Global Moms in Action: Holly Olsen, Author of Nursery Rhymes for Social Good

By Holly Rosen Fink

December 7, 2016


Global Moms in Action honors and celebrates moms like you getting involved in solving the world’s big issues. Holly Olsen, on hearing about the Sustainable Development Goals at Moms +SocialGood in 2015, wrote and illustrated a series of alternate nursery rhymes called Nursery Rhymes for Social Good: Alternative Poems for Future Activists. There is a poem for each of the 17 goals in order to introduce the younger set to this work. Each one is meant to spread awareness and encourage discussions with children about the world we live in, the problems we face, and how to solve them.

Olsen has a masters degree in Second Language Teaching from Utah State University, and a BA in Spanish with a minor in International Studies. She co-founded a bilingual preschool with a focus on social and environmental justice. In recent years, she co-founded the nonprofit where she helps provide medical IDs and supplies to hemophiliacs in countries with low access to health services.

What inspired you to write Nursery Rhymes for Social Good: Alternative Poems for Future Activists?

This book is the result of my passion for social justice combined with my passion for mothering. I decided to write this book shortly after learning about the global goals. I loved them immediately and wanted to participate in any way possible. But how? I’m a busy mother of four wonderful young children who require much of my time and energy, so I wasn’t sure how I could contribute to the goals in any meaningful way. One night I was reading bedtime stories to my youngest daughter; her favorite book was a collection of traditional nursery rhymes. I had learned about the oddities and origins of some of the rhymes long ago, but it occurred to me that night it could be far more meaningful and valuable if the rhymes could serve an actual purpose: to introduce young children to the global goals. From then on, I was on a mission to rewrite a nursery rhyme for every one of the 17 sustainable development goals.

nurseryrhymessocialgoodHow did you tackle addressing the global goals?

I addressed the goals in a very simple way – one-by-one – so they could be understood easily by children. It wasn’t my intention to go in-depth with explanations or even possible solutions. I just wanted to provide parents and guardians with a tool to easily introduce the world’s goals to young children and start a conversation about them. The book is meant to be a starting point. The way people decide to use the information is the exciting next step.

Is one goal particularly meaningful to you?

This is a really difficult question for me! There are a handful that stand out for me including #4: Education, #5: Gender Equality, #10: Reduced Inequalities, and #13: Climate Action. I suppose #13 might be the most critical because without significant and fast action, our very existence is at risk. Climate action also covers a few of the other goals, at least in some ways. With effective climate action we can help life below water (#14), life on land, (#15), have more responsible production (#12), help in the creation of sustainable cities and communities (#11), and have clean energy (#7). So…goal #13! Let’s take climate action!

How do you want this book to inspire the younger generation to take action on causes they care about?

I really hope this book will empower the younger generation with the knowledge they need to participate in the society that we are preparing for them. I want them to be willing and able to take positive action in this world. If they are educated on the global goals at a young age, they can, at the very least nudge and remind us as the older generation to follow the goals when we forget or stray from them. Empowered children can make a huge difference in the world. The possibilities of the good they can do are endless.

How does a mom involve her children in activism? 

hollyandgirls-1-copyThere are SO many ways to involve children in activism! Here are a few that our family has been involved in:

After educating them about a cause, simply ask them what their ideas are. Children often come up with fantastical and grandiose ideas (and there is beauty in that innocence), but they can also have creative ideas that you hadn’t thought of before. It’s a fun exercise to try. In addition, when children provide the ideas, they are far more invested in them and are much more likely to follow through and stay interested.

You can include them by being an example and talking to them – frequently – about the issues. For example, we often spend time along the shore and pick up trash after playing in the sand. (It helps when we remember to bring a bag for the trash!)

You can take children to peace rallies.

You can take children to equality celebrations.

You can walk out in protest of events or meetings or anything that is discriminatory (always careful to explain ‘why’ to your children).

You can watch movies that educate and support issues you care about. In our family, we call this “Pop-n-Doc” which is short for “Popcorn and a Documentary”. We make it fun!

You can read books that do the same.

You can sign up with one of many organizations that allow your children to be pen pals with a children in other countries.

You can involve them by giving them responsibilities at home about recycling, switching off unused devices, conserving water and more.

Why do you think mother’s voices need to be more widely heard at all levels of society?

Mothers are raising the future. A mother’s voice can be loving and nurturing, it can be brave and powerful, but most importantly, her voice has limitless potential when it comes to the future of humankind.The hands-on experience, the daily struggles, the minutia of child-rearing gives mothers a unique empathy and perspective that must be shared and integrated into policy making, governance, and yes, all levels of society.

What are your hopes for this book?

I hope this book will help spread awareness about the goals and become a fun resource for parents and educators of young children. I hope it will be a book that children love. And ultimately, I hope it will inspire action toward the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Take Action Challenge

  • Order your copy of Nursery Rhymes for Social Good: Alternative Poems for Future Activists and find out how you can get involved! Read other posts in our #GlobalMoms series here.
  • In 2030, the children who read this book will be at a prime age to participate in the society that we are preparing for them. Let’s educate them so they can and will take positive action in the world!

Images courtesy of Holly Elizabeth Olsen.

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