First published on Medium, February 23rd, 2018
“I’m not sure why people are so surprised that the students are rising up — we’ve been feeding them a steady diet of dystopian literature showing teens leading the charge for years. We have told teen girls they are empowered. What, you thought it was fiction? It was preparation.” — Jennifer Ansbach, on the Parkland school shooting and students’ protest.
The quote above makes me so happy. Literature is such a powerful tool, hence the need to carefully select what students read in the classroom; hence the need to go for texts that awaken something in the hearts of students. I remember after we’d studied the book, Lyddie — about young female labourers who though from an impoverished background, stood up against poor working conditions and sexual harassment — my 11 and 12 year olds would cry ‘we’re going to protest’ at the slightest sense of injustice in the class. A girl even went as far as marching to the principal’s office to demand why the school isn’t replacing the broken swing at the playground.
Reading awakens and empowers. Those in charge of writing the Nigerian curriculum should remember this when prescribing literary texts to be studied in classrooms. For a nation like ours, it’s high time we trained children who are aware and conscious, students who are analytical, students who ask questions, students who will make better leaders. Books provide endless possibilities for these and more.