Franz Kafka said, “We ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?
Recently, after my nineteen-year-old niece’s presentation about her trip to Ecuador with Free the Children, I took a book off my shelf that I had purchased at a rally in Kitchener but had yet to read. That book had been signed by Marc Kielburger, brother of Craig, whose questions and outrage at child labour began the organization, Free the Children. I began to read it.
Free the Children, by Craig Kielburger with Kevin Major © 1998 McLelland and Stewart, 318 pages, trade paperback (original version)
When twelve-year-old Craig Kielburger picked up the newspaper on April 19th in 1995, instead of turning pages to the comics as he usually did, his eye was caught by the article about the death of a child labourer in Pakistan.
He began to ask his mother questions, but she had no answers. Even his school library had little information. He thought of nothing but that newspaper article. “What kind of parents would sell their child into slavery at four years of age? And who would ever chain a child to a carpet loom?” Thus began his search for solutions and the formation of an organization that does work for children worldwide by young people themselves.
In this book, initially published in 1998, Craig writes about his first trip to to India and Pakistan to learn first hand why and how this happens. He learns of the severe poverty and mindset of people who are talked into such schemes by factory owners promising them money for the child’s labour.
I found it hard to comprehend, even as Craig did, the intense poverty he saw around him. He learned by talking with the children that many of the children still had hopes and dreams of what they would do one day when they were finally released. Yet many children would not survive because of the dangers to which they were exposed.
This book is gripping in the realities of poverty. It’s a page-turner that I had difficulty setting down, reading 20 to 30 pages at a time, even amidst the most challenging scenes. Perhaps it was that I hoped for resolution between those pages, but I learned by reading, as Craig learned from seeing and experiencing, that such situations can take generations to change, and yet there was some success in that first trip. But you have to read it yourself and let the scenes grab you.
Yes, it stings, and you won’t soon forget what you have read. Go and get a copy and read it for yourself. See what you think. I know that I will be paying attention to this organization and what it’s doing for children around the world.
Entry filed under: authors, books, community, culture, leadership, lifestyle, social justice, travel. Tags: books, Craig Kielburger, Free the Children, Iqbal Masih, Kevin Major, literature, Marc Kielburger.