nonfiction nuggets…let the children learn

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World, by Susan Hughes

The Druk White Lotus School, tucked in the breathtaking Himalaya Mountains, enables Ladakhi children to live at home rather than move to a remote boarding school, separated from family, language, religion, and culture.  Its gorgeous, award-winning building is constructed of local materials such as grass, poplar, and mud bricks, and is powered by the sun, with thick walls to trap that warmth inside the school during harsh winter days.

A train platform in Bhubaneswar, India, is the spot for another set of kids to learn to read and write, eat some lunch, and get a check-up from a doctor.   Seeing hundreds of children scrabbling for their livelihood during crowded rush hours — begging, selling tea, polishing shoes — one woman began reading them stories after rush-hour…and then teaching them to read the stories for themselves.  She now serves over 6,000 destitute children.

A tiny one-room school hidden deep in the Amazon jungle; a spectacular school meeting the needs of an entire village in Burkina Faso; school in a tree house; school on a boat; graceful, thoughtful schools designed for the blind; quickly-erected tent schools for earthquake-stricken areas.

As many obstacles to learning as you can think of, apparently there are even more ingenious, earnest, big-hearted people out there dreaming and implementing solutions!  You can read about two dozen of these amazing solutions in locations  from New Caledonia to Scotland, Port-au-Prince to Phnom Penh in this fantastic, inspiring book.

A two-page spread is devoted to each of these stories, which are liberally accompanied by photographs.  A small inset map shows the location of the school.  Fact boxes and numerous memos from students or teachers involved in the school are also included.  There’s also a listing of a number of organizations involved in helping with these schools so you and your kids can get involved more if you desire.

I love this book.  I love hearing about these brilliant efforts being made around the world.  I love seeing kindness and talent paired up to make a difference in the lives of children.  I love the inspiration it gives us to adapt, work hard, press on to meet the vastly differing needs of learners.  Highly recommended for reading together with elementary age children; they can read it themselves at about a 5th grade level.  Any adult with a heartbeat ought to enjoy it, too!

Here’s the Amazon link:   Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World