2010 Social Justice Challenge
August was Illiteracy and Education month for the Social Justice Challenge. Illiteracy is a subject I have long been passionate about and this challenge was a great excuse for me to educate myself even further on the subject. Along the way, I got to read some really terrific books. I must stop here to say a big thank-you to Wendy over at Caribousmom. It was through reading Wendy’s wonderful blog that I discovered this challenge and was inspired to take part.
I have to be honest, I didn’t venture off in search of my own books for the challenge and, instead, went with some of the books suggested on the website. These are the four books I read and reviewed for the challenge:
From the Book Depository: “With the first cup of tea, you are a stranger. With the second …a friend. With the third cup of tea, you are family. One day Greg Mortenson set out to climb K2 – the world’s second highest mountain – in honour of his younger sister, but things went wrong and Greg became lost. He wandered into a poor village, where the chief and his people took him in. Moved by their kindness, Greg promised to return and build a school for the children. This is the remarkable story of how Greg built not one but more than sixty schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and how he has dedicated his life to promoting literacy, peace and understanding.”
From the Publisher: “An unforgettable, deeply affecting debut novel, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious fifteen-year-old girl from rural India who is sold into sexual slavery by her father. As she navigates the grim realities of Mumbai’s Common Street, Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and writing fantastic tales that help her transcend her daily existence. Beautifully crafted, surprisingly hopeful, and filled with both tragedy and humor, The Blue Notebook shows how even in the most difficult situations, people use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives.”
From the Publisher: “Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared. In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness? Based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.”
From the Editor: “One of the most important steps a country can take to improve its economy and increase personal growth opportunities for its people is to provide quality education to all. Arguably, the most important element of a quality education program is literacy… For a population to become literate, it must have access to a supply of relevant and enlivening textbooks and supplementary reading material. Young people especially need access to high-quality books to develop not only the ability to read but also the reading habit.” (Vincent Greaney)
All of the books I read were wonderful, but I think I was most happy with Promoting Reading in Developing Countries. While it was composed entirely of academic text, I found it to be incredibly enlightening. Anyone wishing to better understand the intricacies of teaching literacy both at home and abroad, ought to turn here for a terrific overview of the subject.
I always had some idea of what was required to properly teach children to read: I knew the value of sustained silent reading, reading with Mom and Dad at home and, of course, helping kids to understand that books can be a lot of fun. We take a lot of this for granted in the education systems of Western society and we don’t give much thought to how literacy is taught abroad. We chalk everything up to a lack of funds (which of course there is) but we don’t consider that there is also a lack of experience and, in some cases, will to advance the cause of literacy in developing nations. We forget sometimes, that not all countries require all, if any, of their children to attend school.
We have so many misconceptions about literacy abroad and often don’t consider the practicalities of teaching reading skills in other cultures. We have all donated books for African or Asian book drives. Think of the number of people who donate books the way they donate food at Christmas time, scavenging in the back of the cupboard to find the long expired cans of string beans, cream corn and beefaroni. They give little consideration to the effect of their donation or to the cultural context into which they are making it. I am happy, that through this challenge, I had a chance to grasp a deeper understanding of education and literacy, especially as it concerns the developing world.
I would have liked to have done something to get more involved. It would have been fantastic to volunteer at a school or a local library helping kids learn to read. As it is, there are not a lot of opportunities to help kids with learning to read English in Croatia. I decided instead to make a donation. The last book I read was Three Cups of Tea and I found it really inspirational reading about Greg Mortenson’s endeavors in Pakistan. As it happened, I was reading this book at the same time the flooding was going on in the same region. I thought it appropriate to make a donation to Mortenson’s organization, The Central Asia Institute.