________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 11. . . .November 18, 2016


Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School.

Laura Scandiffio.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2016.
168 pp., pbk., hc., epub & pdf, $16.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-797-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-798-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-799-2 (epub), ISBN 978-1-55451-800-5 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Education-Social aspects-Juvenile literature.
Right to education-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

**** /4



When Deonte Tanner started high school at Harper, (South Side of Chicago) he made a decision. He would never, ever join a gang. Deonte had another plan in mind. He vowed he would earn the marks he needed to get into college and change his life.

Deonte was a smart guy, a good student, but to many it seemed he was taking on an impossible challenge. Many young people in Englewood said there was no avoiding gangs: you were either one of them or one of their victims. As 17-year-old David Ellis said, “The streets are no joke. Some students have been killed trying to walk home from school and some have been shot. I pray that I can finish high school without being a victim of violence.” Some felt that gangs at least promised protection—safety in numbers—even if it didn’t work out that way.

But Deonte talked openly about being anti-gang. Soon it was what he was best known for at school, as well as in his neighborhood. Other kids started coming to him for advice. And there was one thing they all wanted to know: How did he expect to do it?”


One hundred and twenty four million children around the world aged between six and fifteen receive no education. Many more receive inadequate education, resulting in two hundred and fifty million children who cannot read, write or do basic math. This compelling statistic is the root of Fight to Learn which is at once a heartbreaking and awe-inspiring read.

     Most of us cannot imagine a life where one’s whole future and the future of one’s children is restricted in opportunity because one has never learned the three Rs. It is also hard to imagine the strength and purpose of young people with so much vision and drive they are prepared to fight against all odds for their own education and that of others. Amongst the bad news, these activists shine, inspiring the reader to question their own part in creating positive change.

     There are four segments in the book, each dealing with a specific cause of limited education opportunities. The section on poverty highlights education problems in India and in populations of ostracized Roma children in Europe. Another segment deals with Discrimination, using gender bias in Pakistan and the caste system in India as examples. The impact of violence upon learning is discussed using gang and gun violence in South Side Chicago as one example and child soldiers in Uganda as another. Finally protest movements are featured, highlighting the struggles for decent education facilities for the First Nations People in Canada and affordable learning for Chilean students.

     For every example given, the efforts of sterling people who have fought to change the status quo are described at length. Amongst them are Babar Ali, a young Bengali boy who hurries home from school to pass on his day’s learning to impoverished local children and Malala Yousafzai and her friends in Pakistan fighting for education for girls. Okello, an ex-child soldier in Uganda, started a school for orphans and escaped soldiers, and in Ontario, Shannen and Serena Koostachin raise awareness about the differences in quality between schools provided for children on reserves and children elsewhere.

     Fight to Learn reads effortlessly, and the text is complemented by ample, relevant photographs. Fundamental quotes from the text are highlighted on tiny chalkboards, and simulated notebook pages are interspersed, upon which explanatory information is provided. A foreword, afterword and sources are also included. This admirable title aimed at those in Grades 6-8 is a must-have for all libraries and should be the basis of much discussion, both in and out of classrooms, on the topic of inequality in society.

Highly Recommended.

Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian from Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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