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Celebrate the Power of Reading with The Neighborhood Storyteller
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Celebrate the Power of Reading with The Neighborhood Storyteller


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About This Lesson

Award-winning documentary film The Neigbhorhood Storyteller is an engaging teaching tool to excite students about the power of reading. It also introduces students to current events in Syria and life in refugee camps, and invites them to think about evolving gender norms and gender equity.The Journeys in Film Discussion Guide for The Neigbhorhood Storyteller offers questions to encourage critical thinking, powerful discussion, and expanded understanding of the film's subject matter. The guide includes sections on:

  • The We Love Reading program and Professor Rana Dajan
  • Syria (Context and Background)
  • Girls and Education
  • Reading, Literacy and Storytelling
  • Grassroots Work, Life Skills, and Future Vision

Literary Connection: The guide also  features connections to Muzoon: A Syrian Refugee Speaks Out for grades 5-12 by Muzoon Almellehan with Wendy Pearlman, for educators interested in doing a film-book pairing.

Journeys in Film lessons are designed to be simple enough for the beginning teacher to manage easily, with all materials classroom-ready.

  • Our discussion guide sections can be used independently of one another, so an English or social studies teacher can select just the previewing discussions that establish context and provide the student with the concepts needed to understand the film, and then use follow-up discussions to extend understanding.  
  • A pair of teachers could collaborate; for example, an English teacher and and a Social Studies teacher could teach different discussion sections of the same film.
  • A teaching team could set aside sufficient time to have a “film festival” and teach a truly cross-disciplinary unit that would engage students with a wide range of learning modes and interests.  
  • Our discussion guide could also become the basis for an afterschool club activity or for a homeschooling unit. 

This film has a running time of 50 minutes.

The Neigbhorhood Storyteller follows the inspiring journey of Asmaa Rashed, a young Syrian mother turned changemaker in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. Denied education in her youth and thrust into the challenges of displacement and motherhood, Asmaa discovers her strength and purpose through the We Love Reading program. Embracing the art of reading aloud, she establishes vibrant reading circles, transforming a humble act into a powerful tool for social change. As her own daughter enters adolescence, Asmaa is reminded of her educational deprivation, fueling her resolve to empower the next generation of girls. She launches a project aimed at teenage girls, using literature as a catalyst to expand their horizons, nurture self-worth, and inspire them to envision a future filled with opportunities. Her efforts ripple through the community, challenging traditional norms and igniting a collective quest for knowledge, resilience, and empowerment.

Viewers learn Asmaa’s story of early marriage and her educational drive, hear heartbreaking recollections from her mother, and attend Asmaa’s living room reading sessions with the girls in the Za’atari camp. The film invites viewers to explore changing roles for women and the importance of reading and sharing stories to find one’s voice. The Neigbhorhood Storyteller is a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the transformative power of education and community activism in the face of adversity.


The Neighborhood Storyteller Trailer
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