About the Book…

Our next book selection wasn’t a Silver Birch book.  We selected The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.  The book follows a young Afghan girl, Parvana, in the middle of Taliban rule.  Parvana and her father translate letters in the market in order to survive, but once her father is arrested, the family becomes desperate.  With no male relative in the household, Parvana must disguise herself as a boy in order to make money and buy food.  Cautious in her new adventure, Parvana bravely navigates her way through the world of the Taliban and adults.  She discovers a friend who is disguised as a boy as well, and the two of them find unknown strength to take risks to help their families break out of their situations.

What We Did…

The book is a trilogy and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but The Breadwinner has plenty on its own for a book club discussion.  I really wanted the girls to understand what it might be like to live in such a radically different situation than their own.  As I did with our Shooting Kabul discussion, I held the meeting on our living room rug and served dried apricots, hummus and naan (along with our old standbys of goldfish crackers and veggies!).  I handed out scarves and asked the girls to wear them to get in the right frame of mind.  I printed off pictures showing the different headwear worn, ranging from headscarves to full coverage:


Once we were seated and properly dressed, we started with some great resources posted on The Wooster School website.  The girls partnered up to complete the Scavenger Hunt (The Breadwinner Scavenger Hunt) and then we watched the You Tube videos of Afghan children from the Scholastic website.  It’s amazing how little we understand about what it’s like to live in a different country; how much we take for granted (e.g. going to school, running water, a safe place to sleep).  The girls read about it in the book, but seeing and hearing actual children speak of these things really opened their eyes.

After this, we went through the Discussion Questions from the One Book Two Villages website, talking about the unfair treatment Parvana and women in general in this kind of society and how much courage it takes to fight against that mindset.  I introduced two more exercises from the Wooster School website.  The girls weren’t that into writing for the Desire or Duty? Write a Poem! activity (Breadwinner-Poem Activity), but were quite ready to test their strength for the Science of Carrying Water.  They loved seeing how many times they could climb up and down my stairs carrying a bucket of water!

In Conclusion…

Our final activity was to map out Parvana’s home (another suggestion from the website).  The measurements of the entire apartment wasn’t much bigger than a good-sized bedroom in North America.  We all lay down in that space, trying to imagine having our kitchen, living area and bathroom all in one single room shared by our whole family.  It was a sobering thought and we all went home with a new appreciation of what we have – including, and especially, our freedoms.

Consolidated Breadwinner Questions & Activities (Breadwinner Discussion Questions & Activities)

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An avid reader of practically anything and trying to share that passion with my kids and anyone else that will listen!


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