Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And now for a little fiction about Afghanistan and lit circles

One of the best things about going to an International Reading Association conference is all the books, and books for reduced prices or even free!  One book I acquired this trip was Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield. Told from the point of view of an 11 year old, it focuses on this boy and his mom and their life after his mom becomes the housekeeper for a British woman and her two house mates.  Based on her own experience of living in Kabul after the American occupation, this is a fascinating book.  Once again you are struck on how every family in Afghanistan has been so directly damaged by the constant warfare that has occurred there.  Also I liked this book in how the author attempts to look at Western culture through they eyes of this boy.
A book for younger readers is Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai.  This book is about a Afghan family who initially return to Afghanistan after the Taliban has taken over having rid the country of the Russians.  The father thinks that life will be better and wishes to bring his skills as an agricultural specialist.  After the family's return he begins to see that life is becoming more and more restrictive and he is forced to flee back to the United States with his family.  As the family is escaping to Pakistan in the confusion their youngest young is lost and can't be found.  The family is still forced to leave for the United States but each family member feels great guilt and responsibility for the lost child.
My grade sevens are currently reading books in literature circles and The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis has been a favorite.  I told them how the book came out and then 911 and that went the United States decided to go to war against the Taliban the book was an instant hit as most people knew little about Afghanistan.  It's hard to believe that these kids were toddlers then but we have done work on 911 this year.

I have had a bit of a hard time really getting reading groups or lit circles organized this year.  I blame this somewhat on having a split class and having already to do so much splitting of groups.  I have been quite pleased by how much more my class generally is reading now and lots of kids have read 30 novels independently.  Doing lit circles with the same book hadn't seemed to be working that well for me in the past so that I started letting kids bring their own books into lit circles and that worked well.  In my years at the school board I had been to a couple of Faye Brownlie's workshops on Lit Circles and read her book, Grand Conversations, so when the grade sevens begged for lit circles, I decided to use her strategies somewhat.  Books are in groups of six and I started with five choices for 17 Grade Sevens.  Groups meet who are reading the same book once a week with me.  In three weeks all students are actually reading at least their second book as well as usually reading other books.  Students are enjoying the experience and moving into new groups as they finish their books.  My grade sixes are doing a novel study with our resource teacher of After Peaches.  They are really enjoying the books and one student has had the thrill of an e-mail conversation with Michelle Mulder, the author.


N.H. Senzai said...

Dear Meredith,

I'm glad you had an opportunity to come across SHOOTING KABUL and found it to be a valuable resource for kids in your class! Happy reading.

NH Senzai

meredyth kezar said...

It is always nice to hear from an author and I really did enjoy your book!