Sign up for our eNewsletter

Become a fan
Follow us on Twitter
We're on YELP

Products by Interest Area

Visit our online shop

Become a facebook fan

Check Out What's Happening at Reach and Teach

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Don't Miss These Events!

We've got some great events happening in our San Mateo shop the coming weeks. Mark your calendars! See below for all the etails:

We're located at 144 West 25th Avenue. (near El Camino Real) in San Mateo. There's plenty of free street parking and we're less than a mile from the Hillsdale Caltrain station. We're open Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 6:30pm (later on some evenings for events).

Friend us on Facebook to keep up with the latest Reach and Teach happenings!

Your Event HERE At Our Shop in San Mateo - And Where Is Here Anyway? (Shop Address and Hours)

We make our space available to non-profits and others who want to host a speaker, workshop, fundraiser, film showing... all kinds of things, and we do it all for free! We just ask that your program include time for your guests to browse around the shop! Click here to contact us if you'd like to have an event in our shop.

Meet Some of the People Behind Reach And Teach Products

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
We're Thankful for the People Behind the Products

One of the greatest joys we have is getting to know the people behind the products that transform the world through teachable moments. For our holiday newsletter we wanted to share a bit about some of the local folks with whom we work. These are people we've gotten to know, who treat us as though we're their biggest customer, and treat their employees and the planet with the deepest respect, and give back to their communities and the world.

EM-Labs and Skallops

Skallops PenguinWandering through the Maker Faire we were overwhelmed by all of the gadgets and gizmos but nothing stopped us in our tracks the way a giant Skallops contraption did. We soon learned that this creature been built out of playing cards and these little wooden thingies called "Skallops" invented by the team at E&M Labs.

The young man in the booth told us about the company he and some friends had founded. Using these little wooden pieces with slots into which you can slide cards, you can build just about anything... including a lovely company that manufactures Skallops in Mountain View California, using sustainably sourced wood, with assembly/packaging done by physically and developmentally disabled folks.

The Skallops TeamWe love visiting the Skallops team monthly and we truly love watching children and adults playing with Skallops, building really cool things. We offer Skallops in three packages: Junior (which you can double)Builder, and Simply Skallops.

Blue Orange

We got to know the team at Blue Orange Games having booths near each other at the Green Festival. There are four things we love about them. 1. These are people who truly cared about the planet and are incredibly committed to making sure that anyone making their products is paid a living wage and would work in a safe and healthy environment. 2. The games are REALLY fun and engaged kids and adults in a way that actually took them away from their "devices." (That's our friend Shane from the Spot on 25th playing his favorite game.) 3. The games are beautifully made and a joy to play with. 4. Blue Orange gives back to the community.

And... their warehouse and office are just a short distance from our house! We visit the folks there all the time and in doing so we've gotten to know them even better. They are wonderful LOCAL people who treat us like friends, not just customers.

Each of their games is easy to learn but with enough strategy needed to be engaging for hours and hours and hours. Kids and adults keep coming back and wanting to play more. Some of our favorites are PengolooFastrack, Gobblet GobblersGobbletSpotIt, and SpotIt Jr.

InfiniToy and ZOOB

Every morning Toby gets to visit a dog park on the way to work. One morning as he was scampering we started chatting with one of the other dog's pets. We told her about our store and she said "Well in a shop like that you've got to have ZOOB!"

A few days later she stopped by our shop with some ZOOB and we had to agree. ZOOB is a building kit that covers two very important types of people: those who like very clear instructions on how to build something, and those who like to be given a challenge and then use their creativity and imagination. We invited one of our young friends over to the shop and after his eyes lit up just looking at the box, he went wild building things.

ZOOB kits are really well made, incredibly fun, and the founder of the company and his team are fanatic about making sure the folks who manufacture the kits are paid a living wage, treated well, work in safe conditions, and that their work enhances the community in which they live. 

Not only that, they treat us as though we are their biggest customer rather than joining the race to the bottom in which so many other toy-makers are running.

If you're curious, ZOOB is an acronym for Zoology,Ontology (the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being), Ontogeny (the development of an individual organism, usually from a simple form to a more complex form), and Botany. ZOOB is all about creating a love of math, science, engineering, and art in boys and girls of all ages. Our young toy tester LOVES ZOOB.

Just a few minutes from our shop in San Mateo, I LOVE visiting the folks at InfiniToy to pick up my Zoob kits, including Zoob InventorZoob ChallengeZoob 55, and ZoobMobile Cruiser RC.

People We Know Who Treasure Our Mission

Each of the companies above has incredibly wonderful people working near us and they've made it clear that they not only value our business but treasure our mission of transforming the world through teachable moments. They are committed to making the world a better place and we're proud to consider them partners in peacemaking.

Thank You Everyone AND Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season

We feel very blessed to be working with wonderful people locally and across the planet and we are especially grateful to all of you, who take Reach And Teach out into your world.

We only do a newsletter around once a month but if you want to keep up with us a little more please like our Facebook page.

And.. please DO consider sharing this newsletter with someone who might not already know about Reach And Teach (see forward to a friend link on the bottom of this message)... AND... if you're struggling to figure out just the right gift for someone, please consider giving them a Reach And Teach gift certificateClick here to buy one online and we can email it to them!

We wish all of our partners in peacemaking, friends, and fans around the world a very happy holiday season and look forward to a great new year.

Wishing you peace,
Craig and Derrick and Toby

Thanks to Susan Munroe, a local photographer, for this wonderful photograph.

Make A Difference One Gift at A Time

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

In this newsletter we'll share some special gift stories which we hope will make you smile, inspire you, and perhaps prompt you to do the very best thing you can do with any story... gift it to someone else! We invite you to join us this holiday season in making a difference one gift at a time.

This Friday November 22nd at 4pm you're invited to join us in a decorating party as we get the shop ready for the holidays. We'll use some of the beautiful fair-trade ornaments that are helping to improve the lives of people in Central America, Asia, and Africa. 

On November 30th you can come by our shop and create a few hand-made gifts for people you love, meet a few wonderful local authors, hear some great stories that you can pass along, and yes... do a little holiday shopping.

We'll have fun things happening Saturday November 30th (AKA Small Business Saturday) starting at 10am. We'll have fun, hot cocoa, snacks, craft activities, and Bay Area authors who are gifting us with their time, manning our cash register, reading stories, and signing their books (more details below).

Any time is play time at Reach And Teach! We have open samples of every game, toy and puzzle ready for you to play with any time you come by!

At the end of this newsletter we'll let you know about our holiday hours. But now... how about some wonderful stories?

Yes We Are... BE OPEN

We had gifted a basket of Reach And Teach products and a gift certificate to Our Family Coalition, an organization that supports GLBTQ families, for their annual gala. Shannon Weber, who had won the basket, came to visit our shop a few months later and after learning more about our mission she realized she had the perfect gift to share with us. Beyond her day job doing AIDS education and support work, and her full-time job raising a family, she also creates love notes that she leaves in places where folks she knows, and many she'll never meet, can find them. She's changing the world one love note at a time and gave us a beautiful gift that now graces our front door.

You can check out Shannon's story by clicking here and if you'd like to spread a few love notes yourself we've got some of her love note packages in our shop.

The Pan Flute

One of the greatest joys of moving to West 25th Avenue in San Mateo has been meeting some wonderful families. A few days ago someone walked into our shop and said "I know someone who really loves this shop and I was wondering if I could give him a gift certificate." He wanted to gift it anonymously as a surprise and was wondering if I would call the family and just say "Someone has given you a gift!" Of course!

The gift was for the youngest child in the family (7 years old), and that evening he came in, wide-eyed, hunting through the shop. Eventually, he told me that he had spied something special, that he wanted... to give to his big sister. Wait, what?

Rather than getting something for himself he found something he thought his sister would love? Yep. Seeing joy on a child's face because he was able to give his sister something special, a Pan Flute from Peru, (from our friends at JamTown) made our eyes light up too, and... 

