Ms. Punwani’s 8th grade students have studied the detention of children crossing the border into Texas, displacement of refugees, and investigative journalism to explore issues of District of Columbia schools. An Open Book Foundation is a nonprofit literacy organization with a mission “to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving books to students and schools and providing access to authors and illustrators.” Dara La Port, An Open Book’s founding director matched The Good Braider up with Ms. Punwani, and we had a remarkable experience together. Perrine Punwani and I discovered she and I had both worked in international settings for the American Red Cross and we’d both been to Kakuma refugee camp on the border of South Sudan. Her students knew this.
So when I read some of Viola’s story, the story of many contemporary refugees, the students could imagine with me. And we jumped in to this book. Rap star OD helped! I played OD’s music video, “A Girl from Juba” oh, and the students loved it. They read from reader’s theater scripts and stepped into the shoes of Viola, her grandmother Habuba, and Andrew, Viola’s friend in the U.S. We covered vast territory in a Q & A with these informed students. Ms. Punwami is offering her students the world in their 8th grade class.