Reach & Teach: Global Goods That Do Good

May 23, 2011 “Where do you GET these things? How come I never find stuff like this?”

Picture a coloring book page with Rapunzel’s hair cascading down the castle tower, captioned, “This time, she had some power tools, a pair of scissors, a roll of duct tape, a Tina Turner album and a bus pass.”

That’s from Jacinta Bunnell’s Girls Are Not Chicks coloring book one of my many ‘finds’ available through Reach And That one cartoon printable has become a huge baby shower hit among my buddies as well as a fun media literacy handout for a session on “think beyond pink” where we deconstruct some of ‘princess culture’ using Packaging Girlhood and Cinderella Ate My Daughter as prize giveaways for parent education. We also show fun video spoofs created by girls for girls to begin to think about the narrowcasting of roles and how we’d prefer to direct our own lives and ‘flip the media message’ to create our own script. (Cue Natasha Bedingfield’s hit song, “Unwritten”)

Point? Critical thinking skills can be in use with every toy, book, item, medium, or face to face experience that kids are exposed to daily. Those of us seeking healthier alternatives and POSITIVE media and marketing are thrilled to find resources that help us out by filtering offerings…like Etsy, fair trade certification, and online purveyors of indie coolness in one-stop shopping hubs like Reach and

Reach and Teach creates and distributes books, games, puzzles, toys, curriculum, posters, music, DVDs, and other products that help to “transform the world through teachable moments”

…Whether it’s “crayon rocks’ (at left) or green toy sand pails made out or recycled milk cartons right here in the US, or games created directly by the founders of Reach and Teach themselves…like their own creation, CIVIO. (I was one of those kids who retained geography through the board game Risk, and learned English Lit authors through the card game ‘Authors’ so you see why I’m so jazzed)

CIVIO (sample card at left) is part strategy card game and part teaching tool to learn through play.

It’s the type of game that falls into my category of offline to online opportunity too…“Wouldn’t this be great to seed a digital version with kids on Facebook in social gaming mode!?”

It’s right up there with my desire to turn philosophic schools of thought into Facebook badges that virally ‘forward to a friend’ so kids will engage with ‘which philosopher are you most like’ quizzes to post on their walls like trading business cards.

(Any VC gamers out there wanna play? I’ve got a slew of this mind candy in my noggin’…)

As one who worked on the Stanford Interactive Courtroom simulation (taglines/new product dev back when multimedia was first emerging) CIVIO appeals to me by weaving civics, civility, and civil rights into a card game of informal learning about Supreme Court cases, law and basic personal freedoms.

It’s my favorite style of ‘sneaking in some learning’ while having fun…thus their company name, Reach and Teach.

Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner are the global anti-thesis to the homogenized big box retail outlet…They’re champions of change for civil rights, children, and humanity as a whole, curating collections in multiple categories by hand-selecting products and media picks with an eye toward giving back around the globe. (see video at the end awarded by our Media Center here on the SF Peninsula)

Their standards exemplify love over hate, and teaching tolerance and unity worldwide…they’re more than a ‘positive pick’ for Shaping Youth, they’re an inspiration.

Though CIVIO is their own creation, they also curate a fabulous online catalog (from toys like green science solar rovers to hand-crafted wooden games that help AIDS orphans in Thailand).

It’s kind of like finding one of your favorite Maker Faire media festivals and mashing it up with conscience-driven hand-picked finds from your best friends.

After all, we can’t all be located near funky eclectic fairs and festivals to reach beyond the commercial cues…

Reach and Teach is an easy online alternative, since they’ve cherry-picked from the various green/sustainable communities, education/homeschooling fairs, and fair trade tradeshows by promoting brands who specifically want to do well by also doing good…

Derrick and Craig consider themselves “treasure hunters” searching the planet for special products mainstream bookstores won’t promote. I love that, because like social media and blogs, it gives creative artists a strong voice:

“Whether the products come from a non-profit or a small publisher, we see our job as making sure that great content can be found under one virtual roof.”

I’ve written about the award-winning products of Reach and Teach before, such as this post on Meaningful Manga (and the growth of the graphic novel category for youth)…and this post about The War Play Dilemma (which would be a perfect pick for Memorial Day weekend upcoming!)

But to give you a feel for some of their whimsical titles, games and gift offerings that merit our positive pick (including parenting expert Annie Fox’s Middle School Confidential, now translated onto an iPad app format which I’ll feature in a separate post on anti-bullying resources coming soon) here are a few more examples…

From socioemotional health like  anger management for kids (Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out, Anh’s Anger etc.) to cartoon novels like “Dude, That’s Rude” and picture books like “Who Would Want Those Apples Anyway” about organic fare and kids’ perception of flawed fruit…(which actually doubles nicely as a parable on body image and appearance messages sent to kids) there’s literally something for everyone.