The Gift Is in the Giving

That seven year old reminded me of someone with a similar name... A while back Charley Fontenot walked into our shop and said "I've written a book, would you like to see it?" Of course I wanted to see it. 

Charley had won a wonderful marble, a "Taw" that made kids ooohhh and ahhhhhh. He told his mother the story about how he'd won it, and that set her to thinking a bit... Then Charley said he wanted to give a gift to his best friend, but it wasn't the prized marble, it was another. Why not give him your very best marble... and that set Charley to thinking.

We fell in love with Charley, his wife Lucy, and this wonderful book. Charley and Lucy had suffered one of the most difficult tragedies any family can endure, the loss of a child. After grieving a long time, one of the ways Charley channeled that grief was by writing this book and he has gifted many children with this important lesson...... The best books in the world don't tell you what to think, they simply make you think. And this book does a marvelous job at that! We've got copies of that book in our shop and if you'd ever like Charley to come into your school and do a reading... just ask!

Small Business Saturday - Crafts, Authors and A Gift from American Express

With big-box stores trying to grab as much business as possible during what has now become "Black Thursday" and giant Internet retailers trying to compete with price-slashing and instant delivery, there are a lot of folks out there who want to support local small businesses like ours. A few years ago American Express invented the idea of Small Business Saturday. This year, in our shop, we're graced by the gifts of parents, authors, and American Express, who want to help make Reach And Teach a great place to be on Thanksgiving weekend.

At 10am on Saturday November 30th Shannon Casey and friends from Our Family Coalition will host a gift-making gathering at our shop. Think of a few people with whom you'd like to share a little love and join us to make hand-crafted cards and other gifts. We'll provide everything you need, including treats!

Authors from around the country, who believe in and want to see small independently-owned shops like ours stay in business, are planning new ways to support us in the coming year. On Saturday November 30thauthors have volunteered to spend time at shops like ours, doing readings, running the registers, signing books and we are looking forward to having two in our shop that day.

At 11am, Cynthia Chin-Lee, author of Operation MarriageAmelia to Zora, and Akira to Zoltan (among other great books) will do a reading and sign books.

At 11:45m, Barbara Quick, author of Vivaldi's Virgins and A Golden Web, will do a book reading and sign books.

At 5:30pm, Pamela Mayer, author of Don't Sneeze at the Wedding, will do a book reading and sign books.

And... all day on November 30th if you use your American Express card in our shop and spend $10 or more, American Express will give you $10 back! That's their way of encouraging people to shop at small local businesses like ours. You have to register your card first (click here).

Fair-Trade Gifts, Books, and Products Made in a Socially Responsible / Ethical Way

If you do shop for gifts this season, we hope you'll consider checking out some of our fair-trade gifts (what is fair trade???). Beyond being something you can share with someone you love, your gift also makes a difference in the lives of people locally and around the world.

Ideas for your consideration include scarves from Guatemala, crafts from Kenya includingsoapstone turtlesaprons from Mexicobaskets from RwandaAngels with Attitude ornaments from South Africa. You can find these and lots of other gifts in our gift section. If you're looking for toys or other gifts, we offer products from around the corner and around the world where those who produce them are paid a living wage, have humane and safe working conditions, and where the community is enhanced by, not damaged by, production. And of course, we have lots of fantastic books for anyone on your list.

Thank You Everyone AND Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season

We are so grateful to have moved to our new location at 144 West 25th Avenue in San Mateo and to all the people who have helped make that happen and who are helping us even still. If you're nearby please come by the shop and share a cup of cheer (cocoa or tea) and let us thank you in person!

Our holiday hours, starting November 30th are Monday through Saturday, 11am to 8pm. We'll have lots of other fun things happening in the shop during the holidays. To keep up to date, visit our events page and/orlike our Facebook page.

Please DO consider sharing this newsletter with someone who might not already know about Reach And Teach and... if you're struggling to figure out just the right gift for someone, please consider doing what that anonymous gift-giver did for the youngster in our pan flute story, give them a Reach And Teach gift certificate. You can get one in the shop orclick here to buy one online!

We wish all of our partners in peacemaking, friends, and fans around the world a very happy holiday season and look forward to a great new year.

Wishing you peace,
Craig and Derrick and Toby

Thanks to Susan Munroe for this wonderful photograph.

October Is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

If you came to this page because you are being bullied and need help, there is help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit the Trevor Project which has a hotline and online text-chat avaialble 24/7. You are not alone. You deserve to be protected. Click here or call 866-488-7386

Bullied - Life in Middle School

Hiding... praying that they won't see you... waiting until a half hour after school lets out to go home before making a hasty escape, hoping everyone else will have already gone home... never going to the bathroom... Avoiding the lunchroom, eating in an empty classroom instead... But no matter what you do, almost every day, they'll get you. Words turn into shoves, slaps, punches, kicks, it escalates. You beg for help but the teachers and administrators turn a blind eye. Worse yet, they blame you. "Toughen up!" "Stop acting like a sissie." You come home with a bloody nose, a black eye, bruises. Maybe your parents call the school. Maybe they come to school and meet with the principal. Nothing happens. It only gets worse.

"Faggot!" "Queer!" "Homo!" 

That was my daily diet in middle school in the 1970's. No one deserves to be treated that way yet thousands, perhaps millions of children go through it every single day. It goes way beyond "being picked on" or even harassment, it is torture. Not only are you afraid it will never end, but you become convinced that sooner or later, these kids might kill you. Drinking and doing drugs, skipping school, running away from home, attempting suicide, or committing violence against the bullies seemed like the only way to escape.  

Over thirty years later it may seem like nothing has changed BUT much has changed. Across the country there are programs to prevent bullying and help children who are being or have been bullied. In many communities, in many schools, people are starting to act. Some do so because they don't want children to suffer. Others are doing something out of fear of lawsuits. I'm thankful for any reason it takes to get schools, teachers, parents, local and national leaders to stand up and say enough is enough, and do something about this national sickness. Even the President of the United States has weighed in on the bullying problem.

Time to STOP Ignoring Bullying and DO Something About It!

Could I ever have imagined back in 1974 that another student, years later, would sue his schools over the same kind of treatment I'd lived with every day... and win? With the help of Lambda Legal Defense, Jamie Nabozny did. And now, because of that landmark case and decision, teachers, parents, administrators, and students can learn from his story, his struggle, and his victory to help create safe schools for everyone. Perhaps if his story were more well-known, if more schools took advantage of the resources available today to stop bullying, children like Brandon will have some hope that their lives can get better. 

Bullied - A Teaching Tolerance Documentary

I've just watched Bullied - A Teaching Tolerance Documentary and I urge every school, every faith community childrens/youth ministry leader,  every social service organization that works with children, to get a FREE copy of the DVD and viewer's guide and use it as one of the tools to make your community, your school, your classroom, your center, your home a safe place for every child. Teaching Tolerance is a project of The Southern Poverty Law Center and has done incredible work to foster acceptance, inclusion, compassion, and community-building in schools across the country. Now they have created a powerful documentary and teaching guide that is available for free to every school in America.

Click here to visit the Teaching Tolerance web site for ordering information.

Here's a clip from YouTube.


Bullied teaching kit

Order your free copy today!

Bullied is a documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.

Bullied includes:

  • A 40-minute documentary film (DVD), with closed captioning and with Spanish subtitles
  • A two-part viewer’s guide with standards-aligned lesson plans and activities for use in staff development
  • Additional materials online

Bullied is designed to help administrators, teachers and counselors create a safer school environment for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. It is also intended to help all students understand the terrible toll bullying can take on its victims, and to encourage students to stand up for their classmates who are being harassed.

It Gets Better

There's a national campaign happening to help kids realize that they can get help if they are being bullied, and that bullying isn't cool. Here's Justin Bieber letting kids know that "It Gets Better."

In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

Two months later, the It Gets Better Project (TM) has turned into a worldwide movement, inspiring over 5000 user-created videos and over 15 million views. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of "Glee", Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google and Facebook, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it.

