Thursday, May 19, 2011

a long way gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

a long way gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980 and by 1992 his country was involved in a civil war no one quite understands. At age 12 Ishmael finds himself homeless and hopelessly searching for his family with a group of boys.   At 13 he is "found" by the government army and becomes a soldier.  He is handed his gun, given some drugs, and sent out to kill the rebels.  He is a survivor and this is his powerful story.

Ishmael suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome and this memoir details some of the most harrowing events a child should never have to witness nor take part in.  During the time of Sierra Leone's civil war, the country turns upside down.  Children are no longer trusted or cared for, they are feared and become drug addicted prized soldiers used by the government.  Families are scattered, atrocities are committed and everyone is scared.

Unfortunately children around the world are made into soldiers, and some as young as seven try to hold up guns that weigh more than they do.   Young girls that are soldiers frequently endure rape.  Governments recruit, resort to abduction, use children as slaves while getting them addicted to drugs and brainwashing them.  This is a world wide problem that exists in many countries.  According to the dust cover flap on my book it states that there are more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, and it is estimated that there are some 30,000 child soldiers.

I read this book aloud to one of my world studies classes and as a class we learned a lot.  Many of my students had never heard of Sierra Leone and now are knowledgeable about their recent history and the social issue of child soldiers.  As a read aloud, the book moved slowly but that gave us time to journey with Ismael and connect with him.  Several of my students commented on how they really liked this book. 

Here are two websites that I used to help me teach this book which would be beneficial to any reader wanting to learn more.  This is the author website which has great video footage of Ishmael talking about his book.  Also will present the facts and some solutions and way for people to get involved and active in the issue of preventing children from becoming soldiers.

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