Three Cups of Tea and schools for girls

November 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm 4 comments

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World…One Child at a Time (The Young Readers Edition) by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, adapted by Sarah Thomson; published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, New York; 2009.

In this true story, Greg Mortenson found himself lost in Pakistan.  Through the unprecedented hospitality and care of strangers in remote villages, he found his way home.  An image of children sitting on the cold ground doing math problems by scratching the dirt with sticks haunted him.  He vowed to repay their kindness by building a school.  Three Cups of Tea is the remarkable story of how one man not only made a difference in one village, but in villages throughout Pakistan.

I just finished this book before watching a two-part episode of the CBS television drama, NCIS.  In the show, a school for girls in Afghanistan is bombed.  I couldn’t believe the coincidence; the crux of Mortenson’s story is that boys in Pakistan (and Afghanistan) have the opportunity to attend boarding school but girls have no educational opportunities.  Mortenson’s success is a testament to what one person can do with convictions and passion.

Of course the story is remarkable and extraordinary, but the resources provided in the young readers edition of the book are rich.  The book includes photos, a glossary, a who’s who guide and an interview with Mortenson’s young daughter.  Hearing from the perspective of a peer of children who read this book make the story so much more accessible.
Given the amount of news we have had in the past six months from this region, I would add this book to a pathfinder on the Arab world.  However, the concept of giving and working to help others cannot be overlooked, so I would also make sure that it is included (or tagged) as a resource for teaching children charity and giving.  Information about the Pennies for Peace project is included at the back of the book; this is an opportunity for children of any age and economic status to learn how to help others.  I found the book in both the children’s and young adult sections of my local library.  I believe that it is most appropriate for upper elementary children and tweens (or middle school students) based on the glossary and other information provided in the book.

What is the significance of three cups of tea?  According to the book:

The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger.  The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest.  The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.  (page 79)

Can’t you just imagine starting a Pennies for Peace club and sharing a cup of tea before every meeting?  More information about the author, the book, and about how to help can be found at the website


Entry filed under: Non-fiction or Informational. Tags: , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shwco  |  November 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Hello, and so glad to see recommendations of how to use this book with kids (whether in school, place of worship, club, etc.). Just 3 comments:

    1. Central Asia is not part of the “Arab world.” Most of the Middle East can be called the “Arab world.” Specifically the countries that use Arabic as their common language.

    2. While most in the Arab world are Muslims, so are many people who live in Central Asia, specifically in Pakistan, Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), and Afghanistan.

    P.S. Iran is a Muslim country in the Middle East, most people living in Iran are now Muslim, but Iranians speak Farsi / Persian ~ not Arabic.

    3. When you introduce “3CofT,” some parents or others may be surprised, because they have heard allegations that Mr. Mortenson has lied about his work and/or defrauded his charity. To read up on the charity’s response to this, go to = Central Asia Institute. You will enjoy seeing the photographs, their master list of all projects, and even their annual report with audited financial statements.

    Happy teaching!
    Susan Hale Whitmore
    Silver Spring MD

    • 2. N Messmore  |  November 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Thank you for clarifying.

  • 3. Laura Trapp  |  November 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I think you might be better of promoting this book as historical fiction, given that Greg Mortenson has admitted he has changed some details from real life. I would be careful promoting this book when the issue of Greg’s truthfulness (or lack of it) has not been resolved.

    Jon Krakauer has researched Greg’s story and published an account here:

    • 4. N Messmore  |  November 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Thanks for your input. I am familiar with the investigation into Greg Mortenson and his foundation. I also understand that the information in question is not so much about the descriptions of the culture, his outreach in the region, or the building of schools. For those reasons, I stand by recommending the book for teaching children about the region and about embracing other cultures.

      I started this blog during graduate school as an assignment. The purpose was to review materials for school-aged children and recommend how each could be used in a library or school setting; I continue to do so as it helps me professionally to design pathfinders and displays. My selection of materials, and how they are categorized, is based on how they are cataloged at the library. Until the book is proven to be more “historical fiction” than non-fiction, it will remain tagged as non-fiction.


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