I’ve also found several unusual finds that complement key concepts in media literacy work, like this leather look Self Esteem Passport which is a clever little accompaniment for some of our topics dealing with this post I wrote: Girls Prescriptions for Self-Worth about Respect Rx, Courtney Macavinta’s venture which has blossomed into newly launched The Respect

In this post I added several other Reach and Teach items I’ve personally purchased, including the peace pendant (handcrafted using a blue marble; perfect global double entendre) and origami butterflies which fold into sayings when completed that say “If nothing ever changed there would be no butterflies.”

Here are a few more I’ve used repeatedly to have fun with different ages and stages of kids since this will be a ’round up’ into one big giant ‘positive pick’ as a resource store online.

Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell (highly reco)

This book is a must for ANY one who works with kids from digital scavenger hunts bridging online fun to outdoor magic, geocaching, letterboxing (Thanks, Tom Hall, for that lead) or ‘discover the forest’ types of activities to share nature 21st century style (full feature on best apps and sites to do that forthcoming)

The Cornell book has been a staple around here for eons, and my former forest ranger bro used to use it with HIS kids as well as his enrichment programs for USFS newbies because it’s like having a ‘cheat sheet’ in your pocket to adapt games and activities to educate so kids can relate in any environment about any subject.

Each “one page chapter” of Sharing Nature (author Cornell’s site here) has a shadowbox listing a handful of “who it’s for, what you’ll need” so you can literally scan it at a glance to see if it’s a good fit.

I led this simple ‘web of life’ session at an elementary school with our team of ‘crewmembers on spaceship Earth’ to show the interconnected, one world thinking in an easy show and tell. (that’s me in back, far right)

Here’s how Cornell describes the kids forming a circle with the leader inside using a ball of string:

“Who can name a plant that grows in this area? …(here, Ms. Plant, you hold the end of the string)…Is there an animal living around here that might eat the plant?…(Rabbits, ah, ok, Mr. Rabbit you take hold of the string here, you are connected to Ms Plant by your dependence on her flowers for your lunch.) “Now, who needs Mr. Rabbit for his lunch?…etc.”

It’s easy, fun, and fabulous to see the little light bulbs go on in their heads…

I ended up adapting Cornell’s web game into an ‘Eco-Twister’ variation too, showing how we get all tangled up in dependence and how quickly one wrong move can crash eco-systems etc. To give you an idea for how he  imparts the whole book into a handy handful of icons to pick and choose based on age/stage, he offers:

A.)   Basic mood of each game using 3 key symbols: a bear (calm/reflective) a crow (active/observational) an otter (energetic/playful)

B.)   Concepts/attitudes/qualities it teaches

C.)   When/where to play

D.)   Number of Players Needed

E.)    Best age range

F.)    Special materials if any

Using these basics, here’s how it steps out for the balanced web of life game:

A.)  Otter

B.)   Adaptation, habitat, interdependence

C.)  Day/anywhere

D.)  3 or more

E.)   5 years and up

F.)   Ball of string

Pretty handy, huh? Now if there’s a nature-on-the- go mobile app version of his paperback, I’ll be grinning extra wide…We can always use digital hide and seek and a treasure trove of ideas to get kids outside.Paging Richard Louv? C&NN? Children’s Nature Network? Let’s get kids outdoors and offline with primers in the pocket for the educators out there…the online store has plenty of gardening activity kits and classroom compost projects to get kids loving ‘dirty jobs’ too.

Reach and Teach not only has sustainability themes and stories and games about hard-earned freedoms and challenges (perfect for upcoming Memorial Day weekend to “teach your children well”) they have a WIDE array of award-winning humor and lighter fare.

Some open up conversations on health literacy and how we walk through the world in light-hearted ways, like My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experiences of Raising Kids with Disabilities…they seem to excel at finding picture books with themes that transcend age groups to impart important life skills with simplicity and compassion. (see Playing War)

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of an ‘Amazon brain’ translating commercial ‘likes’ and applying them to a kinder, gentler Reach and Teach perspective that threads in concepts of inclusion and compassion and peacemaking.

For instance, “If you liked the adventures and fantasy of Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia…you might try The Call to Shakabaz…(especially those who’d like to see people of color portrayed in roles of strength, childrens’ discovery of their own unique gifts, a world of nonviolence, etc.)

