Responding to Literature

2 Alias

Initial Response

As I read both texts, I was struck by the love and dedication Alia had and continues to have toward saving the books which once filled her library. She risked her life to make sure generations after her could enjoy the stories and soak up the history as she did growing up. While I love reading, I'm not sure I have as deep a love as Alia! Her books were her life as she truly loved going to work everyday and later worked tirelessly to save the reading material. There were times when my heart broke for her as I read about her efforts. While many would have given up, she didn't! With all the help she received, it seems her love of literature spread to the people of the city. They were all willing to risk their lives as well. It made me reflect on my passions and what I would risk my own life for.

I found myself wanting to know more about Alia and her story after I finished the reading, which is why I looked up a few news articles. Her story is one of love and loss and it captured my attention. To be honest, I was surprised there wasn't more information available. Alia is a very courageous woman and I admire her for what she has done!

As an educator, when I approach many books, I try to take away something to share with my students. I always ask myself if my class would enjoy the book and try to imagine discussions we could have as the book is read aloud. I'd like to share these stories with my students to get their initial reaction. I'm sure they would be shocked! While the books are about war, I do not feel violence overpowers the feeling of love and dedication. This is an important real life issue that students could gain a great deal from being exposed to!

Classroom Connections

Ideas for Classroom Use

While reading, I had a few ideas that popped into my head which could be used in the classroom. I had my third grade class in mind, but these ideas could easily be adapted for multiple grade levels.

1. Read aloud The Librarian of Basra. After completing the read aloud, students will create a visual based on their response. (Similar to what we are doing for this project!) I have a very creative group of students and they would LOVE to come up with a collage or comic strip. Many of them are computer whizzes and would have no trouble creating a visual using technology.

2. One of the report card standards for third grade is to compare and contrast the most important points between two stories on the same topic. Students can read both books, The Librarian of Basra and Alia's Mission Saving the Books of Iraq. Depending on the number of copies, students can read independently or read with a partner. After completing the reading, hold a discussion where the ideas from both books are brought into focus. The students can use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the points from the discussion as well as points they found on their own. I usually have my students write a few paragraphs based on their Venn diagrams using comparing and contrasting key words.

3. A third idea I had while reading the books hit me as I read Alia's Mission Saving the Books of Iraq. After Alia was resting at home following her time spent in the hospital, Anis came to visit her. When I first saw the illustration, I thought she was being interviewed for the news. In saying that, after the students read one or both of the books, they can be paired up. One student will be the interviewer while the other students will play the role of Alia. Together they will work on creating questions and answers for their interview. These can be performed in front of the class. In my mind, I picture play microphones and creating a news set in the classroom!

4. A fourth idea is to have students conduct research on the events described in the book. They will search for news articles such as the NY Times article above to gather additional information. They could even use the facts from the back of Alia's Mission to research other similar situations. Students can then take their information and create a new page which can be added into one of the books. Illustrations would also be done for this project!

5. My fifth and final idea is to read one or both of the books and hold a discussion about the students' thoughts and feelings. I'm sure they would have a great deal of questions about why a library would be burned and why Alia was told she could not put a plan in place to save the books. Opening the students' eyes to events around the world touches on information from chapter 4 of TCL.
***I did read on the comments from one of the YouTube videos above that this is a book which has been banned from schools in America. This could be a discussion topic as well! Why would is be banned? I know my students would have a great deal to say about that!