I Am Malala is the inspirational story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head at the age of 16 for defending women’s education. You’ve likely heard of her story and you might also know that she is the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to fight for the rights of girls around the globe who are denied access to education. Yet despite the seriousness of her activism, she is still a normal girl who just like any girl would, bickers frequently with her younger brother. This is probably my favorite book of all time. Despite how young she is, Malala presents herself in an articulate manner just as well or better than any adult could. In addition to the original I am Malala book, you can also check out the Young Reader’s Edition or you can search for a variety of children’s versions online. You can also donate to her official charity, The Malala Fund.
While I still consider I Am Malala to be my favorite book of all time, Breakthrough presents another amazing child innovator story about Jack Andraka, a Maryland teen inventor who at the age of 15 created an early test for pancreatic cancer. While I think I Am Malala is an amazing story that is sure to be an inspiration for your students, Jack Andraka will likely be more relatable to a greater number of your students as not too many would probably imagine themselves being shot by a terrorist while just trying to get to school for the day. Jack also makes a point of not only saying that he was a success story, but he then hands over the baton and encourages the readers of his story to do the same. In the back he offers advice for how to deal with bullies, tricks for solving math problems, and science fair project ideas. If there is one book that your children are assigned to read this year, make it Breakthrough.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba who was born and raised in a small drought plagued village in Malawi. With little water, Malawians at the time were experiencing a hunger epidemic. Using books from a US donated library, he began researching windmills and then grabbed old scrap parts to construct a working windmill for his village at the age of 14. His efforts led to the introduction of electricity and an irrigation system to his hometown, improving the lives of many. Like Malala Yousafzai’s story, his story is told in three versions with the original, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, the young reader’s edition, and then the beautifully illustrated children’s book version.