This post was written by NCTE member Anji Williams.
We kicked off Women’s Heritage Month in March by honoring the Pakistani student, education activist, and youngest Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Punk Rock Marthas, a nonprofit I founded, purchased 200 copies of the youth edition of I Am Malala, which we donated to local schools and Los Angeles Public Library branches in February, in anticipation of our three book talks.
High school student volunteers led book talks with tasty snacks and fun portraits of our educational heroine at Los Angeles Public Library branches in Hollywood, Eagle Rock, and Boyle Heights, representing a cross-section of LA’s incredible diversity. Additionally, because Malala has such a broad appeal, we had kids and adults of all ages attend, and their mixed-media portraits of Malala are currently being displayed in all three branches of the library.
As an educator, my greatest delight was seeing so many young men discussing gender inequality, as it pertained to the text. We still haven’t moved far enough from “this is a boy book/this is a girl book” for my liking, but clearly we are making strides in the right direction, based on our discussions and the number of boys who voluntarily chose to read the book.
Delfino, a high school senior in Boyle Heights, responded to the treatment of women in Pakistan, “It’s very wrong how women are suffering and don’t have the same opportunities as men . . . Women have the same qualifications and [are] just as good as men.”
Nicolas (pictured), a 3rd grader in Eagle Rock, said, “Everyone should be able to go to school.”
Celebrating Malala by reading her story and creating art led to many thoughtful comments and well-informed conversations with kids of all ages.
Librarians and teachers make a fierce team in sharing a love of reading, and it’s especially delightful to interact with children in a more relaxed environment.
We continue celebrating this incredible young woman during Women’s Heritage Month and beyond by taking her sage advice: “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”