WAIMEA — Sweet Pakistani jalebis were the dish of choice, while Seekh kebab was deemed a little too spicy by the students at Waimea Country School (WCS) during its recent Literary Luncheon.
The luncheon was the capstone event for WCS fourth and fifth graders who spent the last weeks participating in Global Read Aloud, a program that uses one book to connect students around the globe. This year’s selection was “Amal Unbound,” a story of a Pakistani girl’s fight for an education after being forced into indentured servitude, by Aisha Saeed.
“Food is a great way to experience and connect to another culture,” remarked Laurel Matsuda, WCS 4th/5th multiage teacher, noting the event brought the students’ learning full circle. “Reading a book set in another culture really captured the students’ interest, and Amal’s story sparked excellent class discussions about important issues such as gender equality in education and child servitude.”
Matsuda has participated in Global Read Aloud with her students annually since 2014. Coupling her advanced training in global education and use of technology in the classroom, she connected her students with classes in Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand.
Teachers and parents were impressed by the students’ enthusiasm for “Amal Unbound.” An enthusiasm was on display as students raced from dish to dish trying the foods and comparing notes on how best to use roti, a Pakistani flatbread, to scoop up their food and eat like Amal. And their deep connection to the book’s heroine was evident as students took turns summarizing the book and its heavy themes for parents following the lunch — even cheering as one student described the culminating scene when Amal receives justice.
The afternoon of activities included decorating students’ hands with henna in the style of traditional mehndi — temporary henna tattoos applied for special occasions throughout South Asia.
“Most of these kids will never share a table with a young girl from Pakistan, but between the Global Read Aloud project and their luncheon, Amal’s story is now a part of their experience,” said WCS parent, Jennifer Benz. “This is no longer a book they’ll vaguely remember in 10 years, but a real experience that will help them all become more compassionate people.”