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Culture: Beliefs and Values #4: Valuing Books in Time of War

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Lesson Overview:

This lesson offers students a contrast in belief systems. Although many countries and cultures value literacy and the literary tradition, wartime poses threats.  The text and lesson introduce students to one brave librarian in Iraq who heroically tried, and succeeded, in salvaging a library in her war-torn country.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Have students experience a specific point in time in which books were threatened due to war.  Understand how and why a few people responded to this danger.  (Contrast with lesson about how cultures around the world value books).

AASL 2.3.2:  Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.

AASL 4.4.4:  Interpret new information based on cultural and social context.

Suggested Time:

30-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Students will answer a few short questions about the true story of Alia Mohammad Baqer and how she saved a library collection from destruction.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Review last week’s lesson:  My Librarian is a Camel.  Today continues our inquiry into how different cultures and societies value, or in this case do NOT value, books.

2. Main:

Read and discuss text with class.  Have them take a few notes to capture their ideas and the discussion.

Have a map, atlas, or globe handy so that you can show the children where this story took place.

3. Conclusion:

Emphasize that books and the information and ideas in them help us learn and make a better world.  People in most places value books and what they can do for us.  Wars can destroy much that we value.

additional Resources:
  1. The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winters.
  2. Student Handout (see attached).
  3. Article about Alia Baqer, the real librarian of Basra. This article is within the grasp of older elementary students and was published around the 10th anniversary of Alia Baqer’s heroic rescue of the library.  http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/2013/03/17/Basra-librarian-saved-30-000-books-during-2003-invasion.html

Sometimes I use an image of burning books on the screen as the children enter the classroom.  It is quite a provocation since the first lesson in this unit focused so heavily on valuing books.  This book burning image should elicit a response from them!

Be careful.  Some students may have witnessed war or come from war-torn countries.  The text is quite gentle, but use caution.  Refer all questions about why soldiers came or why bombs were dropped to the children’s parents if there is concern about the historical or political context.

Key Terms:

Librarians, Libraries, Iraq War, Iraq, Alia Muhammad Baqer, Conflict

student handout:

Student Handout, The Librarian of Basra

Recommended Texts: 
  1. The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winters


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