The website is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.  It’s a place where our straight allies can visit and support their friends and family members.  It’s a place where people can share their stories, take the It Gets Better Project pledge, watch videos of love and support, and seek help through the Trevor Project and GLSEN.

Bully - A Powerful Film and Teacher Guide

Across the country school districts and other organizations are working to help 1 million children get to see Bully. San Mateo County, Reach And Teach's hometown, sent over 4,000 children to see the film. We got to meet Alex Libby, one of the young people shown in the film and the film's director Lee Hirsch and urge parents, teachers, faith groups, and others who work with children to get as many children as possible to see this film. The shift in attitudes of those who see the film, moving them from bystanders to upstanders, is one of the keys to putting a dent in the pandemic of bullying.

Click here to order the DVD and Teacher Guide from The Bully Project. 

Click here to check out the study guide available from Reach And Teach that goes with the film.

Click here to check out our story about meeting Alex Libby along with our review of the fantastic book, Wonder

About the Film: 

Over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. The new documentary film BULLY, directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, brings human scale to this startling statistic, offering an intimate, unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families. 

BULLY is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America's bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy "kids will be kids" clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.


I Think of A Dragon - Becoming an Upstander Instead of a Bystander

Reach And Teach friends Nancy Schimmel and Judy Fjell have written and recorded a wonderful song which they are graciously making available here. You can play the song for kids or use the sheet music to teach the song and have a singalong. In the song a child (or it could even be an adult) wishes to have a dragon to stand by her side when bullies are being mean, not only because a dragon could scare the bullies but because when a situation gets tense, two heads... are better than one. What I love about the song (spoiler alert - don't read any more if you want to listen to the song first), is that the key message is that we have to stand up for each other, even when we are scared. If it takes thinking of a dragon next to you to give you the strength to stand up, that's fine. But stand up we must! Because when it comes to someone being bullied... two heads, or three, or four, or a dozen, are better than one!

Reach And Teach wrote an E-newsletter about becoming an upstander instead of a bystander. Click here to check out that newsletter.
Lina Parker of recently put together a resource page for counselers trying to learn more about and do something about bullying. Click here to visit that page. 

More Resources:


In the last few years the issue of CyberBullying has become to gain recognition as being as serious as, if not more serious than "in person" bullying. recently created this InfoGraphic about it.

More Reach And Teach Anti-Bullying Resources

We believe that the seeds of violence are planted and take root at a very young age. That's why we're committed to providing our partners in peacemaking with as many resources as possible to reduce and perhaps some day eliminate bullying. Below are just some of the products we have evaluated and chosen to recommend. If you know of other resources we should feature (free or for purchase), please click here to let us know about them! Together, we can work to create a world where no child has to go home in tears because of bullying, AND, the children who are bullies can also be helped to overcome their problems. 
Operation Marriage
Operation Marriage
SKU: 9781604864229
Price: $14.95

Good-Bye Bully Machine Card Game
Good-Bye Bully Machine Card Game
SKU: bullymachine
Price: $12.99

SKU: 978-0-9723946-4-2
Price: $17.95

Dude, That's Rude! (Get Some Manners)
Dude, That's Rude! (Get Some Manners)
SKU: 1197978-1-57542-233-6
Price: $9.99

Steps and Stones: An Anh's Anger Story
Steps and Stones: An Anh's Anger Story
SKU: 978-1-935209-87-4
Price: $16.95

Middle School Confidential - What's Up with My Family?
Middle School Confidential - What's Up with My Family?
SKU: 978-1-57542-333-3
Price: $9.95

Tronex 72+ Science Workshop
Tronex 72+ Science Workshop
SKU: tronex
Price: $54.00

The Three Sunflowers
The Three Sunflowers
SKU: 0-915793-82-2
Price: $12.95

The Lion & The Mouse
The Lion & The Mouse
SKU: 9780316013567
Price: $18.00

The Lost Mermaid: A Shem Creek Moonlight Jamboree
The Lost Mermaid: A Shem Creek Moonlight Jamboree
SKU: 9780983234401
Price: $17.00

I Am Mixed
I Am Mixed
SKU: 9780578110875
Price: $14.99

The Lost Mermaid: Return to the Raspberry Kingdom
The Lost Mermaid: Return to the Raspberry Kingdom
SKU: 9780983234418
Price: $17.00

Manny and the Mango Tree
Manny and the Mango Tree
SKU: 9780991163946
Price: $10.00

Bullying Is No Laughing Matter
Bullying Is No Laughing Matter
SKU: 9781939880673
Price: $14.95

The Anti-Bullying and Teasing Book
The Anti-Bullying and Teasing Book
SKU: 0-87659-242-6
Price: $14.95

SKU: 9781575424965
Price: $9.99

Our Friendship Rules
Our Friendship Rules
SKU: 978-0-88448-291-8
Price: $7.95

The Bully Free Classroom
The Bully Free Classroom
SKU: 1-57542-194-1
Price: $24.95 $14.00

Neighbors Poster Project

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Any time the word "neighbor" comes up, many people across America think of Mr. Rogers, an iconic children's TV show host who sang a cute little song at the start of each episode... "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine..." It harkened to the idea of being part of a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, kids could go out and play safely, and folks took care of each other in times of need. 

Click here to order your own copy of the poster (or send some to friends and family). It costs $10 and that price includes shipping!

Another iconic image many have become all too used to is the "Neighborhood Watch" sign, a warning to would-be ne'er do wells to stay out of the neighborhood because folks are watching.

Today, a young black male wearing a hoodie has become an iconic image representing our struggles with race in this country. Trayvon Martin, a young black teen, wearing a hoodie and walking home after buying some candy and an iced tea, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who had followed him, and even continued following him after police had told Zimmerman to stop.

This poster was designed by Micah Bazant in July 2013. It was originally commissioned by the Oakland organization Justice for Families, for the Night Out for Safety & Democracy. This event is an alternative to National Night Out, which is sponsored by police and neighborhood watch organizations across the country. In the course of creating the poster, George Zimmerman was found innocent for the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the poster’s message took on a new level of meaning and urgency.

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS, seeing them, being in community with them, is not only a way to make our neighborhoods safe, it is a way to make our communities more loving, caring, compassionate, and to help them thrive. 

When the first image of this poster was shared on Facebook people loved it. "When can I get one?" "Who is going to produce it?" "I want ten of these!!!" There was no funding to produce the poster for national distribution so Reach And Teach, our friends at Design Action, and the artist decided to launch an IndieGoGo campaign. In one month we raised enough money to produce the poster and today we are proud to offer it to the world.

Thank You to Those Who Supported the Campaign!

We give great thanks to all the people who helped make producing this poster for distribution possible, including the following folks who granted us permission to share their names as supporters of the campaign:

Inno Nagara, The Story of Stuff Project, Naomi Ishisak, Wendy Amengual Wark. Abby Reyes, Caitlin Sislin, Pat Plant, Brooke Anderson, Doyle Canning, Kasha Ho, Jerri Jensen, Rudolpho San Miguel, Mia Henry, Elisabeth Santellana, Pam Marino, Diana P. Wu, Annie Koh, George White, Abby Mophaut, Janet Sells, Margaret Okuzumi, Paul George, Svea Boyda-Vikander, Aren Aizura, Sadie Sabot, Maya Amichai, Noam Szoke, Jennifer Giffen, Eleanor Cooney, Peter Van Wesep.

AND, we thank those who donated towards the campaign who chose to be anonymous. Thank you neighbors!!!

Order the Poster:

Click here to order your own copy of the poster (or send some to friends and family). It costs $10 and that price includes shipping! 


