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What better way to build empathy in children and expand their perspective than with real-life stories written by children. These eight autobiographies are must-read for children 10 years and above.
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney, an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer.
Children often display a maturity far beyond their age. Autobiographies or memoirs are beautiful insights for adults, especially parents, to go into their world. These books give a peek into their understanding of the world and its going on. These autobiographies should be read by children to understand the world better, and adults to understand a child's mind better.
Looking for some books to keep your child occupied when they are at home? The onus of introducing the right books to your child always lies on you. Biographies by young adults are always a source of motivation for young readers. If you want your child to be worldly-wise, make biographies and autobiographies a part of the reading list for your child.
However, there are the other benefits of reading autobiographies too. These are:
Teaches life lessons - Autobiographies are often interesting as these are usually written by people who have found themselves in extraordinary situations or had an interesting life story to tell. There are many life lessons to be learnt on how they dealt with their hardships and overcame their difficulties that shaped their lives. And as autobiographies are true stories, that makes it all the more inspiring.
It acts like a mentor/guide - Sometimes teenagers are reluctant to open up to their parents or listen to their parents. In such situations, introducing books which could deal with a situation the teen is facing could be helpful, it could act like a wonderful mentor or guide.
Your child can view the world from a different perspective - We all tend to get caught up in the day to day nitty-gritty. More so, kids. So introducing autobiographies and biographies is a great way to open up their minds to gain a new perspective.
There have been extraordinary autobiographies written by children who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances - war, denial of equal rights for girls, self discovery and perseverance in abject poverty. For your convenience, we present 8 such autobiographies which showcase the world the author lives in. It is a must-share reading list for your kids.
Here are the examples of a few inspiring autobiographies.
"When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful." - Malala Yousafzai
About the author: When many preteens may just be bothered about their looks and homework, Malala Yousafzai, in 2009, 11 years at that time wrote an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about her life under Taliban rule. She was very vocal about human rights, especially education for the girl child which was sometimes denied during the Taliban rule in Pakistan. She survived an assassination attempt when she was shot in her head. She recovered and her voice only grew stronger. She is the youngest person to have received the Nobel Laureate.
About the book: The book is about the importance of education especially the education of the girl child to transform societies. With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism, she says. Powerful words indeed.
What children can learn from it: I am Malala is an inspiring account about how even one voice is enough to stand up for a cause and change the world.
Parent speak: "Both my daughter and I love this book. Ashita, my daughter is quite forthright and outspoken - the book is an inspiration to look beyond your own world, said Shilpa Prashanth, mother of 11-year-old, Ashita.
"There are practically no black dancers in ballet, so I need to speak out." - Michaela DePrince
About the author: Often extraordinary circumstances give rise to extraordinary stories and Hope in a Ballet Shoe is one such extraordinary autobiography. Penned by Michaela DePrince, who today is an international ballet dancer with The Dutch National Ballet, and one of the few black ballet dancers. Michaela grows through many atrocities as a child growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone. Dance becomes her salvation - the road to become a professional dancer is not that easy - competitive and racist. A must read for all ages.
About the book: An inspiring first person account of how a victim of war crimes transformed her life through the power of dance.
What children can learn from it: You can negate your childhood trauma and focus on new beginnings.
Parent Speak: " We tend to forget that we lead privileged lives, but perhaps adversity is needed to bring out the best in us, the book gave me goosebumps," said Dhakshinyaa Subramanyam, 12 year old avid reader.
"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank.
About the author: This autobiography needs no introduction. Written by then 13-year-old Jewish Anne Frank in Dutch language while she hid with her family from Nazi occupation in Netherlands. The book is written with surprising candour - about life in isolation, her random thoughts about growing up, war, discrimination, school girl musings about crushes and sexuality.
About the book: Her words on war, humanity and hope for mankind make her diary exemplary. It is hard to believe it is a 13-year-old penning her thoughts.
What children can learn from it: Even in times of adversity, do not lose hope and always look at the bright side.
