Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is the What

This is the title of a riveting novel by Dave Eggers published in 2006.  It is the story of Valentino Achek Deng, a young man who came to the US as one of the "Lost Boys" of the Sudanese civil war. In the preface, Valentino says, "I believed that some day I could share my experiences with readers, so as to prevent the same horrors from repeating themselves."  This quote shares the incredible power of storytelling and when the story is written down, its power is multiplied infinitely.  Through literature, great stories travel the world over, reaching the young and the old, the powerful and the seemingly powerless.
Talking about why his parents did not accept Christianity, Valentino says this: "My father, who had many wives, rejected the new religion on these grounds [because polygamy was forbidden], and also because to him the Christians seem preoccupied with written language."  He goes on to say that his parents could not read and that many of this generation were also unable to read.  Incidentally, Valentino was baptized by a Catholic priest due to the urging of an uncle.  Having his story told, Valentino is a living example of the power of reading and writing and storytelling.   These are common activities in our schools today and I think as educators, we can take these practices for granted.  
Through this novel, Eggers brings to light the tragedy that has taken place in Sudan, not to mention in many other regions of Africa and worldwide.  Perhaps a blog written by an elementary school teacher in the Midwest could also be a powerful tool to bring to light critical issues in education and could serve as an example to students as to the importance of reading and writing.

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