Afghan Dreams by Tony O’Brian and Mike Sullivan is a beautiful yet honest portrayal of a wide cross-section of Afghan children including comments in their own words from interviews with them. In addition, this book was recommended on its back cover by Greg Mortenson, acclaimed author of Three Cups of Tea. Afghan Dreams provides a rich opportunity to teach multicultural issues, history, compare and contrast, along with career awareness.
Constant Thread of Grief Children Carry
Many of the comments made by the children of Afghanistan include burdens of grief which would be considered excessive for the average child. Yet these children relate their stories in a matter-of-fact way since that is the only life they know.
These children often speak of the time of the Taliban, telling where their family went during that time, who was killed or maimed, and eagerly speak of efforts to reclaim their lives when they returned home. This traumatic event in their personal histories seems to be a landmark in time many Afghan children remember.
From shiny Russian land mines made to appeal to children to the constant struggle for food and life’s necessities, these children tell of the tragic realities they face every day. They speak of lost family members, lost limbs, daily dangers, and the challenges of hunger and yet they have hope for their future.
Afghan Children’s Hopes and Dreams for When They Grow Up
When these children whose photos appear in Afghan Dreams were asked about their plans for the future, several responded they’d like to become teachers. Others chose other professions including medicine, journalism and being a judge. One child matter-of-factly mentioned he’d like to grow up and make artificial limbs. Some held a desire to grow flowers, paint, feed animals in a zoo, and to make friendships elsewhere. Still others spoke of wanting education, independence, and peace.
There were a number of children who spoke about the need for earning a living, helping support the family, and even having a house. One 8-year old said the most important thing he would want to give his children someday was milk and bread.
Using Afghan Dreams in Teaching Career Awareness
After students have had a chance to read and interact with the book, class discussion can center on discovering what motivations affected the Afghan children’s hopes and dreams for future careers.
Then students can apply the same process to their own lives in order to assess where their interests and life experiences may lead them. Fold large construction paper in half, hamburger style, entitling one side Interests and the other side Possible Careers. This activity helps students begin to realize how their future choices may come out of present experiences and interests.
To extend the lesson, children may write in their journals about a day in the life of an Afghan child, or a day in the life of that child ten years from now. Also, students could write about a day in their own life ten years from now.
Using Afghan Dreams to Teach Students About History
Students can study a time in American history when children had a hard time surviving. It may include young boys who fought in the Civil War, going west on the Oregon trail, immigrant children who had to deal with hunger, children of poor farmers during drought times, children of The Great Depression, homeless children of today as well as other topics.
By studying these after reading about the Afghan children, students will be able to develop a clearer understanding of what types of hardships children have faced at different points in history.
Teaching Compare and Contrast Skills After Reading Afghan Dreams
Various assignments may be made for this skill. A Venn diagram can be made as a guided classroom activity, then as individuals or in small groups to compare the daily lives of Afghan children with lives of children in the classroom. This can be extended to writing an essay which would include one paragraph comparing how the two students are alike, and another paragraph contrasting how their lives are different.
When students read Afghan Dreams, Young Voices of Afghanistan, they will have a chance to learn in a very real way the grief and hopes of children across the world as well as a meaningful study of history, multicultural studies, skills of comparing and contrasting as well as career awareness.
Reference: O’Brian, Tony and Sullivan, Mike. Photographs by Tony O’Brian. Afghan Dreams, Young Voices of Afghanistan. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books, 2008.