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Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

Winter, Jeanette (Author/Illustrator)
Simon & Schuster 2009. 40 pages
First published: 2009
ISBN: 9781416994374 (hardcover)
9781442441217 (e-book)
Original language: English
Dewey: 371.8
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Nasreen stops speaking after losing her parents under the repressive Taliban regime. This story of one girl’s experience in Afghanistan is told in simple terms, from the grandmother’s perspective: “I was fearful that the soldiers would discover the school. But the girls were clever. They slipped in and out of school at different times, so as not to arouse suspicion.”

Illustrations use simple, mannered forms to construct scenes of narrow twisting alleys, pattern-rich interiors and closed courtyards. In one image, boys frolic past a glaring soldier, while in the background, girls sneak out of their illegal school, escaping his notice. In another, Nasreen finally speaks, her speech bubbles showing images of her papa, dragged by a solider, and her mama braving arrest by going into the streets to find him.

Children may wish to discuss a society that tries to imprison women and girls in their homes. They may wish to examine their own society for oppression and gender bias. In any case, this story shows how literacy and knowledge can bring light into even the darkest corner: “Nasreen no longer feels alone … those soldiers can never close the windows that have opened for my granddaughter.”

  •  Read and discuss the author’s note. How did life for girls and women change? Create a graphic organizer to show how life in Afghanistan was different before and after the Taliban took over.
  •  

    How did going to school help Nasreen cope with the disappearance of her parents? How does the cover illustration represent the importance of the secret school to Nasreen?

  •  Reflect on the importance of school in your life. Make a web to show the school knowledge, skills and experiences that have been most valuable to you.
  •  

    Look at the cover and back pages to make predictions about the story.

  •  

    Read and discuss the author’s note. How did life for girls change? Fill in a graphic organizer to compare the differences in life before and after the Taliban.

  •  

    After the story is read aloud, discuss the girls’ situation. What challenges and possibilities do you see for Nasreen and her peers?

  •  

    Use a graphic organizer to compare and contrast your own school life with that of the girls in Herat.

  •  

    What are the advantages of the schooling you receive? Write a paragraph about it. Add pictures or illustrations to explain your point of view.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Geography, History and Citizenship