Press Release: Hey Look! There's a story in there! (Reach And Teach's New Location)

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Reach And Teach
Contact: Craig Wiesner


25th Avenue New Home to Reach And Teach, the Peace and Social Justice Learning Store

SAN MATEO, California (June 4, 2013)- The signs taped to the windows at 144 West 25th Avenue ask the question: "What's in there?" Soon, when the craft paper covering those windows comes down the answer will be clear: "There's a story in there!" Not just one story, however, but hundreds of them, all focused on transforming the world through teachable moments. 

Reach And Teach, founded in 2004 and which opened its first brick-and-mortar shop in San Mateo in 2010, has announced that it has moved from its former location at 178 South Blvd. to a new storefront on San Mateo's 25th Avenue, a "jewel of a spot" in the heart of the city. A grand re-opening celebration will take place at 11am on June 22nd 2013.

Owner Derrick Kikuchi said "We've learned so much and have become so wonderfully connected to the people of San Mateo that we were thrilled to be able to find a jewel of a spot on 25th Avenue where more people will get to know us and where we'll be able to expand our offerings of books, fair-trade gifts, toys and games." Nominated for the 2012 Sustainable San Mateo Award, Reach And Teach is San Mateo's only shop dedicated to peacemaking, gender equality, and sustainable living. "As an independent bookstore, we offer customers a more personalized experience than the big box stores or online retailers. While we have a particular niche focused on making the world a better place, we can also get virtually any book a customer might want, usually within 48 hours." Kikuchi added.

The shop offers books, games, music, curriculum, fair-trade gifts, toys, and puzzles for all ages as well as hand-made jewelry, crafts and art from around the world. The new location also provided an opportunity to expand and diversify Reach And Teach's partnerships with organizations working to change the world. "We're excited to add a travel section to our shop, recognizing that one of the keys to understanding people of different cultures is to step out of our comfort zones and experience life in other places." Craig Wiesner, Reach And Teach co-founder said. "Our new travel section is curated by Sandy Dhuyvetter, host of the nationally syndicated programs Travel Talk Radio and Business Travel Radio, and a portion of all sales will benefit Airline Ambassadors, which provides humanitarian aid to children and families in need as well as relief and development to under-privileged communities worldwide." He added. Through their 10/10 Program, other organizations who benefit from sales of products through Reach And Teach include Building for Generations - building schools for disabled children in Peru and Africa, Oakland's Mosaic Project - creating a peaceful future by working with children today, Limitless Horizons IXIL - which creates opportunities for the indigenous youth, women, and families of Chajul, Guatemala to develop the academic and professional skills needed to effect change in their lives and community, and Youth Community Service - developing leadership opportunities for youth in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. 

Another shop partner is Green11, with a "bring your own container" (BYOC) organic hand, dish, laundry soap, and shampoo refill station. "Recycling plastic containers is nice, but reusing them over and over and over again is even better for the planet and your pocketbook." Kikuchi said. The entire shop is a study in reuse, according to co-founder Craig Wiesner. "Our carpeting comes from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore (recycled carpet squares) and most of our furniture and fixtures are recycled or upcycled. Just about everything in our shop, from furnishings to products, has a story behind it and we love to share those stories. One of our most precious mentors taught us a long time ago that the difference between an enemy and a friend, and the shortest distance between two people, is a story, so our shop is all about stories!" 

The shop also serves as a community resource with organizations including Cool Cities (San Mateo Sierra Club), the California Writers Club, the Green Party, and Our Family Coalition (GLBTQ Families) meeting and hosting events there.

Grand Re-Opening: Reach And Teach will host a grand re-opening for the new shop located at 144 West 25th Avenue on Saturday June 22nd 2013 at 11am with live music, poetry, games, door prizes, and snacks from 25th Avenue and around the world. And of course, there will be storytelling!

For more information, contact Craig Wiesner ( or Derrick Kikuchi ( or visit


Book Award for The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Greedy SparrowReach And Teach is pleased to share the news that, The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale, has been honored with a Nautilus Silver Award in the Childrens Picture Book category. When we first read this book last year we knew it belonged among our "Books That Transform the World" series.

We're so pleased that it has received this recognition and hope that because of greater visibility more people will discover this book, learn about the importance of standing up and saying "NO," and also become aware of one of the lesser talked about attempts at genocide in the world's history. (Yes - I know that putting Childrens Picture Book and genocide in the same paragraph can seem somewhat shocking, but books that transform the world often do that.)

Here's how we reviewed the book:

Is there any point in discussion when dealing with a bully? Or should you just give in to whatever the bully wants?

Just the other evening we were blessed to see To Kill a Mockingbird in Ashland and one of the most profoundly moving scenes was when Scout, a young girl, is trying to stop a lynching and also keep her own family from being beaten or killed, and she calmly but forcefully talks to one man in the mob whom she knows. She reminds him of their connection, their humanity, speaking to him as a friend and neighbor, and asking how he can think of hurting her family given their relationship. She says to him, "You make sure you say hey to your son for me, you know I go to school with him every day" as a way of saying you can go ahead and do this terrible thing, but what are you going to say to your son about killing one of his schoolmates? Scout saves the day through one of the most powerful examples of nonviolent resistence ever seen.

The Greedy Sparrow reminds me of Scout's encounter, although none of the characters in this Armenian folk tale stand up to the bully as they should. The tale is rich in imagery and makes a great launching point for discussions about being nice, doing what we are asked or told, what happens when you are selfish and greedy, and when it is appropriate to say "heck no" and stand up to bullies. It also provides an incredible opportunity to learn about the Armenian people and the attempt that was made to erase them and their culture from the earth.

Buy the Book

Click here to buy the book from Reach And Teach.

Here's the full press release about this great award. Congratulations Lucine Kasbarian! 

Official Press Release


Marilyn McGuire; McGuire & Associates




Belmont, MA and Teaneck, NJ, USA; April 19, 2013 -- "The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale" has won the 2013 Nautilus Silver Book Award in the Children's Picture Book category (readers 3 to 6 yrs.). The tale is retold by Lucine Kasbarian, illustrated by Maria Zaikina, and published by Marshall Cavendish (now Amazon Children's Books).

"The Greedy Sparrow" is an English-language retelling of a traditional Armenian folk tale about a bird who travels the countryside, encounters natives practicing traditional folkways, and gets a comeuppance for his trickery. Author Kasbarian and illustrator Zaikina convey ethnic authenticity in their adaptation of this tale from the Armenian oral tradition. The NJ and MA-based Kasbarian is a children's author known for her book, "Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People. Moscow-based Zaikina is an illustrator beloved for her companion animation to singer Hasmik Harutyunyan's folk lullaby, Agna Oror.

"Witnessing near-annihilation and exile as a result of the Armenian Genocide," said Kasbarian, "my surviving grandparents felt that our people might one day become extinct. From that grew a profound desire to preserve as much of our culture as possible, such as our language, songs, dances, cuisine and stories. While her infant children perished in the death marches, my paternal grandmother managed to smuggle out the deeds belonging to our family's confiscated property. Those were the only material possessions that made it to America. Thus, non-material possessions, such as what was carried in memories, become precious links to our identity and past.  "The Greedy Sparrow" tale was one such heirloom, and UNESCO calls such treasures part of a people's "intangible cultural heritage."

"The Greedy Sparrow" was also named a 2012 Honor Book in the Storytelling World Awards. It was in School Library Journal's "Fuse #8 Production" blog's "100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2011" and in the Children's Literature Network's "Snipp Snapp Snute" blog's "Favorite Folktales published in 2011."  Further information is available at the author's website: . Nautilus Awards recognize books that promote positive social change, spiritual development and conscious living as they stimulate the imagination and inspire the reader to new possibilities for a better world. Usually, one Gold and one or more Silver awards are given annually in each of 24 Adult and 4 Children's/Young Adult categories.  Formal announcements about all Nautilus Award winners will be made in at BookExpo America (May 30-June 1) in New York City: .

