This month we have been exploring the beautiful country of Pakistan as part of the Global Learning series from Multicultural Kid Blogs. The boys and I have been enjoying some wonderful children’s books about Pakistan, from folk tales and fun picture books to ones on topics like refugees and child labor.
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Pakistan: Favorite Children’s Books
A great place to start is P Is for Pakistan, part of the World Alphabets series. It has amazing photographs of everyday life in Pakistan, from clothes and foods to transport and landmarks. For example, A is for Asslam-U-Alaikum and B is for Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Wonderful way to give an overview of the sights of this beautiful country and give a sense of what life is like for children there.
Ruler of the Courtyard is an edge of your seat, laugh out loud book from Rukhsana Khan, who has written a number of wonderful children’s books about Pakistan. Saba is scared of the chickens who live in the courtyard of her house, until a confrontation with a snake makes her realize that she has the courage to be the Ruler of the Courtyard. Saba is a spunky, melodramatic narrator that will take her young readers on the journey with her. We loved the surprise ending!
The Gifts of Wali Dad: A Tale of India and Pakistan is a fabulously silly tale of a humble grass cutter who just wants to enjoy his simple life. Unfortunately, his well-intentioned attempts to gift away his growing wealthy inadvertantly makes him the object of increasingly lavish gifts from those he has given to. Children will love this traditional tale and watching as the elaborate gifts become more fantastical and poor Wali Dad more miserable. In the end he is set free from his unbelievable riches with a little divine help.
One of the things I love about Rukhsana Khan’s books is that they are just plain good stories, whether or not you are learning about Pakistan, though of course children learn quite a bit about the country as they enjoy the book. In Silly Chicken, Rani believes her mother loves their pet chicken more than she loves Rani. Rani, of course, doesn’t like the chicken at all. In fact, she thinks Bibi is quite silly. But when Bibi disappears, Rani discovers that she actually misses her. Spoiler alert: though there is a happy ending to this story, Bibi is never found, so be prepared to (possibly) discuss this with your children, although my kids actually didn’t seem to notice this as they were so focused on Rani’s new pet.
Nadia’s Hands is a beautiful book about a young Pakistani-American girl learning to be proud of her culture. When Nadia is chosen to be the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding, she is nervous but soon is caught up in the excitement of the wedding preparations. She does not, however, like the look (and smell) of the designs painted onto her hands, which no longer look like her hands. She worries about what the other kids at school will say on Monday, but the loving words from her family help her to appreciate this tradition and think about classmates that have shared their own cultures. I love the kind gestures and loving words from Nadia’s aunties and uncles as they help Nadia feel like an important part of the celebrations. My favorite line is from the Grandma, who tells Nadia, “When I look at your hands, it’s as if I’m looking at my past and future at the same time.” Lovely book about family and tradition that second generation immigrants (and any child sometimes embarrassed by being different) will appreciate.
King for a Day is another gem from Rukhsana Khan. This book is wonderful on so many levels. It is a great way to learn about Basant, the spring festival in Pakistan, when the sky is full of gorgeous kites battling each other. (This lends itself to many extension activities, of course, like kite crafts and just going out and flying or battling kites yourself!) It also teaches about overcoming bullying and showing kindness to others, as Malik uses his cherished Falcom to battle the expensive kite flown by the bully next door. The book does not address directly the fact that Malik is in a wheelchair, but the lesson will not be lost on the reader that Malik is able to use his cunning and skill to become King for a day, and that he in turn decides to be kind to a young girl he sees crying in the street below.
The remaining picture books on this list address serious issues related to Pakistan. Four Feet, Two Sandals is the story of two young girls (originally from Afghanistan) in a Pakistani refugee camp. They both need a new pair of shoes, but when only one pa available, the girls suddenly find their lives intertwined. They work out a deal to wear the sandals on alternate days and soon find themselves sharing even more – first their stories of loss then their hopes and dreams. A poignant story to get children thinking about how world events affect children just like them.
Pakistan has given the world two fearless young human rights leaders: Malala, who was nearly killed because of her defiance of the Taliban’s prohibition of education for girls, and Iqbal, the young boy who escaped indentured servitude to speak out against child labor, only to be killed in suspicious circumstances at just 12 years old. Their remarkable stories are brought together in Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery, a two-in-one book which shares simplified versions of their stories appropriate for young children. I love the kite image found in the illustrations throughout the book, including the centerpiece which connects the two tales.
For children ready to learn more details about Malala, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story is a great choice. This beautifully illustrated book tells of Malala’s love of learning and the courage of the students and teachers in the face of increasing opposition to girls’ education. One detail I loved was that instead of using henna to decorate her hands with beautiful designs, as many of her schoolmates did, Malala used it to cover her hands in scientific formulas.
Older children can learn more about child labor in Pakistan with The Carpet Boy’s Gift. It is the fictionalized account of Nadeem, a bonded laborer in a carpet factory who is scared after an attempt to gain freedom for himself and his fellow workers. Yet he gains courage after seeing Iqbal lead a parade through his town. A powerful portrait of the life of a child laborer, with detailed descriptions of what it would be like to work in a dim, gloomy factory from sunup to sundown. Includes resources at the end on child labor and how to get involved in this issue.
This post is part of our series Global Learning for Kids. Each month we will feature a country and host a link party to collect posts about teaching kids about that country–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, etc. It will create a one-stop place full of information about the country.
This month we are learning all about Pakistan, so link up below any old or new posts designed to teach kids about Pakistan–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music and more!