Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan by Jeanette Winters
This true story, told from the grandmother’s point of view, shows a terrible life for young Nasreen. Soldiers came in and took away schooling for girls, and then Nasreen’s father was dragged away as well. Nasreen’s mother goes out to look for him, and then she is alone with her grandmother, and no longer speaking. Her grandmother longs to give her a voice again and to help her learn about the world, so she brings Nasreen to a secret school for girls. When Nasreen finally makes a friend, Mina, she begins to open up to the world again, and even says her first words- “I missed you too!”
At school, she learns to read, write, add and subtract. More importantly to her grandmother, “The knowledge she holds inside will always be with her, like a good friend.” Even though the school children had to hide from soldiers and faced terrible consequences, they kept attending and learning and thriving.
This book is on the 2015 most challenged book list coming in at number nine for being unsuitable for the age group, offending a religious viewpoint, and the violence in the book.
We are lucky to be able to take our education for granted in most of America. We don’t need to sneak off to learn unless it’s to improve your fanfiction of Teen Wolf. While this book depicts a real war experience in Afghanistan, the soldiers are background to the central story of wanting happiness for a child, and for education for a young girl. Each picture is framed and has vivid colors to paint a somewhat unknown world for most readers. While this isn’t an easy story, it doesn’t seem inappropriate for a child, in fact- it should be discussed with children to help them open the windows to the world around them.
Amy Steinbauer is a Children’s Librarian for DC Public Libraries. She specializes in outreach and early literacy. She has her MLISc from University of Hawaii, and a B.A. in English from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She won the 2015 Conable Scholarship to attend ALA Annual in San Francisco, and presented at the 2016 Annual conference in Orlando, FL. She loves professional development, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), is on ALA’s Public Awareness Committee, and on the SASCO Committee through NMRT. She loves mermaids, and advocating for libraries, and will one day combine them both to take over the world! Until then, follow her on twitter @merbrarian.