The Nautilus Award is named for the pearl-lined mollusk that contains spiral chambers of increasing size, built by this sea inhabitant to accommodate its growth. According to the organization, the nautilus symbolizes ancient wisdom and expanding horizons, as well as the elegance of nature and a continual growth of understanding and awareness.  Past Nautilus Award winners have included the Dalai Lama, Barbara Kingsolver, Dr. Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra, among others.  For further information, please visit: .


#  #  #


Other Award Winners Curated by Reach And Teach

One of the best things that happens at least once a week is having someone say "You've got to see this (fill in the blank). It fits perfectly with your mission of transforming the world. More often than not, they are absolutely right. Such ws the case with The Greedy Sparrow. In that case, it was the author who told us about the book.  The very next best thing is having someone buy a copy and come back some time later and tell us that either he or she loved it and that it rocked her world, OR, that the person to whom it was gifted loved it (and it rocked his world). One of the next best things is finding out months or even years later that a book like this has received the accolades it so richly deserves.

Speaking of buying... We LOVE curating, writing about, and promoting great products that transform the world through teachable moments, BUT, we need your help to keep doing that. If you're inspired by our description of a product, please SHARE on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, call your mother-in-law (this has nothing to do with our products but it might make her happy), and BUY THE BOOK. Here are just a few of the award-winning and world-changing products we've gathered at Reach And Teach. 

Girls are not Chicks Coloring Book
Girls are not Chicks Coloring Book
SKU: 01aganc1
Price: $10.00

Tell Tale
Tell Tale
SKU: telltale
Price: $13.95

Hoot Owl Hoot! Cooperative Board Game
Hoot Owl Hoot! Cooperative Board Game
SKU: hoot
Price: $15.99

The Call to Shakabaz
The Call to Shakabaz
SKU: 978-0-9788350-2-6
Price: $15.00

Words Hurt Poster
Words Hurt Poster
SKU: wordshurt
Price: $12.00

Noisy Ball
Noisy Ball
SKU: noisyball
Price: $24.99

Race to the Treasure
Race to the Treasure
SKU: racetothetreasure
Price: $15.95

Cauldron Quest Cooperative Board Game
Cauldron Quest Cooperative Board Game
SKU: CauldromQuest
Price: $19.95

Month Python Fluxx
Month Python Fluxx
SKU: Monty Python Fluxx
Price: $19.95

It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)
It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)
SKU: 9780316131445
Price: $8.99

God Got A Dog
God Got A Dog
SKU: 978-0-7649-5414-6
Price: $17.99

And Tango Makes Three
And Tango Makes Three
SKU: 978-0689878459
Price: $17.99

If You Choose Not to Hit
If You Choose Not to Hit
SKU: 9781930572096
Price: $9.95

Animal Quest Globe and Game
Animal Quest Globe and Game
SKU: animalquest
Price: $16.50

The Lion & The Mouse
The Lion & The Mouse
SKU: 9780316013567
Price: $18.00

The Great Big Book of Families
The Great Big Book of Families
SKU: 9780803735163
Price: $16.99

El Deafo
El Deafo
SKU: 9781419712173
Price: $10.95

SKU: 9780545812542
Price: $16.99

Books That Transform the World

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Welcome to Books That Transform the World - Book Reviews. Our team will select special books and tell you why we love them and give you a lot of extra resources you'll find valuable to go along with them. We'll also feature reviews by Reach And Teach friends from around the world.

April Reviews:

  • Remember those good old days, leafing through Archie Comics and trying to spot one kid in Riverdale who was just a little bit more like you than Archie or Jughead. Well, there's a fairly new kid in town named Kevin, the first openly gay kid in Riverdale, and now you get to learn a bit more about how he came out in a memoir from Junior High (AKA Middle School). Check out our review of Kevin

March Reviews:

  • Rev. Jim Burklo reviews What We Talk About When We Talk About God, NY Times bestselling author Rob Bell's latest book. Having just spent time studying Bishop John Shelby Spong's book, Eternal Life, I'm now very anxious to read about how a more evangelical Christian leader like Bell approaches the topics that Spong covered in his book. AND...... speaking of Jim Burklo....... Check out our review (and buy a copy) of his newest book, Hitch-Hiking to Alaska: The Way to Soulful Service
  • We share a review by Patricia Tilton from her Children's Books Heal blog. She reviews the Little Yellow Bottle, a story that is all too familiar to us.  Click here to read our introduction to and find a link to her review.
  • Hot off the presses and delivered by the author, we have a new parenting book to share that is unlike any other. A "Kid Whisperer," Heather Criswell, with tiny tot in tow came into our shop on Wednesday, told me about her book while managing her incredibly happy and totally on the move son, and after she left I grabbed the book and started reading. By Thursday afternoon, I had this review (click here) ready for you! How to Raise a Happy Child (and be happy too) is a great book.   
  • On the morning after we spoke at Palo Alto University about "Spirituality in the Gay Community," I'm thrilled to share a review of The Search for Truth About Islam, a soon-to-be-released book by our friend and colleague the Rev. Ben Daniel. How are the two connected? Last evening we looked at the last 50 years of anti-gay bullying in secular and religious society and celebrated how much progress has been made for GLBTQ rights. At the same time, as we watched a film which included people bashing gays (verbally and physically) we recognized that today there is another group of people bearing the burdens of discrimination and violence because of who they are, Muslims (and people perceived to be Muslims). Upstanding and education are critical tools to overcome prejudice and discrimination and Rev. Ben Daniel has done an outstanding job on a book that breaks the stereotypes, overcomes the myths, and puts real faces on our brothers and sisters who are Muslim. Click here to read the review. 

    AND Join us for a book talk by Rev. Daniel in San Mateo on April 6th!

February 14 Review:

  • Dear Friend,

    I won't try to keep this anonymous, like someone else I know, because you already know who I am since this is my web site and all. OK, I guess you might think it could be Derrick or even Toby, although any time Toby says anything here it really is me pretending to be Toby since Toby can't type.  But anyway, yeah, it is me, Craig, getting started on writing a review of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower

February 7 Reviews:

  • We always look forward to Perfect Picture Book Fridays to see what our friend Patricia Tilton (Children's Books Heal) might have in store for us. This week she shared what looks like a real winner of a book, Making Friends Is An Art! Reminiscent of Kathryn Otoshi's Zero and One which focuses more on dealing with bullies, Making Friends Is An Art is all about self-esteem and recognizing how each one of us has something very special to offer the world. Click here to read Patricia's review. (And watch the Reach And Teach shop in the coming weeks when we'll get copies of Making Friends for you to buy!)

  • We're fans of one of the Top 100 Mom Blogs, Ben & Birdy, and were pretty honored when the blog featured a review of our Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon coloring book. In keeping up with Ben & Birdy we spotted a review of the book Show Me A Story, and found it so compelling that we got ourselves a copy of the book to check out. Every wonderful thing in the review is quite quite true and now we're big fans of this book. We believe SO strongly that storytelling is one of the keys to peacemaking, and empowering storytelling through arts and crafts helps bring those who are more comfortable with those ways of communicating into the storytelling famil. Yay. Click here to check out the Ben & Birdy blog review of Show Me A Story and then click here to buy a copy! You'll love it.

January 12 Review:

  • Craig Wiesner reviews the NY Times bestseller Wonder.  Author R.J. Palacio says that this is one of her favorite reviews ever, especially my sharing that (spoiler alert) I was so glad it had a happy ending... "Why do some people think that someone isn't allowed to have a happy ending simply by virtue of the fact that they face some extraordinary challenges?" Click here to read the review.

2012 Reviews:

  • We once again turn to wonderful friend Patricia Tilton for a review of a book about a feisty girl with Cochlear implants, Let's Hear it for Almigal.  We've seen first-hand the difference that these implants can make in the lives of those who would otherwise be completely or near-deaf. But with the miracle of suddenly being able to hear the smallest birds chirp, come emotional and psychological challenges that can be unexpected, unless you have something to help prepare you for those challenges (thank you Patricia for letting us know about this book).
  • CraigWiesner switches from books to kits this week to review an amazing new product called Kids Own Wisdom. Teaching children how to navigate social interactions can be a real challenge, and without good guidance, children can have a very difficult time getting through social situations. This kit helps parents, teachers, and anyone working with children guide them through the many situations children face with a positive approach to learning the social ropes. Click here to read the review.
  • Craig also shared an amazing TEDx Talk about Educating for Freedom by Institute for Humane Education founder Zoe Weil. If you want to teach your children media literacy, check out this video and the five questions you can ask every time an ad appears. Click here for the story. 

