Lives linked by shared stories

28th February 2003 at 00:00
Pupils across the globe will be learning about children's rights on World Book Day. Geraldine Brennan reports.

A BOOK on children's rights will link young readers from four continents on World Book Day next Thursday.

A Life Like Mine, published in association with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), looks at the lives of 18 children around the world to see how far the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being met.

Topics covered include access to food, water, education and health care and children's right to play, to have free expression and be protected in wartime.

The charity Book Aid International has set up activities based around the book linking UK public libraries with partners in 10 developing countries.

Schools and library-based reading groups for teenagers will take part in storytelling events and debates. They will prepare letters and pictures for their partners overseas.

Publisher Dorling Kindersley has donated 500 free copies of the book so that children in the participating countries can read it at the same time.

Copies have just arrived at 24-pupil Achiltibuie primary, north of Ullapool in the Highlands of Scotland. Headteacher Alastair Fraser (one of the school's two teachers) is preparing his class of four to seven-year-olds for the World Book Day event at Achiltibuie library. The school has been paired with the library in Chomas, Zambia.

"We'll work our way through the rights of the child, starting with the right to play," he said.

One story his pupils will read in A Life Like Mine is that of Nadin, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl who has grown up in a United Nations refugee camp on the West Bank.

Nadin and her family fled their home in Malha on the outskirts of Jerusalem after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. In the book she says: "My biggest wish is to go back to Malha. I also wish for peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

British Council libraries in Ramallah and Gaza have invited Nadin to open their World Book Day celebrations for refugee students. These will be linked to a week of events at Paddington Library in Westminster, London.

All the UK libraries will focus on Nadin's story in their activities on March 6, along with those of Natalie from Bedfordshire and Isa from Sierra Leone.

Natalie suffers from eczema and asthma. She has learnt to manage the conditions. She puts cream on her skin twice a day, and carries inhalers with her at all times.

Isa, 10, was snatched from his home by soldiers during the civil war. He was released after two years and looked after by an organisation called Caritas before being reunited with his family.

He said: "I lost three years of school because of the fighting. I am really happy at the school I go to."

In Birmingham, children from local schools will meet a librarian from Malawi at a day featuring music and stories from Malawi.

"A Life Like Mine" is published by Dorling Kindersley in association with Unicef, pound;14.99. and and for details of World Book Day events More World Book Day highlights, Friday magazine, 25 and 27

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