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Refugee Children, Classmates, and Finding a Place to Belong in a Timely New Novel for the Ya Audience

Updated on September 21, 2019
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

A Syrian Refugee Boy Finds Friends in a New School

A timely novel for kids in today's society who might have a refugee friend in their classroom.  Gret read for ages 8-12.
A timely novel for kids in today's society who might have a refugee friend in their classroom. Gret read for ages 8-12. | Source

Refugee Children In Our Schools

Onjali Q. Rauf's new novel The Boy At the Back of the Class is a timely new release for ages 8-12 who might have one or several refugee children in their school for the new school year. Almost every community in our country now has refugees from all over the world and students in schools in every community have some experience with a new child who is a refugee.

Mrs. Khan's class has a new student this year who is a Syrian refugee. Ahmet has arrived in London and is now enrolled for the new school year. One student is determined to become friends, but Ahmet is making it difficult because he is still frightened and shy. Mrs. Khan explains the the new boy must be in "seclusion" for awhile and all the students are determined to find out what this new term "seclusion" means for the new boy. A smily face sticker on an orange finally brings a smile to the new boy's face when he is given this special treat one day. The new boy is referred to as a "refugee kid" and one student is determined to find out what this term means. His mom finally describes waht it means to be a "refugee kid". The student compiles a list of questions that he hopes will tell him more about Ahmet. A teaching assistant from Syria becomes an important liason to help Ahmet become adapted to his new class.

Ahmet soon becomes comfortable and he tells his story of his family's escape from the war terror in Syria. He draws pictures to show details of his family's travels. Then one day a special detail reveals that Ahmet does not know if his family is still alive because they may have been lost at sea. This detail makes a huge difference in what the other students know about Ahmet. The students make a plan to find his family and a special note is written to the Prime Minister in London. A Royal Letter is sent to the queen. "The Greatest Idea in the World" becomes the plan and a special ending for The Boy At the Back of the Class will inspire readers to become involved with the refugee crisis.

The Boy At the Back of the Class is an important book for our times. Rauf includes a section to define the term "refugee" for children to understand. She includes a section of facts about the huge refugee crisis that the world is facing. She also includes a section entitled "How Can I Help" for children and adults who might read the book to use in learning ideas to get involved with the refugee crisis. The resources listed invaluable for those who would like to help. Her "Author's Note" at the conclusion of the book is of high interest.

The Boy At the Back of the Class was published by Delacorte Press, a division of Penguin/Random House. It is recommended for ages 8-12 and has an ISBN of 978-1-9848-5078-2. Both adults and children will enjoy the story.

The Greateast Idea in the World

The Greatest Idea in the World spirals into success for finding Ahmet's family
The Greatest Idea in the World spirals into success for finding Ahmet's family | Source

Bring Ahmet into Your Classroom for Interesting Lessons and Projects to Learn About the Refugee Crisis

OnJali Q. Rauf's The Boy At the Back of the Class is an excellent choice to introduce children to the huge refugee crisis that the world is experiencing now. Teachers who use this engaging story will find a wealth of ideas to enhance the reading and provide students the opportunity to become involved with projects that would be beneficial to refugees in our country's communities.

*Read The Boy At the Back of the Class in a group reading session with a few chapters being read every week. Students enjoy hearing stories read aloud and chapter books are popular for reading aloud and sharing the story with classmates. Reading aloud to classmates also improves reading skills.

*Provide a map or globe to locate Syria. Take a class poll of students who may have seen the news reports about the war in Syria and the refugee crisis that this war has caused.

*Make newspaper stories available for students to add to their knowledge of the war in Syria.

*Take a school poll of the number of refugees from around the globe who have come to live in your community. How many students in your school are refugees from other countries?

*Call attention to the list of resources at the end of the book that provide organizations that help with the needs of refugees.

*Plan a class project for students to bring in donations for a chosen organization that provides aid to refugees.

© 2019 Cindy Hewitt

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