Pegi Deitz Shea
Illustrated by Leane Morin
Paperback, $7.95, ISBN 978-0-88448-249-9
9 x 10, 40 pages, color illustrations
Educators who put The Carpet Boy's Gift on their reading lists will join ranks with earlier generations who have chosen to introduce children to poverty and injustice by assigning such fiction classics as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and The Adventures of Huck Finn.
The Carpet Boy's Gift is a sensitive introduction to the subject of human rights and the complicated issue of child labor. The central characters, Nadeem and Amina, are bonded child laborers who work in a rug factory in Pakistan. Although their earlier efforts to win freedom have been thwarted, they are inspired after an encounter with Iqbal Masih to continue with their efforts change their lives for the better by insisting on their right to go to school. Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old boy and human rights activist, became a real life hero to thousands in his short life. A particular strength of the book is that the author, Pegi Deitz Shea, depicts Nadeem's and Amina's lives in a balanced light. Readers will see that these children, like children everywhere, have both grim and joyful moments in their lives. The book's message is that all kids share the same basic needs for family and friends, and thrive when given opportunities for education and the chance to participate in games, sports, or the arts.
The book's back pages are extremely rich in child-centered resources. Readers who locate the books and visit the Internet sites included here can learn more about the facts of Iqbal Masih's life, examine their own consumer habits, explore what schools are like in different countries, and develop new ideas about "human rights." These resources will also lead to valuable discussions about acceptable and unacceptable work for children in a global economy.
The Carpet Boy's Gift will help inspire classroom conversations about:
This balanced photo essay looks at the hazardous work children do in developing and industrialized countries. Ages 9-12
Photographs and essays tell the stories of young rug weavers, prostitutes, and migrant workers in Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, the United States. Young Adult
This book is a call to those who want to end abusive child labor and poverty. The author has gone on to develop Free The Children, a powerful organization in support of kids' rights. Young Adult
The activities selected here are intended to help encourage problem-solving skills on the part of readers as they examine complex social issues that are raised in The Carpet Boy's Gift. We hope adults will be able to help place this particular story in a larger cultural and historical context.
It's important to give children hope that they can help to make the world a better place. Create a display which celebrates the lives of hero's who have dedicated themselves to making life better for others. As children investigate stories of others who have made discoveries and sacrifices, they learn that they too can make a difference in the world, as Iqbal Masih did.
Build a class directory with information in it about the different programs of charitable organizations to help children and families in developing countries. Since not everyone can be a hero, this activity will show some alternative approaches to making the world a better place. This activity will result in better understanding of groups that make a contribution to their community.
Conversations about basic human rights as well as rights of children need not be distant or abstract. Write and produce a play which envisions Nadeem and Amina's future where they attend school. Encourage the children to write the dialog, and develop dramatic scenes. Challenging children to visualize the school experiences of students in other parts of the world will help build greater awareness about the value of education for all children.
Travel the Internet to learn about different schools around the globe. Schools vary greatly from country to country and continent to continent. Children will benefit from learning about the ways that schools are alike and different especially in the resources and rules they have. Older children may want to reflect on whether all "educations" are equal and what they think the value of education is for them.
Brainstorm a list of "rights of child" then compare with the U.N.'s own declaration on the Rights of the Child. Children have strong ideas about how they think they should be treated, and this is a valuable conversation to have in today's world where there are many differences of opinion. See Internet Resources.
Introduce students to what it means to work with and without wages. Explain that The Carpet Boy's Gift depicts the realities of oppressive child labor. Ask readers to discuss what types of work are acceptable and unacceptable for children. Discuss the idea of a living wage. Help children begin to understand that work can either give people a sense of dignity, or it can deny that sense and make people feel demeaned.
Plan a class celebration to honor the different chores that members of the class do in their homes, and that honors the different types of work that parents do in and outside the home. Children in our society generally know very little about adult work. This activity will build awareness and decrease the sense of isolation and separation between the worlds of the child and the adult.
Research the impact of early photographers such as Walker Evans and Louis Hines on the movement to end child labor in the U.S. This activity will build historical awareness about and help children see that social change is possible.
Build a gallery and display student watercolors of rug designs. Assign children to research the history of different rug designs used in the Middle East. The rich history and beautiful work of these rugs has made them treasured for hundreds of years. Learning more about the designs and manufacturing techniques of rugs and the influence of Western buying habits will provide a lesson in "market economy."
Children will enjoy sharing their favorites with classmates and be inspired to try new foods as they celebrate being together.
Design or purchase simple sewing patterns and have children work together to sew one or more clothing items of their choice. Sewing will help children develop an appreciation for the hard work and skill involved in being a tailor.
Map the sources of clothes you wear. Survey the clothing labels to find where clothing is manufactured. Locate the major assembly places on a map. Compare the pros and cons of buying clothes made in places where the labor practices are questionable. This information may help children become thoughtful consumers.
Organize a field trip to a local business to provide children with the opportunities to learn about how clothing can be recycled, and who benefits from doing so.
Tilbury House, Publishers
103 Brunswick Avenue
Gardiner, Maine 04345
If you are curious to know more of the facts about child labor, this kid-friendly site will help you learn more about how much child laborers earn, what work they do, and how much time they spend at their jobs. There are also links to many other useful sites on child labor, and some ideas of actions you can do to make a difference.
Discover the facts by reading articles on the issue of child labor online. See what other children's news organizations write about child labor today.
This news site has lots of information including a map of children in the labor force, country close-ups, voices from the field and ways to help.
(Look for the photo gallery of children working in sweatshops over time.)