Parent Speak: "My daughter Muskaan loves 'the diary of a young girl' by Anne Frank. She finds it very interesting as it is one of the major sources of information about the holocaust (the incidents that occurred in Nazi Germany). It is fascinating to her to see these events (the crimes committed against the Jews) through the perspective of a thirteen year old Jewish girl, " said Jyotsna Awasthi.
"Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. " - Ishmael Beah
About the author: Another book from the Sierra Leone, from Ishmael Beah is a first person account of what it means to be a boy soldier in a war-torn African country. The writing is clear, the descriptions are gut wrenching and the memoirs gives a perspective that many children across the world are still being robbed of their childhood. Ishmael Beah, since writing the book has won many accolades - he is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War and a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advisory Committee. His memoir has been published in over thirty languages. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
About the book: The haunting odyssey is a triumph of human spirit to and the capacity to overcome against all odds.
What children can learn from it: Gain a perspective on civil war, refugee crises, world politics and how it effects innocent lives.
Parent Speak: " My son, 16-year-old, was moved by the book," Arshia Zafar.
"I don't need easy, I just need possible." - Bethany Hamilton
About the author: This autobiography is the true story of Bethany Hamilton. The writer was a competitive surfer, and at 14, at the stage when life is beginning for many, thought her life was over, after she got attacked by a shark and lost her arm. She tracks her life, before and after the accident - and her story is awe-inspiring.
About the book: This a is true story about getting your life back on track and achieving your dreams.
What children will learn from it: It is a must read for anyone having doubts about their capabilities or anyone who is going through setbacks. Pick up the book today!
Parent Speak: "As an athlete myself in my school and college days, I was keen to pick up this book for my daughter. We need such stories to be shared," said D. Vishwanath, daughter of teenager Dharti Vishwanath.
"I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing." - Cece Bell
About the author: A disability can become a superpower! El Deafo is a beautiful graphic novel that deals with being different due to a physical ailment (hearing loss) - it is a loosely based on the author's life. In an interesting quirk - all the characters in the graphic novel are bunnies. Why bunnies? Because they have large ears and extraordinary hearing abilities.
About the book: A graphic novel that deals with the sensitive topic of having a disability and trying to fit in.
What children can learn from it: The book is a great way to tell children that it's okay to be different, and it is what makes us different that also makes us special.
Parent Speak: " As a parent I am always looking for book that teach empathy. Glad I got this for the kids," said Divya Kuldeep.
"This is the most frightening lesson of the Cultural Revolution: Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country. This is as true now as it was then. " ? Ji-li Jiang, Red Scarf Girl
About the author: How do you make sense of the changing political environment? How does one go for being a popular child in school to being betrayed by friends for having an affluent family background in a changing political environment in China. She was inspired by the Diary of Anne Frank and the book is her offering for the world to understand China better.
About the book: Ji-Li-Jiang in this historic memoir talks of the cultural revolution in China in 1966 and how it changed her world.
What children can learn from it: The memoir is a very painful and very personal account of a young girl and is recommended to gain an understanding of Chinese history.
Parent Speak: " I have always been interested in political memoirs. I enjoyed it and so did my daughter Diya," said Mridul Nath
"But on paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies."- Jacqueline Woodson
About the author: Jacqueline Woodsoon grew up with her grandparents as her mother was working. The writer has many other books to her credit and is best known for Brown Girl Dreaming and Miracle's Boys.
About the book: An autobiographical book written in verse about a black girl's experiences of growing up in America in the 1960s. It is a short read, but lyrical and the poetry is beautiful. The verses are in anecdotal style and imagery is stunning.
What children can learn from it: Poignant and endearing, the book is recommended for readers looking beyond the usual authors and to understand black voices and their writings.
Parent Speak: " The poetry is beautiful. My daughter started penning her own poems after reading this book. This one is for the dreamers and the doers," said Naveen Sekhar daughter of 19-year-old Tanisha.
Order online or head out to libraries and book stores and help your child discover these gems. Give them a window to a new world and a new perspective. You can thank us later!
About the author:
Written by Vidya Nesarikar on 12 March 2020.
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