Please welcome my guest author today, Elizabeth Suneby. I met her at Paul Reynolds’ presentation at Charlesbridge Publishing. I had seen her book, Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education, during our Multicultural Children’s Book Day celebration so it was nice to match the book with a face!
Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education
by Elizabeth Suneby
Razia Jan is an Afghan native who Global Citizen describes as “the woman who started a school in one of the worst places to be a girl.” She won a CNN Hero Award, given to ordinary people who do extraordinary things. This is her story about building a school for girls in Afghanistan in a poor, highly illiterate, conservative area where girls had never been allowed to go to school. Razia convinced the village elders to let her build a free, private K – 12 girls school and now more than 600 girls are studying Dari, English, math, science, history, computers and the Koran. [picture book, ages 8 and up]
Today, Elizabeth Suneby talks about what it was like to research and write Razia’s Ray of Hope. I’m also giving away a copy of her book below.
What if You Could Never, Ever Go to School?
How to get your children to appreciate the start of school — even just a tiny bit more.
With the start of the school year upon us, many kids are wishing summer could go on forever. It’s hard to blame them. Who wants to trade lazy, warm, and carefree days for alarm clocks, school schedules, homework, and tests?
Most children and adults in developed economies take their education for granted.
I certainly did.
That is, until I met Razia Jan, the Afghan native who Global Citizen describes as “the woman who started a school in one of the worst places to be a girl” and who won a CNN Hero Award, given to ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
Convinced that education is the key to positive, peaceful change in the world, Jan left her comfortable life in the United States to return to her country of birth to start The Zabuli Education Center for girls in 2008.
The school is located on the outskirts of Kabul in a poor, highly illiterate, conservative area where girls had never been allowed to go to school. Razia convinced the village elders to let her build a free, private K – 12 girls school and now more than 600 girls are studying Dari, English, math, science, history, computers and the Koran.
Courageous school founder & humanitarian, Razia Jan, and her students in Afghanistan. Photo © Beth Murphy
Meeting Razia and hearing stories of the girls at her school put names and faces on a startling statistic: 69 million school-age children are denied the fundamental human right of an education.
The majority are girls, living in Sub-Saharan Africa or South East Asia. The reasons range from war, poverty, and cultural traditions to natural disasters.
How can you get your kids to see how lucky they are to go to school?
Forget the lectures. (Many nights at dinner, my parents admonished me to eat everything on my plate because children were starving in Africa. That didn’t work.) Start with questions:
- What would your life be like if you never, ever went to school?
- What couldn’t you do?
- How would it affect your you and your future, your family, community, even the world?
- What if boys could go to school, but girls couldn’t?
These questions will engage your sons and daughters in discussion. I lead workshops at schools around the country about education for all and I’ve heard some fabulous comments from elementary and middle school children.
One of my favorites is from a 3rd grade boy in Washington, D.C., who was bursting to tell me why he thought it was terrible to deny girls an education. I called on him as he frantically waved his arms and he blurted out, “If boys could go to school, but girls couldn’t, then I’d have no one to marry.” That was the first time I had heard that comment. I asked the boy to explain his thinking. Here’s what he said, “I want my wife to be my best friend. And I like to have conversations with my friends. If my wife couldn’t go to school, she wouldn’t be able to think for herself and have a good conversation.” (The teacher and I agreed that boy was a good catch.)
Buy a book and help send a girl to school
Introduce your kids to books about children in other parts of the world denied an education. I wrote Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education based on a true story of a student at the Zabuli Education Center. The book is published by Kids Can Press in their Citizen Kids series, designed to introduce children to world issues and encourage world citizenship at a young age. I am honored that my book has won multiple awards and was even adopted by Khaled Hosseini, the author of the Kite Runner, for the work his foundation does with elementary and middle schools.
Want to see a video tour of the Zabuli School in English by students who only a few years earlier were illiterate in their own language?
Many students who read my book or attend my workshop jump to action to send a child to school. Imagine the power of students advocating for their peers 6,500 miles away in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. Maybe school’s not so bad after all.
Razia’s Ray of Hope Picture Book GIVEAWAY
Please enter the Rafflecopter below to win. I can only ship to the U.S.A. due to the high cost of postage.
Elizabeth Suneby is an award-winning author who writes books for children and teens to help them find their voice in a hopeful world. She leads interactive workshops with students across Massachusetts and the country. Liz also writes magazine articles and content for organizations.
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