Inspiration for the work you do for the children

What Malala’s story teaches me literacy and life

By the time she was 14 years old, Malala openly supported the education of girls in her country, Pakistan. Because she defied the oppressive beliefs of the Taliban by speaking out for the education of girls…because she went to school…because she would not be silenced, the Taliban issued a threat against her.

Despite the threat, she kept going to school and speaking out for educational rights. In 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. She did not die. Malala survived, wrote a book, received the Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest-ever Nobel laureate) attends university, and continues to advocate for the education of girls.

She is a hero for women and girls all over the world. Last week, Malala returned to her homeland for the first time since being shot. Listening to her voice, it was clear that she loves Pakistan and has waited a long time to visit her ancestral home.

As a child, Malala instinctively understood what the School Sisters of Notre Dame and founders of East Side Learning Center (ESLC) knew to be true. Education is the key to solving the equity issues embedded in the culture of our community and the world. By providing a boost in reading—for families unable to afford professional tutoring and/or who fled homelands in pursuit of a better life—ESLC gives each child the opportunity to build foundational skills in reading to be successful in school and society.

A person cannot educate him/herself without first learning to read. Someone must take the time to teach children how to make sense of letter symbols, how to connect letters and sounds, and how to understand the meaning of new words.

We need to remember that not all children learn in the same way or at the same pace. It will always take more time for some children to learn to read than others. That light of “understanding” in a child’s eye when s/he knows that letters make words, words have meaning and words make sentences, will not happen without investing resources in children, in schools, and in communities. What resources, money, time or talent, will you invest in growing a reader?

It takes a trusting relationship with a parent, educator, or tutor, to inspire children to succeed in reading. Once they experience the joy of being independence readers, they are able to achieve success in all subject areas.

I applaud Malala Yousafzai for understanding, by the age of 14, that reading is the great equalizer. I respect her for speaking out when many adults did not because they feared for their lives. Because of her, I am speaking out, too. Children are our most precious resource. How then will we respond? Are we willing to invest to ensure their lives are transformed through the power of education? Malala risked her life to go to school. What then will I do? What will you do?