October 12 Reviews

  • Craig Wiesner reviews Growing Up Muslim, a wonderful book for teens/tweens and adults, which provides a comprehensive yet approachable look at Islam from the perspective of a child growing up in America (with the adult knowledge of an Islamic expert who truly knows how to write engaging books for all ages). 
  • This week we're also passing the baton to someone who does amazing reviews called "Childrens Books Heal." Patricia Tilton has reviewed a wonderful book called The Goodbye Cancer Garden. Click here to visit her site to read this review. 

September 25 Reviews

  • This week Craig reviews The Girl With Hair Like the Sun. It is the story of Ruth Mix, a 15 year-old girl who, along with her mother, did volunteer work at a Japanese internment camp during WWII. This is one of the most compelling books we've ever had in our shop!
  • Craig also reviews a book that is available from (he who should not be named and isn't Voldermort) as an e-Book and will be out as a print book (and absolutely positively without a doubt in our shop) in Spring 2013. Tim Myers has written a wonderful, witty, practical, scary, and perhaps indespensible book on parenting called Glad to Be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood.

September 17 Reviews

  • This week Craig reviews Muskrat Will Be Swimming, written by Cheryl Savegeu and illustrated by Robert Hynes. How do you learn to treasure the aspects of  your life that other people look down upon? Is there any joy to be found in being a "lake rat?" Can you embrace a name people call you in teasing? Click here to read on! (NOTE: This one is personal from the buck-toothed kid they used to call "weasel.")

September 1 Reviews

  • This week Craig reviews Safari As A Way of Life, written by Jennifer New, telling the story of photojournalist Dan Eldon's short but amazing life, through a journal/scrapbook style of story-telling, in words, pictures and ephemera. Click here to read that review.
  • Drew Durham reviews The God Box, written by Alex Sanchez. Paul, a religious teen living in a small conservative town, finds his world turned upside down when he meets Manuel—a young man who says he’s both Christian and gay, two things that Paul didn’t think could coexist in one person. Doesn’t the Bible forbid homosexuality? As Paul struggles with Manuel’s interpretation of the Bible, thoughts that Paul has long tried to bury begin to surface, and he finds himself re-examining his whole life. Click here to read Drew's review of this book.

August 25 2012 Reviews

  • This week Craig reviews Amy's Light, written and illustrated by Robert Nutt, from our friends at Dawn Publications. Click here to read that review. 
  • Drew Durham reviews The Breadwinner Trilogy, by Reach And Teach fav Deborah Ellis and published by the fine people at Groundwood Books.  Click here to read his review.

August 18 2012 Reviews

  • This week Craig reviews The Lunch Thief written by Anne C. Bromley and Illustrated by Robert Casilla, from our friends at Tilbury House. Click here to read that review.
  • Drew reviews The Storytelling Animal written by Jonathan Gottschall and published by the fine folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Click here to read that review.

A Conversation with the Public Affairs Officer at WHINSEC

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

A School by Any Other Name - by Craig Wiesner

On February 21st, 2013, I had a pleasant and informative conversation with Mr. Lee A. Rials, long-time Public Affairs Officer for WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The conversation was initiated at Mr. Rial's request, after I had written a Tikkun Daily blog post about the school, which was formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). For decades the school has been accused of having some responsibility for "graduates" (a term Lee and I will debate later in this post) who were later accused of committing atrocities. 

I have spent time with people from Central America who were tortured, who saw their families murdered, and barely escaped death squads during the 1980's and 90's. I've spoken on a panel with one US soldier who was involved in supporting those acts. And I've spent countless hours with religious leaders and other activists who have worked for years to close WHINSEC. I have written about WHINSEC before and my latest post at Tikkun Daily caught Lee Rials' attention. 

Click here to read that original post. 

I'm posting this article on the Reach And Teach web site because I believe it does fulfill our mission to "transform the world through teachable moments." 

Children and adults who become passionate about an issue can and should take any chance they can get to speak with people in power, ask questions, make clear requests for whatever they want, and document the results. While I am absolutely NOT one of those people who likes to claim that we live in the best country in human history, I will say that compared to many countries, we do live in a remarkable place, where the government can be held accountable for its actions and we can, more often than not, get the information we need to form our opinions and inform our actions.

Yes, it may take years and dogged determination, but eventually, in most cases, facts will be revealed.

I'd like to start by saying that Mr. Rials was open, friendly, and at times quite witty, and I am convinced that he is a true believer in the mission of WHINSEC, the people who work there, and the people who attend classes there. He believes they are doing good in the world and that the school has gotten a "bum rap." I shared a first draft of this post with Mr. Rials and have updated this post based on some of his feedback. 

First Teachable Moment: Measure the Effectiveness of Your Tax Dollars at Work

When Mr. Rials reached out to me via email, I was quite surprised. I'd also been surprised over a decade earlier, when I wrote a letter to the then-named School of the Americas and got a response. It turns out that there was a plan for this! In 2005, according to an article at, activists who had been charged with tresspassing on the SOA/WHINSEC property (an annual right of passage for activists is to illegally enter the school and get arrested), offered an "SOA Communication" plan as evidence in their trial.

The plan, which according to Mr. Rials had never gotten funded, proposed spending $246,000 to try to counter the growing demand that the school be shut down. One part of the plan was "to track news media coverage of the school worldwide, to create pre-fab letters to the editor to counter negative views and to track the comings and goings of [SOA Watch founder Father Roy] Bourgeois, with the aim of getting an Army representative on the bill to counter the priest's point of view whenever he speaks."

It was Roy Bourgeois' invitation to a delegation to El Salvador that prompted my most recent post about WHINSEC on Tikkun Daily. 

Despite the program never getting funded, Mr. Rials has been a one-man-PR-department for years.

How have the PR campaign and the passage of time worked out for WHINSEC? Mr. Rials and I would agree that the vociferous calls for the school to be closed have diminished along with the number of people getting themselves arrested crossing the threshold of the school's gates each year. Father Roy, recently stripped of his ordination by the Vatican because of his stance on ordaining women in the church (you go Roy!!), has been and continues to be one of the most vocal opponents of WHINSEC. But the number of people joining him at WHINSEC protests has dramatically decreased. To be blunt, some of my activist colleagues who were involved in trying to close the school have died, others have reached an age where they can't keep fighting as they had previously, and, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the abuses of power by our more recent administrations (drone assassinations for example), and other pressing issues have also diverted attention away from the school in Georgia.

Still, when someone like me writes an article about WHINSEC, Mr. Rials' "Google Alert" goes off and he goes into action. In trying to declide what my major emphasis would be for our conversation, I decided to focus on whether the school was delivering "value" to the American people. Basic question: Are America's tax dollars being well spent at WHINSEC? A question that I asked Mr. Rials several different ways boils down to this (which Rick Ufford-Chase, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, suggested I include in my conversation):

Are there any success stories about graduates that WHINSEC can brag about? 

Mr. Rials did not have any success stories to share. And... when I used the word "graduate," Mr. Rials took exception. He pointed out that many people "attend" courses at WHINSEC, but to refer to them as "graduates," according to him, is not accurate. Plus, he told me, that it was unfair to look at a person who had attended a course 30 years ago, and then committed some kind of a crime years later, as a "WHINSEC Graduate."

