Monday, September 24, 2012

Garbage to recycling

This past summer I read Trash by Andy Mulligan (823 M9165T FIC), a mystery focussed around three boys who live and work in a large urban garbage dump somewhere in Southeast Asia.  I enjoyed reading this middle grade novel, but found the premise of people living in and from a garbage dump very disconcerting.  This wasn't something I had been unaware of; I just hadn’t come across this issue before in children’s literature.

I would pair the novel Trash with Trash! On ragpicker children and recycling by Gita Wolf, Anumshka Ravishankar and Orijit Sen (331.31 WoT 2011).  This nonfiction book will answer questions that could come up.  And there’s a lot to question about children working in such appalling conditions.

Trash! On ragpicker children and recycling uses a fictional boy in India who runs away from home to a big city, to illustrate what the life as a ragpicker is like.  Velu meets a girl who shows him how to work in a dump and survive living on the streets.  Interspersed within the story are blocks of information about ragpickers and the trash industry, life in India especially for the poor, living conditions and educational opportunities for children, and the recycling industry.  The story is a bit didactic but does work well for its purpose, which is to show a real-life situation and create empathy with working children.  There are points for discussion at the end of the book, as well as suggestions about what would help children ragpickers.

An interesting point is that this book is an Indian publication (Tara Books) and is directed toward an Indian audience.  So when reading the discussion points at the end of the book the statement “All of you must have seen such children – ragpicking, working in restaurants, in garages or as servants in houses” it really jumps out.  Unless you’ve visited a country where child labour is more prevalent, you are less likely to be witness to this.  

This would be useful as a supplemental resource for grade 3 social studies (Alberta) curriculum.  Reading level is appropriate for middle grades.

Today's Nonfiction Monday event is hosted by A Teaching Life.


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