This was a wonderful reminder. It had been awhile since I have paused and contemplate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How are we doing? How are you doing? Thanks Emily.
YA Literature and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by
Emily Sauls Pendergrass
One of my favorite ways to explore human rights with students is through the use of Deborah Ellis’s novels, specifically The Breadwinner. This novel is about a young girl, Parvana, and her family’s struggles during Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Parvana learns to navigate her world where schools are closed, unaccompanied girls are not permitted outside their homes, fresh water is from a pump away from the apartment, her father’s imprisonment, and so much more. As part of year-long study into what life is like in our community, state, country, and world, we dove into the novel and began to unpack life in Afghanistan regarding gender, language, religion, access violations. Our essential question for this unit was “What does it mean for something to be a right?”
The final step is to think about what action steps they as teenagers can take to begin to improve the world around them. Sometimes students write/produce Public Service Announcements about human rights violations in our local community or volunteer to serve in a refugee committee. Once my 6th grade students even wrote a book using The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown as a mentor text. The students wrote The Important Thing About War is that it Strives to End in Peace. The poem at the beginning of the book was all about the atrocities of war and midway through the book the poem changed to sharing ideas for peace. What steps will you take with students to celebrate Human Rights, notice wrongs, and advocate for change this December and in the future?