“What have you done to promote peace lately?” When Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School teacher Betsy Sawyer heard the reggae musician Jimmy Cliff ask this question at a concert, she was inspired. Cliff had also stated that we need to “teach the children about peace." As advisor to an after-school writing club at her Groton, Massachusetts school, she had the perfect outlet for her inspiration. The club was composed of eight fifth graders who wanted to make a book big enough to earn a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. After Sawyer shared her idea with the students, the big book theme was selected: PEACE. The club became known as the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club, and the Big Book: Pages for Peace was born.
The book started in 2004, took twelve years to complete, is 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and constitutes 1000 pages. The collection process began with letters the children wrote to individuals worldwide requesting messages of peace. They asked such questions as “What is peace?” and “Will there ever be world peace?” Since the project’s initiation, the students have collected some 3500 letters, poems, artworks, and other artifacts from global peace activists, politicians, teachers, veterans, and students. Among the more notable contributors are Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The completed project was displayed at the JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2014 and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on March 20, 2016. It has since appeared in museums, galleries, libraries, and conferences worldwide, including its May 30 – August 28, 2022 display at the Summer Exhibit at Fitchburg Art Museum in Fitchburg, MA. The project, and its founder, Betsy Sawyer, have won awards, too. Most notably, Sawyer won the 2010 Children’s Courage of Conscience Award from The Peace Abbey.
Although Betsy Sawyer passed away on April 3, 2016, of leukemia, the project, and its spirit, continue. Part of the Big Book’s mission is to create a “peace education curriculum to connect, educate, and inspire a new generation of Peacemakers around the world” and to show that “kids CAN make a difference in helping to create a more peaceful world.”
If you would like to contribute a letter, donate, or learn more about how kids can make a difference, visit the Big Book: Pages for Peace website.
You can also get a copy of the book at Apple Books!