If you liked the suspenseful mystery of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why (soon to be a movie with Selena Gomez) or got enthralled with the Twilight teen scene, you might take a peek at Newbery Award winning, “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead.

If you liked the Glee episode about Kurt’s struggle with being bullied in high school, you might like Abby Denson’s Tough Love in ‘shounen-ai manga’ melodramatic style about a shy gay teen’s coming-out story and all the complexities faced therein with a strong anti-bullying bystander message.

If you thought the whole JCrew ad hoopla about the boy goofing around with his mom painting his piggies pink was not a newsworthy mass media tirade, you might want to purposely pick out My Princess Boy (the author was on the talkshow circuit a lot during this timeframe, with our own child development specialist Dr Robyn, discussing the kerfluffle of gender versus primetime play)

They’re one click away globally, but now if you’re local you can visit their new shared space storefront in San Mateo aligned with their partner social enterprise, The Rebuilding Alliance which helps rebuild communities in war-torn areas…

Here’s more here about the collaboration with The Dove and Olive Works’ olive tasting bar/fair trade from Palestine and their new partnership with Reach and Teach in a great write up in our local paper, “One Stop Shopping For Peace, Justice and Changing the World”) If it sounds like I wholeheartedly believe in these gents, I do.

So much so that Shaping Youth is excited to be teaming with them as a nonprofit media literacy host of events in their courtyard (media education films, hands-on activities, guest speaker events, etc.) as they are now offering FREE use of their space to nonprofit entities…

This is perfect  for Shaping Youth as I’ve outgrown my homespun ‘house parties’ to impart media literacy picks from the Media Education Foundation and it’s a fun way to give back to the community among us all. Reach and Teach generously offers:

“Need someplace for your board to meet?

Want to show a film or lead a discussion group?

Got a book club that needs a place to hang out?

Want to offer a workshop? We make space available to individuals and organizations either inside our store or in our beautiful courtyard. Contact us if you need some space or have something special to offer to the community and need some space in which to share it”

Soon with Shaping Youth’s expansion, we’ll segue to a full ‘affiliate’ status…as I love their purpose, products and partnership and want to support “peace and social justice” any way we can. Pop Quiz. Media Literacy time…

How would YOU define what “social justice” means?

Reach and Teach has put together a smattering of definitions to get your media literacy wheels turning and your critical thinking started…Add your own comments to their Facebook page.

Or, leave your own definition of social justice here on Shaping Youth and I’ll offer a copy of Packaging to the most thoughtful entry…(I bought a case of their fabulous book as Lyn Mikel Brown serves on our advisory board!)

See? Support those doing great work. It works to come around full circle. Balanced web of life. Interdependence. Connect the dots for humanity.

Reach and Teach Founders Earn Local Hero Award: Media Center

Related Resources/Recos from Reach and Teach:

  • (A place to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools – tons of lesson plans, activities, and free teacher resources)
  • Teaching A People’s History: Zinn Education Project (The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.)
  • Learning to Give (Developer of lessons and resources that teach giving and volunteerism, civic engagement, and character, through service learning.
  • PBS for Teachers (Multimedia resources, lesson plans & Professional Development for America’s PreK-12 educators.)
  • (A web-based education project with incredible online games designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.)
  • (Online and non-digital games that look at social issues)
  • Institute for Humane Education Resource Center (Helps create a humane, sustainable, peaceful world for all people, animals and the planet.)
  • (The youth service division of Points of Light Institute, an organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. Our new division focuses on igniting the power of all kids (pre-school through 12th grade) to make their mark by creating meaningful change in the world.)
  • Education for Liberation Network (A national coalition of teachers, community activists, researchers, youth and parents who believe a good education should teach people-particularly low-income youth and youth of color-how to understand and challenge the injustices their communities face.)
  • Speak Truth to Power Curriculum (from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights)
  • Our Developing World (Dedicated to bringing the realities of the “third world” and the richness of diverse cultures to North Americans, our developing world(odw) provides teacher training and materials, and programs for community groups and classes, reality tours, a tri-annual newsletter – our developing world(odw)´s voices and a lending resource library free to local teachers.)


  1. Thank you for another wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the lookout for such information.

  2. I would love to read a book, which is unique with descriptions of fairy tale characters and a little hint of modern version. And other books are very interesting to read especially “Sharing Nature with children”

  3. One of my all time favorites! I’ve written about it on the blog here too…Look in the eco-kids categories…tons of leads there on Joseph Cornell, Rich Louv and all my outdoor heroes! 🙂

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