"I've always been puzzled by the concept that any association with any of these schools (the people listed as students of the SOA would have actually been at the Latin American Training Center-Ground Forces from 1946-1949; the Caribbean Training Center, 1949-1963; and the SOA, 1963-2000) has relevance to behaviors before or later without any further analysis of the nature of the association. My favorite example of the absurdity of this connection is Leopoldo Galtieri. In 1949, when he was a 23-year-old lieutenant, he attended an Engineer Operations Course for a bit less than three months. How can anyone make that relevant to his behavior 32 years later when he was head of the junta ruling Argentina? I have looked at the SOAW database a considerable amount during the years I have been here (SOA records all went to the National Archives when it closed, so that is the only source I have for names pre-2001) and even in the 'notorious graduates' listing have yet to find any indication that anyone used anything--not even the named course subject matter--to commit any crime. 

That leads me to the second point, that with fewer than 300 of more than 60,000 students of these schools actually accused or convicted of serious crimes, what is the issue with the schools? If the schools were teaching anything bad, they were an utter failure at it."

SOAWatch, an organization that has doggedly pursued SOA and WHINSEC, recently filed a lawsuit over the Pentagon's refusal to release the names and other information about 21st Century WHINSEC students. As Mr. Rials points out above, information used to be available which allowed organizations like SOAWatch to investigate and report on allegations of misconduct. Now, that information is no longer available. 

One final quip about using the word "graduate." Mr. Rials told me he had quipped to a German journalist while watching a group of Chilean cadets, that "the cadets were here for only 10 days, but in 10 years would be 'WHINSEC graduates.'"

I thought to myself, wouldn't it be amazing if one of them was getting a Nobel Prize for peacemaking?

Just to show that the folks at WHINSEC are just as guilty of using the term "graduate" as their opposition, note the wording of part of the unfunded communication plan. 

Let's go, though, to the heart of a question I think we should all be asking. Are the American people getting value for the money being spent at WHINSEC? How do the powers-that-be justify the spending if they can't specifically point to a specific return on investment for WHINSEC's graduates (or, um, people who successfully completed some course of study comprising some length of time)?  

I am a graduate of Air Force Basic Training (six weeks), the Defense Language Institute (47 weeks), Cryptologic Linguist School (six months) Air Force NCO Leadership School (four weeks), the US Army Chaplains Lay Leadership Course (two weeks), Department of State East Asian Affairs course (one week), etc..... And I can point to behaviors, actions, ways in which I carried out my work, days, weeks, months, and years later, as direct results of something I was taught in a course during one of those trainings. I saved a fellow airman's life using the Heimlich Maneuver just a few months after I had taken a safety training course! Most importantly, I know that in the case of virtually every type of formal training, there was a feedback loop that reported backwards and forwards so that the effectiveness of training in one place could be judged based on performance in another. 

Mr. Rials said that the main feedback loops for WHINSEC were reports from US commanders in the Northern and Southern Commands on the effectiveness of their cooperative work in countries with people who had attended courses at WHINSEC and:

Our courses enhance the abilities of the students to do the jobs they are already in. The only measure of effectiveness we can see is the continuation of attendance; if we weren't contributing to the performance of students, nations would not send students here. Also, as I said, the State Department and DoD have mechanisms in place to report some statistics on international students who have come to the U.S. for training. That would include Institute students as well as those who have been to one of the many other DoD schools. 

That seems somewhat vague, but perhaps official unclassified reports will shed more light on details of that effectiveness. And, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some other feedback mechanism outside of the Department of Defense and State Departments, perhaps through some other US government three-letter entities, that did, in fact, track WHINSEC graduates in their police, military or political careers.

Remember that we're the United States of America. In God we trust. All others we monitor. 

The take-away from the "show me the money/success" part of my conversation with Mr. Rials is this: If WHINSEC's work is truly valuable to the United States, that value should be easily articulated and demonstrated. Let's ask for a clear and compelling report from the Department of Defense on significant achievements that can be directly attributed to WHINSEC training.

With sequestration in the news today, and budget woes facing our country for a long time to come, are US tax dollars being effectively spent at WHINSEC? Let that be a question asked at the next Congressional hearing on the matter.

Second Teachable Moment: RTFM (Read the _____ Manual)

Whenever possible, don't take word of mouth as evidence. Get your hands on the stuff about which you are complaining, read it (or watch it or listen to it), and then make your case.

Early in my conversation with Mr. Rials, we agreed that curriculum as well as reports made each year about the school are not classified. Therefore, those reports and training manuals should be viewable by the public. I am particularly interested in the instructor manuals and student manuals used in the three week long "Human Rights Instructor's Course." That course is designed to train people to return to their home countries and teach human rights curriculum to their own people. When visiting the WHINSEC web site, this is an area for which WHINSEC is particularly proud, saying that their human rights education efforts are both "ambitious and effective."  

During my talk with Mr. Rials, this was the one place where I felt that he was not being completely frank with me. He indicated that there might not be a single "manual" per se, but that there were lesson plans and materials gleaned from other content taken from here and there. I was both a consumer / user of Army and Air Force training materials AND the developer of courses. There is always a manual. It may be something that is, in fact, a compilation of stuff from all over the place, but there is a compilation. No instructor walks into a classroom and wings it. And, when the course is a "train the trainer," designed to send someone home to teach, that trainer always walks away with an instructor's guide. It would be very instructive (pardon the pun) to have access to those manuals. Mr. Rials has promised to look into getting me course materials. He clarified:

All our instructional materials are unclassified, and all the doctrinal materials (manuals) come from proponents. We develop courses using manuals from DoD and other agencies, exactly the same ones used throughout the U.S. military and other agencies. Instructors (and students) have access to the background material that support the lesson plans, and the complete 'POI' (Program of Instruction) is available here in English and Spanish.   

I'm very interested in the "case studies" referred to in the WHINSEC course catalog describing the human rights training. Mr. Rials mentioned that one case study he knew of involved "false positives" in Colombia. A "false positive" refers to a situation in which innocent civilians have been killed in a military operation, and in order to protect themselves from prosecution, soldiers dress the dead civilians up in rebel uniforms, or plant other evidence to make it look as though the civilians were engaged in hostile acts. 

The course catalog also says that learning the difference between lawful and unlawful orders is covered. Would being ordered to plant evidence on dead civilians be considered an unlawful order? And if so, what is a soldier supposed to do about it?

Yes, I'd love to see those manuals and case studies. Making those manuals public could go a long way in demonstrating the nature of today's WHINSEC.

RTFM is as military a phrase as it is in computer technology circles. That's why when I asked if there was an instructor's manual I already knew the answer, there must be. Now the question is whether we'll get to see it (or something).  

Third Teachable Moment: You Must Remember This, A Kiss Is Just A Kiss, A Name Is Just A Name

Back in the days of my foolish and naive youth, in a letter I wrote to the commander of the School of the Americas (SOA), I suggested that given that the institution had a terrible reputation, if they were truly changing their stripes, they should also change their name. While I can't take credit for it happening, the school did, in fact, change its name. 

One of the ways in which the SOA's name got permanently stained was through the public release of SOA training manuals in the 1990's, which did, in fact, include passages teaching the use of torture. At least 1,000 of those manuals were distributed throughout Central and Latin American. In 1992, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney ordered the recall and destruction of those manuals. 

You may be able to shred and burn manuals, but that stain is impossible to erase, along with the stains of blood and tears that soaked into the soil of El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, and other countries during the 1980's and 1990's. There is no question that many of those blood stains were caused by US hands, promoted by US foreign policy.

Mr. Rials pointed out that WHINSEC is but a tiny school, with only a few thousand students attending each year, and that in his view it is unfair to lay the blame for atrocities committed by people who had attended a course or two at some point in history on the then School of the Americas or today's WHINSEC. 

On that score history will eventually decide. The names of those who, to use Mr. Rials' language, "attended" SOA courses who went on to torture and kill innocents can not be erased. Such lists are easily acccessed on the web, just use the search term "SOA Graduates." In fact, Mr Rials did his own analysis of one of the most heinous crimes committed in El Salvador, the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. I'll share his analysis later in this post. 

