Q | As a kid, what inspired you to get informed?
A | The first thing I learned to read, in a really durable sense, was a newspaper. I’m sure that’s because my parents were always talking about what was happening in the world and I wanted to be able to contribute to those conversations. Being informed is a crucial part of being able to have an impact—whether it’s on something in your community or somewhere far away.
Q | Why did you include kid change-makers in the book?
A | To close the imagination gap. Often, we want to do something, and we just don’t know how to do it. Hopefully, readers will get a sense of all the different ways that can happen, whether it’s with their family or their classmates or a big organization. I hope that when people read the book, lots of different lightbulbs will go off about how they can make a difference in the world, too.
Q | How can teachers encourage kids to get informed, get inspired, and get going!?
A | One way is to help kids understand there are a variety of tangible ways they can make a difference—whether that’s working on making their schools greener or organizing volunteer opportunities at places like soup kitchens, where kids can have a real impact. Teachers play such an important role in the connections between what the challenges are and what the solutions are, and in helping kids be part of those solutions.
Q | What makes a solution strong?
A | A couple of things. One: Is the program solving a challenge that needs to be solved in a way that is cognizant of local challenges and dynamics? And two: If it’s a program that’s being supported by [an organization] in the United States, is it being done in a way that is sustainable? That’s why I talk so much about water wells and systems, for example. These are things that can have an impact not only today but well into the future.
Q | Any favorite former teachers?
A | Mrs. Mitchell, who was my first-grade teacher, was extraordinary in not only helping me learn how to read longer stories, longer books, and longer newspaper articles but also in teaching me important lessons about how to be a good student and how to be a good citizen—even when I was 6. Or Mrs. Porter, who was my fourth-grade teacher. I wrote my first really long reports for her, like my history report on ancient Egypt and Hatshepsut, who was the first female pharaoh. Mrs. Porter helped validate how much I love history and helped me understand how the decisions leaders make set the course for history, whether that’s in ancient Egypt or today. Or my ninth-grade teacher, Ms. Morin, who taught me about the Black Death [the bubonic plague in Europe] and helped me understand many of the same ideas.