Reading has been described as ‘a gateway into another world’ and for many students their world view is indeed shaped by the books that they read. This year’s Whole School Read, ‘The Bone Sparrow’ is set in a refugee camp in Australia and follows the plight of Subhi and his family. Subhi’s family had to flee Myanmar to escape torture and persecution from the Burmese majority that live there. In fact the Rohingya people are stateless. They have no home and Myanmar refuse to recognise the Rohingya as citizens. Their experiences are very different from those of our own students here at Sandringham, reading the novel has given students the ability to step into the shoes of characters who are less fortunate then themselves and yet discover the clear similarities. Subhi is a likeable character he makes friends, plays, loves his family and wants to be treated with respect and kindness.

The SMSC issues that the novel tackles will hopefully give our students food for thought. What must it be like to feel displaced, hungry and treated like second class beings?

Christine Whetstone, a volunteer from Amnesty International ran an inspirational workshop for the whole Year 7 last Thursday. Her presentation was informative and valuable. Students were told stories of other young refugees around the world and given a scenario to work through in groups. What would they do if their home had been bombed, and their father was being hunted by the army for having an alternative point of view then the current government? Where would you go? What would you take?

I was impressed and moved by the Year 7s responses, which showed a deep sensitivity and compassion towards the refugees plight. Their questions were mature and they were respectful in every way. The articles that they wrote afterwards also showed a truly empathetic response.

Through reading about other cultures and places we learn about issues that may not directly effect us, but allow us to consider different human experiences revealing how other people have to live and get by every day. To me, this is so important, in a world that is full of conflict and suffering, students need to know that at some level we are all human, every individual deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon has opened students eyes to different human experiences across the other side of the world, demonstrating also the common factors of what it is to be a child and to have the same wants and needs as themselves.