Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pages for Peace: The Biggest Book in the World (Almost)

Imagine a book with pages 10 feet wide by 12 feet tall. Imagine that people from all over the world contribute content for that book on one subject: peace. Now imagine a group of kids who work for eight years to make it happen.

Three years ago I wrote an article for the online website about a group of middle schools students from the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Massachusetts who were working to create the biggest book in the world with the hope of making it into the Guinness Book of World RecordsThey called the book Pages for Peace, and they called themselves the Bookmakers and Dreamers.

Under the guidance of teacher Betsy Sawyer, these students invited schools kids and famous adults from all over the world to submit letters, notes, poetry, songs and art about peace. They received entries for the book from the Dalai Lama, former President Jimmy Carter (a Nobel Peace Prize winner), author Helen Caldecott, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, NASA Astronaut Joseph Acaba, and skateboarder Tony Hawk among others. Students from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia, Kosovo, Africa, and many other countries also contributed to the book.

What was cool was how they collaborated with a group of engineering students and professors at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Campus to design a robotic page turning device.  Yes, that’s how big the book is!  It needs a robotic page turning device.  And they convinced area businesses to donate the material, ink, and printing services to make the book into a reality.

In an interview with Boston’s WCVB news Betsy Sawyer said, “[These kids] say their mission is as bookmakers they want to break a Guinness record and make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, but as dreamers they want to make a difference in the world.”

The good news is they finished the book. And I’m thinking they accomplished their dream goal, if you can measure “making a difference” by the numbers of people, children and adults, who contributed to and were touched by the construction of this book, and by the education these students received along the way. The project took eight years to complete, and many of the students stuck with it the entire time. That’s some dedication. And passion. And optimism. And problem solving. You can imagine the kind of adults they will be in a few short years.

However, the Bookmakers and Dreamers did not meet their goal of making it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest book.  That record went to the Mshahed International Group of the United Arab Emirates.  Titled  This the Prophet Mohamed, that book is a compilation of stories about Islam’s Prophet and focuses on the positive influence of Islam on the international and humanitarian scene. A worthy topic in its own right.  

Possibly the most important lesson these students learned was perspective—how  to balance the disappointment of losing a competition with the pride of an accomplishment hard earned.

John Lennon challenged people to imagine a world of peace:
“You may think I’m a dreamer, 
but I’m not the only one. 
I hope someday you’ll join us, 
and the world will live as one.”
I'm guessing these remarkably tenacious students caused the world to move a little closer to living as one. 

Check out the Pages for Peace Project on their homepage and on Facebook.