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The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of Chinese Schoolgirl is the published diary of a girl living in a rural area in China. She describes her struggles and desires to have an education and hope for a better future. This book allows students to see the culture and geography of this poverty-stricken province. I like that it's a true account of a girl around the same age as my students.
I used this as a read aloud but the next time I would like to have copies for each student to read as a book study. The activity that lead to the best class discussion was having the students complete a "Somebody . . . Wanted . . . But . . . So . . . " chart that we hung on a bulletin board. We added to it with sticky notes when new characters entered the diary or events changed the main character's life.
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Four Feet, Two Sandals is a story of two girls who live in a refugee camp in Pakistan. The girls search through donations and each find a shoe that perfectly fits. The problem is they each had found one shoe that was part of a pair. The girls decide to share the shoes and form a bond as they wait for relocation in a new country.
I have used this book for a couple years as a read aloud during my 7th grade geography unit on Southwest Asia then as a connection in the last quarter in our study on refugees. It is a good way to introduce current events in the region as well as the history and culture.
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The popular book by Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea, has also been written in a young readers version and as a children's picture book, Listen to the Wind. I use both of these books in my geography class. I love the illustrations in the picture book! I've had the young readers edition in my class library for a while, but this year I decided to use it as a read aloud. We did several activities with the book, and it opened up many discussions including comparing and contrasting our lives to the people described in the book. It was important for my students to see the privilege of education that they have versus what is available in many parts of the world.