I Am Malala – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

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Category #6 is up today, and while Brown Girl Dreaming was one of my favorite reads of last year, I have opted to review the young reader’s edition of Malala’s story, which is co-written by the talented YA author (and my amazing thesis supervisor), Patricia McCormick.

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

24502088Title: I Am Malala – How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Written by: Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Published by: Little Brown, 2014

Themes/Topics: Education, children’s rights, the Taliban, courage, Pakistan, Mighty Girls, equality, fanaticism, terrorism, UN


Suitable for ages: 10-15

Opening (from prologue):

When I close my eyes, I can see my bedroom. The bed is unmade, my fluffy blanket in a heap, because  have rushed out for school, late for an exam. My school schedule is open only my desk to a page dated 9 October 2012. Any my school uniform—my white shalwar and blue kamiz—is on a peg on the wall, waiting for me.

I can hear the neighborhood kids playing cricket in the alley behind our home. I can hear the hum of the bazaar not far away. And if I listen very closely, I can hear Safina, my friend next door, tapping on the wall we share, so we can share a secret.


Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.

Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school.

No one expected her to survive.

Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. In this Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir, which has been reimagined specifically for a younger audience and includes exclusive photos and material, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world — and did.

Malala’s powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles and the possibility that one person — one young person — can inspire change in her community and beyond. (Goodreads)

Why I like This Book:

The authors and editors have done a great job of narrating the normalcy of Malala’s pre-teen and teen life. She is a highly motivated, compassionate kid, but she is a kid with concerns about her looks, fashion and music likes and dislikes, disputes with friends, annoying brothers. This all makes her incredible story very accessible to MG readers. The brutality and injustice of the Taliban regime is not avoided but is narrated without excessively violent descriptions and detail.

I loved the addition of the photos, which also helped place me into the Pashtun community.   I confess there were times I cried reading this story. The courage and convictions of an individual like Malala do not grow up in a vacuum. I was deeply moved by the God-fearing, family loving compassion of her parents, and the balance of tradition and modern thinking with which Malala grew up. She realized her fortune in being able to attend school as a girl. The overall literacy rate in Pakistan is 46 per cent, while only 26 per cent of girls are literate. And many girls are married off at fifteen. Malala did not take her education for granted. Pakistan is not a developing nation, but this has always been my experience in developing nations and one of the things that grieves me at times among some students in the West.

Malala’s love for her family, people, God and nation are very evident through this book and very moving. In the middle of the book when the family is forced to flee their home, Malala says, No Pashtun leaves his land of his own sweet will. Either he leaves from poverty or he leaves from love.

It is a very compelling story of a girl who speaks up for education for all and for peace and challenges adults and children alike as to the capacity of one person to make a difference.

I would definitely recommend this to students and teachers. It is a powerful story of perseverance and it could be used to teach students about character as well as cultural differences.

One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.

I don’t want to be thought of as the girl who was shot by the Taliban, but as the girl who fought for education, the girl who stands up for peace, with knowledge as her weapon.


  • I am Malala – A Resource Guide for Educators.
  • The Common Core’s focus on informational texts makes this a great choice. It includes: a timeline of important events, a glossary, a map of Pakistan, Swat and surrounding areas, as well as color photos of Malala, her family, and Pakistan. The photos would work well for pre-reading/during reading discussion or quick write. The book is divided into five parts, and includes a time line of important events. All of these elements would work well with a study of informational text features, and/or in dividing reading and instruction according to the lesson focus or themes. It could be used numerous ways in lessons that cover both reading and social studies.
  • The young readers edition is very student-friendly and I believe even reluctant readers will be able to tackle this memoir. I would hope it will help students to value the gift of education in a new way.
  • It would also be a great book for a book study or book club for middle school students as well.
  • Celebrate Malala Day, July 14th with your class.
  • Watch Malala’s speech delivered at the UN headquarters.
  • National Geographic has a great world illiteracy map to hang in your classroom.
  • The latest UNESCO statistics show that despite gains, 781 million adults still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (496 million) are women. You might want to do some fundraising towards helping change these stats, with your class. Malala.org

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2 Responses to I Am Malala – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

  1. Fabulous choice today! I was thrilled when I saw that Patricia McCormick wrote a version of Malala’s story for teens. I’ve read the adult book. Malala’s story is such an important one for students to read and discuss in classrooms. She is the voice for girls’ education. In her young life she has already made an impact worldwide. Many kids in the West take their education for granted and can be reckless with that privilege. There are so many kids in developing countries who dream of going to school. Malala’s speech to the UN in 2013 was exciting. Great activities and resources for students and teachers.

  2. Joanna says:

    Thanks for your enthusiasm, Pat. I am also very grateful that there is a version for younger readers and one that is so readily adaptable to many classroom activities. I think it is important to note that Patricia McCormick co-wrote this version. I am sure the collaboration was wonderful for both Malala and Patricia.

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