CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 37 . . . . June 2, 2017
Leaving My Homeland is a very timely new series by Crabtree Publishing. There are currently four books in this series: A Refugee's Journey from Afghanistan, A Refugee's Journey from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, A Refugee's Journey from Iraq, and A Refugee's Journey from Syria.
For students (and adults) trying to make sense of the daily media images we see from around the world, and for the newcomers that we meet in our classrooms and in our neighbourhoods, these books present four personal stories from a child's perspective. The stories are unique, but they share a common storyline: a child's life is disrupted by conflict in their homeland. The reasons why there is conflict vary, but the results are the same. The family is forced to flee the conflict.
Each book follows one child and his or her family as they relocate. Statistics, maps, background information about the homeland country, and specifics of the crisis set each family's story in a unique context. Highlights of the United Nation's Rights of the Child encourage students to think critically about our global responsibility to help refugees. As well, each book includes a table of contents, a simple glossary, an index, and a page of resources for additional information. The books each end with a list of ways young readers can help.
Discussion prompts, such as, "Explain the difference between a refugee, an immigrant, and an IDP", help students consolidate their learning from the books while more open-ended discussion prompts, like "Brainstorm a list of ways you can help welcome Syrian refugees in your community", will promote deeper thinking and encourage action.
A Refugee's Journey from Afghanistan tells the story of Sonita who was born in Pakistan where her family were refugees from war in Afghanistan. Sonita was able to attend school in the refugee camp in Pakistan, but her family's life was disrupted there again, this time by the local Pakistan authorities. Although many parts of Afghanistan are still dangerous, Sonita's family chose to be repatriated to Afghanistan rather than continue their difficult lives as unwelcome refugees in Pakistan.
A Refugee's Journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo tells Etienne's story from his time as a child soldier in the DRC to his arrival in Montreal, Canada. Etienne's first eight years were peaceful and happy, but then he was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier. After finally escaping, he was sent to a reintegration centre. Eventually, Etienne was reunited with just part of his family, his mother and sister. After three years in a refugee camp in Rwanda waiting for their application to be processed, Etienne, his mother, and sister were finally accepted as refugees to Canada.
A Refugee's Journey from Iraq<.i> tells the story of Zainab who has never known peace in her homeland. With her home destroyed by bombing and her father on a death list because he acted as an interpreter for the Americans, Zainab and her family fled from Iraq to Jordan. After a wait of many years, they were accepted as refugees to the United States.
A Refugee's Journey from Syria tells the story of five-year-old Roj and his family. When a bomb hits his school, seriously injuring Roj's sister, the family leaves their home in Aleppo, eventually ending up in Turkey. After selling their possessions to pay $12,000 to a smuggler to get them to safety in Greece, the small boat they were on sank and Roj's sister, Saja, was missing. The remaining family members were granted asylum in Germany and began a new life there. Happily, the family eventually received a phone call that led to their being reunited with Saja who, after being saved from the sinking boat, had ended up in a different part of Greece.
Four different stories from four different conflict zones around the world follow four families through their very different journeys. The details of the simply told narratives are easy to read but almost impossible to comprehend in terms of the trials these children underwent. The situation in each of these conflict zones continues to evolve, but none of them appears about to be resolved.
The books in the "Leaving My Homeland" series support the concept of global citizenship. Purchasing one or all of the books may help students who have never been refugees gain some empathy for the turmoil experienced by some of their new classmates and discover ways to support refugees in their communities. Some newcomers may feel supported by seeing stories similar to their own experiences presented in the books.
Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.
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