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Uniting World Cultures Through Children's Literature

Teach Twice educates children and their communities through stories and the exchange of culture.

One book can bring two different worlds together. That’s what two Vanderbilt students believed when they founded Teach Twice, "a social venture that educates children and their communities through stories and the exchange of culture."

Founders Trevor Burbank and Jason Wen, both recent Vanderbilt grads, wanted to foster community development internationally in a way that wasn't intrusive or overbearing. They decided to help create culturally relevant books with local artists and authors in developing countries. The books, sold in the United States, share a piece of a foreign culture, while profits are put back into the country the story came from.

They found their first author and illustrator, both from Uganda, to pen a children’s book titled My Precious Name, which was released in the U.S. this March. The story centers on a Ugandan boy receiving his empako, a special "praise name" that children are given in addition to their first name. The text also highlights words in Kinyoro, the local language. "One book enhances the education of two communities that are worlds apart, yet connected through a desire to learn from each other," Teach Twice’s website says.

Burbank says the story has been a big hit in Nashville, Teach Twice’s hub, as well as New York, Washington, D.C., and the education community at large. Teach Twice provides a free curriculum and activity guide to teachers to encourage cultural sharing in the classroom. Proceeds from the book sales will help build a secondary school in Nakikungube, Uganda.

Teach Twice now hopes to expand to different types of literature and cultures, such as coffee table, photography, and adult literature books from Nigeria, Korea, and South America. A main goal of the project is to cherish other cultures and differences in writing and illustration, even from a story as well-known as Cinderella, Burbank says, where you might notice "the food she eats or the dress she wears."

"Our hope is that you learn something that’s unique," Burbank says, "something adventurous, something you might not be able to get in the U.S., and hopefully it happens to broaden your horizon and create better understanding."

Photo courtesy of Tina Tian

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