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The Carpet Boy's Gift (Teaching About Child Labor)

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Learn about The Carpet Boy's Gift and take advantage of the lesson plans and other resources put together by the folks at Tilbury House and Reach And Teach.

"I appeal to you that you stop people from using children as bonded laborers because the children need to use a pen rather than the instruments of child labor." -Iqbal Masih, 12 years old, from his Reebok Youth in Action Award Acceptance Speech, December 7, 1994

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Leadership comes easily for Nadeem, the biggest and oldest boy in a rug factory in Pakistan. But how can he lead the other child laborers to freedom after he’s been shamed and beaten for his first attempt? Nadeem and his fellow workers are bonded laborers, children who work day and night to pay off loans their families have accepted from a factory owner. While Nadeem and his cousin Amina take pride in helping their poor families, they feel trapped. They yearn to go to school and to have time to play. One day a former carpet boy named Iqbal Masih leads a parade in the village. New laws have abolished bonded labor! Iqbal urges Nadeem to fight for freedom and to lead the children to a new school in town. Can Nadeem summon the courage to try again? This fictional story honors the legacy of Iqbal Masih, a real boy who had escaped from a factory. Protected and educated, he worked to liberate child workers like Nadeem by the thousands. His work won him the Reebok Youth in Action award and special recognition at the International Labor Conference. When he returned to Pakistan after his trip, he was fatally shot while riding his bicycle. He was only twelve, but he had already made a difference in children’s lives all over the world.

This book is available through the Reach And Teach store.

Why it resonated with us at Reach and Teach

As we traveled through Afghanistan, we met many children. The luckiest ones were those who had a chance to go to school. Despite the absolute destruction of virtually everything everywhere, each day we were amazed to see hundreds of children going to or coming from some type of school. Most of them knew how to say "Hello" and "How Are You?"

The children you see here are from a school in the Shamali Plains, an area that saw massive bombing in the hunt for the remnants of the Taliban. The school consisted of little more than tarps thrown on the ground and tarps over head to protect the children from the sun. The most precious gift members of our delegation could give any child was a pen.

This book, as well as Playing War, reminded us of our time in Afghanistan and the incredible journey we took after returning home, sharing the stories of the people we had met with children and adults here in America. We urge you to consider using this book as a launching point for discussions about our lives here and other people's lives all over the world. Like Nadeem, each one of us can make a difference if we truly understand what's going on and have the faith to know that we have the power to bring about change.

NOTE: Click to the third and last pages in this teach-in for resources and activities you can use with the Carpet Boy's Gift.

Green America approved