There are some, though, who thought that one way to erase that stain or at least move on to other battles was, in fact, to change the school's name. There were others who came up with the response "Different Name, Same Shame." (Remember Blackwater changing its name to XE?) Is WHINSEC a completely different school than the School of the Americas? No. When President Bill Clinton signed the law creating WHINSEC, most of the civilian instructors stayed on. The military instructors, as military instructors do, rotate in and out. Commanders come and commanders go. Today's commandant, according to Mr. Rials, though, was at the School of the Americas before it became WHINSEC, went on to do other things for many years, and came back. And now he's in charge. 

The name change discussion is one place where Mr. Rials takes the greatest offense.

Your last point, about the 'name change' has been a challenge since I got here. I'm a retired Army officer, so I took offense at the implied charges of impropriety of SOA instructors because they were my peers, and I didn't see any valid accusations about what the schools did. But the campaign against the SOA had a part to play in the decision to close it and replace it with WHINSEC (maybe your letter was the catalyst, who knows?). When I say there is not much difference, I'm referring to the fact that we are a military education facility that teaches primarily in Spanish. The law says we are a different entity, the chain of command is different, and so is our mission, if only somewhat. The major differences are two: we focus on the entire Western Hemisphere (we have Canadian and U.S. instructors and students as well as others); and our course mix has changed to be relevant to the needs of our own country and of the partner nations. 

Have things changed?

Unlike the SOA, WHINSEC does work hard to appear as publicly transparent as possible. You can go to their web site and read their mission statement, read their course catalogs, newsletters, and see pictures of attendees and instructors. Mr. Rials invited me to visit and says that he invites many people to come. Rick Ufford-Chase told me about his visit, back when he was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA. That visit consisted of a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation and a brief tour. He was underwhelmed, but he felt that Mr. Rials was earnest in his belief in the school and open and pleasant with his guests. If I were to visit, I'd want unfettered access for at least a few weeks. According to Mr. Rials, they gave such access to a British doctoral candidate named Ruth Blakely, who wrote her dissertation with WHINSEC as her subject. I'd love to see that dissertation so if anyone has access to it and would share a link, that would be great. Click here to read one article in which she is quoted talking about her time at WHINSEC (in which she says that she found no evidence that WHINSEC was advocating torture or human rights abuses) and click here to read another article about her views on our more recent involvement in the "drug wars.".

One clearly negative change on the idea of transparency is being litigated by SOAWatch, as mentioned earlier. The Pentagon no longer releases the names of the students who attend courses there. That makes it impossible for civilians to track them. 

A big question, though, doesn't have a clear answer. Does the school serve a useful purpose? Is keeping it open in the strategic interest of and does it demonstrably advance the security of the United States? Are attendees taught to protect and defend human rights and dignity as the law establishing the school clearly demands, and do those students, in fact, return to their home countries and do so? Seeing the manuals and getting better and clearer answers from the Northern and Southern commanders in Congressional testimony, along with any informtion other agencies of the US government may have about those who have been taught at WHINSEC, including the public release of their names/countries, may help to start to answer those questions. 

Forth Teachable Moment: Be Prepared AND Specific When You Ask Questions

Our conversation was somewhat rambling, but I did have a script. Before you talk to someone in power, be as prepared as possible. Before my conversation I reached out to activists to get some ideas of questions they might want to ask if they had an opportunity for this kind of conversation. Here are some of the specific questions I asked and the answers Mr. Rials provided (paraphrased, not word for word). 

1. Does WHINSEC track graduates, and are there reports about activities of graduates made available to Congress or other oversight groups?


2. Are your mandated annual reports to Congress classified?

No, but those reports are not available online. The law, establishing WHINSEC, also mandated a "Board of Visitors" and their minutes/reports are available online at

3. In what ways do you measure "success." 

See the details in the discussion above.

4. Is there a school similar to WHINSEC for other hemispheres? 


5. Do any of your courses include interrogation techniques?


6. Do you teach about the use of drones in any of your courses. 

No. "We have nothing to do with drones whatsoever."

7. Why did you want to talk to me?

"Any time we have a chance to talk to the opposition, we like to do that." 

There were a few questions about torture and assassination that didn't make it into the conversation. Mr. Rials mentioned that I might want to talk to Mr. Antonio Raimondo, who teaches the Human Rights course. I'll save those questions for him!

Fifth Teachable Moment - Identify Your Lens

When you take on an issue and express your opinion about that issue, be open and communicate the lens through which you see the issue. I view the discussion about SOA/WHINSEC through the eyes of a person who has sat with victims of torture and murder. One of my dearest friends lives in constant physical and emotional pain because of the atrocities committed against him and his family during the Salvadoran civil war. His wife suffered terribly while he was locked in a prison, taking care of their children with virtually no means of support. Then the entire family had to flee for their lives the day he was released because they were warned the death squad was on its way. What was done to them and the crimes that were committed against countless others were crimes against humanity that I was taught, as a US military member, were absolutely forbidden. Yet other US troops, in other places, were taught and behaved differently.  

I take Mr. Rials' objections to the charges against SOA/WHINSEC seriously, because I remember how it felt when I had just left the Air Force to hear people I respected telling me that the US government had a hand in such terrible acts. I didn't want to believe them, but have come to know that our government can, has, and will commit what will some day be judged as crimes, in the name of national security. That's why we have to dig and dig and dig when we think something is wrong.

Today we have "drug wars" going on in Colombia and Mexico and the "war against terror" is in full swing all around the world. Drones have been used to kill countless people, including an American citizen. It is our responsibility as citizens to stand up and demand the truth, no matter how long it takes to get to it. 

Mr. Rials also dug, and put together an analysis of the murder of the Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Click here to view a PDF of that analysis.

The account of the murders and coverup is chilling. During my time serving in the military, if anyone had ever said anything about partipating in, supporting, condoning, or assisting in acts like these, I would have reported them. Yet I know, for a fact, that our government did condone acts like these in the then war against "communism." Dick Cheney might have ordered the shredding of those damning training manuals in 1992, but he's also the same person who supported water-boarding after September 11th and the photos from Abu Ghraib illustrate that the stains of mistreatment continue to streak our flag.  

Sixth Teachable Moment: Follow Up

Having an opportunity like this is incredibly valuable, but it will have been a waste of time if action does not come out of it. Here are my plans for following up and I invite you to share your comments and suggestions on next steps.

  1. Ask for copies of the Human Rights training manuals (already done)
  2. Ask for an opportunity to speak with Antonio Raimondo (already done)
  3. Share this post and the previous post with Representative Jackie Speier and Senators Boxer and Feinstein
  4. Ask them for access to the last two years of Congressional reports from WHINSEC
  5. Find Ruth Blakely and read her dissertation
  6. Draw my own conclusions from everything I learn and take a stand on whether I think WHINSEC should be closed or remain open

Finally, as a way of thanking Mr. Rials, I'm going to send him a copy of We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, and ask that he share the book with colleagues at the school. WHINSEC's charter calls on it to teach internationally recognized human rights laws and this book offers a great starting point for having conversations about all of the issues with which activists, members of the "opposition" to the school, political leaders, members of the press, former victims of human rights abuses and their families, and ordinary citizens are concerned.

To finish up this article, I'll share that declaration, to which the United States is a signatory (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt), with all.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - 10 December 1948


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2)Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

  • (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

  • (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  • (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  • (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

  • Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

| post a comment
| comments (0)

Remembering the Mother of Mother's Day - All Occasion Cards for Peace

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 
Julia Ward Howe is rightfully considered the Mother of Mother's Day in 1870 even though the day would not be officially recognized as a national holiday until Anna Jarvis pushed for this with a campaign starting in 1907. Julia Ward Howe is best known for having written the poem, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". But in 1870, distressed by the horror of the Civil War and fearful of a world war, Julia Howe called upon other women to arise and oppose war in all forms. Her call was for "A Mother's Day of Peace".
read more

Green America approved