I have long been fascinated by the story of Malala Yousafzai. As a young girl, Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She risked her life to get information to the western world about how important education was for all children in Pakistan and how difficult the Taliban was making it for them. For her bravery, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived. In 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Prize winner for her amazing work.
Of course I have wanted my children to get an understanding of who she is and what she did. That said, I didn’t think that J was ready to read I am Malala, even in the version specifically made for children. Sometimes it is necessary to find ways to ease her into non-fiction subject. When I saw this great post from Valarie Budayr during Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I knew it was a book I had to get my hands on.
With gorgeous pictures and an engaging story, For the Right to Learn tells of Malala Yousafzai’s unusual early education growing up in the Swat valley of Pakistan. Malala’s father believed that both boys and girls deserved to have an education and, because he ran a school, Malala was able to get a wonderful education.
However, when the Taliban came to power in Pakistan they made rules that changed how women were treated. For the Right to Learn manages to use simply imagery and text like the following to let children know just how many changes the Taliban instituted.
“They declared that females should be separated from males. They wanted to outlaw education for girls. They also tried to force women to wear garments called burqas to cover their entire bodies and faces.”
The Taliban slowly made more and more rules making it harder for women to get an education. Through intimidation and violence, the lives of those that disagreed with the Taliban become more and more difficult and increasingly dangerous.
But, as the book explains, bombs could not silence Malala. She wound up blogging anonymously through the BBC to tell first-hand what it was like to experience the school closings for girls. That garnered international attention and some girls were allowed to go back, but only those under the age of 10.
Then in 2009, the Pakistani army decided that it was no longer safe for the people within their own country and 2 million people fled the Swat Valley. “The Taliban had already tried to take her rights, her education, and her voice. Malala prayed they wouldn’t come after her home.”
After three months, the Taliban seemed to be gone, but her home town was a shell of what it once was. By that time, people had also discovered that she had been the one blogging and Desmond Tutu had nominated her for an award. But the Taliban wasn’t really gone, they were just laying low, and now she was on their hit list.
On October 9, 2012, a man got onto her bus headed for school asking who Malala was.
Malala and two of her friends were injured in the shooting, but miraculously they all survived. Malala was injured the worst and had to be airlifted to a hospital in England for additional surgeries and to keep her safe from the Taliban. She inadvertently became a household name standing for equal education for women, but what she wanted more than anything was to be allowed to go back to her own studies.
In December 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. In her speech, she lifted her voice for children everywhere: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”
Malala is the voice of how important education is for everyone. We have long heard that the only way we are going to fight terrorism is to educate people and help them help themselves out of poverty. Author Rebecca Langston-George did an outstanding job of tackling the difficult situations that Malala faced in a wonderful way without causing un-needed fears and illustrator Janna Bock brought it to life. Malala stands for strong women everywhere and is someone I want my girls to look up to at an early age. I am highly impressed by this beautiful book as an entry point into her biography.
I have given myself a challenge this year to write once a week about a non-fiction picture book as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge. I aim for Wednesdays, but sometimes, life just gets in the way. For additional titles, you should check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the many great blogs that participate in the link-up. I’m especially excited about a new book about Elizabeth Cady Stanton that is apparently coming out later this month.