Monday, August 25, 2014

#StrongerThan: Writing About Personal Challenges

“Let us pick up our books and pens. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

They are words made famous by Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who spoke at the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday – just nine months after she was shot by the Taliban near her home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley for speaking up for the right of girls to attend school. She has called on young people the world over to stand up for the right of every child in every country to go to school – and to stand up with their words and pens and pencils.  After 200 young girls were kidnapped from a school in Nigeria, Malala spoke out again to show the world “we are #StrongerThan those who deny school girls an education.” (Video)

What are your students “StrongerThan?”  Here is a perfect opportunity to encourage young people in and out of the classroom to learn Malala’s story, feel her courage and resolve and then think about what they are #StrongerThan. What do they have the courage to write about and conquer or achieve?  Children of any age can be asked to write a sentence, a paragraph, an essay or a 140-character Tweet about what they are stronger than -

#StrongerThan bullying?

#StrongerThan my math or reading homework?

#StrongerThan  my ADD or cerebral palsy or other disability?

#StrongerThan unfairness?

Students may choose to focus on personal challenges or issues that trouble them in their community or the world – including the education concerns that so motivate Malala. This initial writing project can grow as much as a child or class wishes by writing group or individual letters to a principal, school superintendent, local newspaper or elected official. My picture book biography of Malala – Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words includes several organizations children can join or replicate: School Girls Unite (started by middle school girls right in Kensington, Maryland), Girl Up, GirlRising and Global Campaign for Education, and of course, the Malala Fund itself.

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