We had a severe storm this past weekend, and the wind was so strong that it left us out of power for a full day. My children enjoyed it at first, but then started to get frustrated. As for me, I really enjoyed the "plugged out" time. We had the opportunity to just sit and talk - to REALLY listen to each other.
Americans have become so dependent upon technology, that many of us are living lives of perpetual distraction. Not only are we not living in the present, but we are taking simple things for granted more than ever before.
Will advanced technology replace real life completely? Will we all become zombies staring into a screen all day? It's a scary thought, isn't it?
Meanwhile, in some parts of the world, people live without electricity or books, and have to fight for even a basic right to education.
So today, I decided to share a true story of a grandmother who went to great lengths in order to make sure her granddaughter received a basic education. It's a story of courage, determination, hope, and love.
Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter, reminds us that women and girls all over the world are still fighting for equal rights, and takes us back to the time when Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban.
Nasreen is very sad. Not only have the soldiers come and taken away her father, but her mother has gone off to search for him. Thankfully, her grandmother is able to care for her, but in a world without art, music, singing, dancing, or even school.
The joy having been pulled out of her, Nasreen will no longer speak or smile. Her grandmother knows she has to do something.
Somehow, she hears whispers about a secret school for girls. There are great risks in having her granddaughter attend it, but she knows it's the only way to pull her out of the sea of despair she'd plunged into.
What happens? Well, I don't want to give away the whole story! But, I will share some of the author's words with you:
"Windows opened for Nasreen in that little schoolroom."
No computer required.
There's an author's note at the beginning of the book (I would have preferred it at the end), which includes facts and information about life in Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban, which started in 1996. The effects are still felt today.
I love that this thought-provoking picture book pulls the reader into both real and imaginary worlds at the same time. You can't help but put yourself into the shoes of the characters, while at the same time comparing them to the ones you wear every day.
Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan tackles a disturbing topic head-on, and it does so in a subtle, yet eloquent, way. As it may be too sensitive a topic for younger readers, I feel it's most appropriate for children between the ages of 9 and 12.A great complement to this book can be found in How I Learned Geography, by Uri Shulevitz, which has to do with World War 2.
Nasreen's Secret School challenges us to take a closer look at the world beyond our computer screens and material objects. It pulls us outside of the box of America, while prompting us to look deep inside ourselves.
That's the power of a picture book.
Courage. Hope. Determination. Love. They come from within each of us.