In recent weeks many of us are reading as a way of educating ourselves in response to horrific events in America and the high profile response often Black Lives Matter campaign to those events. As a family we’re doing that and I plan to share the books that we’re using to make sure that everyone see the world as a diverse place and understands as much history as possible. Both old and modern. The first of these books for us is The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf.
We started reading The Boy at the Back of the Class just before school finished in March and the original plan was that each evening then nine year old Little Miss C and I would read a chapter together and talk about what happened in it.
But then home schooling started and by the time we got to bedtime we were normally all so exhausted that we just wanted to fall into bed. As we got into more of a rhythm though we started to make an effort to carve out a bit of time during the school day to read together, and I’m so glad we did.
The Boy at the Back of the Class
Published in 2018, The Boy at the Back of the Class is the story of what happens when Ahmet joins a new class at school and takes a seat at the back of the class. Ahmet is nine years old and initially a mystery to the other children in his class. His break times are spent in isolation and he has a member of staff sat with him at the back of the class helping him with his lessons.
Luckily for Ahmet though, children are inquisitive and want to know all about him, and to be his friend. They soon discover that Ahmet is a refugee, who has travelled to London from Syria. A journey that he started with his parents and his younger sister. But now he is alone and living with a foster mum who waits at the school gate for him every day in her red headscarf.
As the children learn more about Ahmet the more they want to help him. The four of them come up with “The Greatest Idea in the World”, and then “The Emergency Plan”, to make sure Ahmet’s plight is understood by the highest powers in the country and to ask for their help.
What we thought
In a way it seems wrong to describe The Boy at the Back of the Class as a wonderful book. It’s is wonderfully written and a perfect way of teaching children about the refugee crisis and what they can do to help. It’s just awful that the situation exists in the first place.
I can see the The Boy at the Back of the Class is a book that all children should read. Much like Anne Frank’s diary. It is written in such an accessible way that my nine (just turned ten) year old loved reading it with me, but also admits that she learnt so much from it about a situation that she hadn’t fully understood from the news reports she’d seen. It certainly initiated so many valuable conversations between us.
The other thing that I loved about The Boy at the Back of the Class was the fact that you’re left guessing until quite late in the book as to whether the main viewpoint is coming from a boy or a girl. The whole point is that it does’t matter in terms of the story, but I think it’s a very clever way of helping children imagine themselves in the book.
I’d also go as far as suggesting that it’s a book all adults should read too. Especially if you’re feeling like you want to learn more about refugee children that come to the UK, or want to help your children understand more.
At the back of the book there are also some useful pages containing facts about refugees, the difference between refuges and immigrants or migrants, and also plenty of prompts to encourage children think more about what they have read and to help them try to put themselves in Ahmet’s shoes.
Where to buy The Boy at the Back of the Class
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Anjali Q. Raúf is available to buy online *here and whilst it has an RRP of £6.99 for the paperback version, at the time of writing it is available for the reduced price of £3.99.
Disclaimer: We bought our copy of The Boy at the Back of the Class. The link above marked with a * will take you to Amazon, and if you buy the book from them I will receive a small commission, but it will cost you no more than if you’d gone their on your own. Thank you for any purchases made. It is very much appreciated.