What were you doing when you were 13 years old?
Did you ever consider leaving your family for a year to go to a village in another part of your country to teach some others how to read and write?
The courageous character in this story, My Brigadista year by Katherine Paterson, does just that.
Set in Cuba during 1961, the country has been fighting to become independent under Fidel Castro. And although there were many terrible things he did do throughout his rule (and the author does make this clear at points throughout the novel and at the end) he had a goal to make all people in his country literate.
Seen through the eyes of 13year old Lora, we learn about Cuba and the mission she takes part in.
I enjoyed reading about how she met the families, taught them how to read and write in the evening while helping out with the farm during the day. We see the world through her new eyes and feel the passion she has to want to help these people.
As a teacher I could feel this passion as I once travelled to Costa Rica to help in remote communities with work around the towns and also with English.
Lora’s story is possibly one which has not been told in this way before and I believe it is one for anyone studying the history of dictatorships, history of war and the effects it has on the people in the country and the vital role of literacy for everyone.
My Brigadista year by Katherine Paterson is a book for older readers.
I recommend this one for the classroom, perhaps read out loud as it may ignite volunteer work in some, a love of history in others and a wonder for what else is out there beyond our own suburbs.
And – come over and join my facebook group where we discuss how we can help our students and children understand and take action on these big issues!