________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 5. . . .October 4, 2013


Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education. (CitizenKid).

Elizabeth Suneby. Illustrated by Suana Verelst.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2013.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-816-4.

Subject Headings:
Jan, Razia-Juvenile fiction.
Girls-Education-Afghanistan-Juvenile fiction.
Girls’ schools-Afghanistan-Juvenile fiction.
Afghanistan-Social conditions-21st century-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***1/2 /4



“Some of you are too young to remember, and some of you were not even born, but before the occupation of our country, before the civil wars and before the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were educated. They were doctors, government workers and journalists.”

“It is time to give our daughters and granddaughters in Deh’Subz the chance to read and write. Our family and our country will be stronger for it.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Would I be allowed to go to school?


Razia wants so badly to attend the new girls’ school which is being built near her village. She has been eavesdropping on her younger brothers as they do their homework in the evenings and has taught herself the alphabet and how to read a little by sounding out words. Her grandfather and her mother support her wish to go to school, but several male family members object. Disheartened, Razia walks past the school and has the courage to knock on the door and introduce herself to the school’s founder, also named Razia. Hearing the young girl’s plight, the elder Razia offers to accompany the girl to her home and to speak to her relatives in the hope of convincing them to allow the youngster to attend school. However, part way through the conversation, Aziz, one of Razia’s older brothers, comes home early from work, ill. Aziz, who is illiterate, has not been at all supportive of his sister’s desire to attend school, but his opinion changes when Razia is able to sound out the words on his bottle of medicine and administer the correct dosage of pills. The story ends with Razia’s excitement as she eagerly participates in a class discussion on her first day of school.

internal art     Part of the “CitizenKid” collection, designed to help children understand global issues, Razia’s Ray of Hope is based on the inspiring story of Razia Jan, originally from Afghanistan, who created the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation in the United States in 2007 and one year later moved back to Afghanistan where she founded a school for girls just north of Kabul. Sadly, only 13% of Afghani women are literate, but with the help of the Zabuli Education Center for Girls, that number is sure to increase for the students are, reportedly, so committed to learning that many of them take their workbooks home and teach their mothers and other members of their families.

      Suneby’s words paint an honest picture of life in present-day Afghanistan. She sheds light on the plight of women there and not only shows readers the inequalities between the genders with regard to education, but she also demonstrates the benefits of a good education to individuals, their family and the community at large. Verelst’s beautiful mixed media illustrations have elements of collage and perfectly suit the desert setting of the story.

     Though the story stands alone, there is also some background information at the back of the book as well as a short glossary of Dari words and suggested classroom activities that relate to the topic. Teachers, parents and students can also visit the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation web site at www.raziasrayofhope.org.

      Well worthy of purchase and sure to spark some interesting discussion, Razia’s Ray of Hope will be an eye-opener for many readers.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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